“I always wanted to be a doctor. When my family bought me dolls, I'd take them apart and operate on them.”
Frank Pallone Jr.
“LEADER IN FAMILY MEDICINE”
When Palma Formica was starting her medical career in the early 1960s, it never occurred to her that a woman physician was anything special. "It just didn't dawn on me that women in medicine would have difficulties or be treated any differently than male physicians. My father was an immigrant from Italy and he'd say to me: 'Anything you want to do, you can do in America. It's tough only if you make it tough. Be a doctor.'" But when she applied to American medical schools, she faced a daunting system. "They told me my chances for admittance weren't good because I was Catholic, Italian and a woman and there were quotas for all three categories.
"You're just going to get married and have kids," she was told. Palma Formica laughs about it now. "I did get married and have kids, three of them, and you know what? I continued to practice medicine. And I've been practicing medicine longer than most of those men I started out with, who are now either dead or retired."
Palma Formica began her career in internal medicine, but early on a nun at Queens General Hospital in New York said to her, "We have a lot of hot shot doctors around here, what we really need is somebody to take care of the whole family." Shortly after that, she switched to family medicine and opened her own practice in Old Bridge, New Jersey.
"As a family doctor, I take care of the whole family. I make house calls. Patients need to be touched and hugged. It's been a wonderful way to practice medicine."
As professor of clinical and family practice medicine at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School of New Jersey and co-founder of the Family Practice Residency program at Saint Peter's University Hospital, where she also serves as Chair of the Department of Family Practice, Palma Formica has built a sterling career in the field she loves.
Nominated by Representative Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ-6th), she received her medical degree from the University of Rome, College of Medicine, and began her career with an internship and residency at Queens General Hospital.
She is the recipient of numerous awards including the Benemerenti Medal awarded by Pope John Paul II and the New Jersey's Pioneer Women in Medicine Award. She was the first woman president of the Middlesex Medical Society, the first woman president of the Medical Society of New Jersey, the first woman Chair of the Department of Family Practice at Saint Peter's University Hospital and member of the AMA Board of Trustees for nine years where she has been a leader in women's issues.
"It is no good being the first at anything unless there is a second and a third. I'm proud that I was the first woman president of the Middlesex Medical Society, but I'm even prouder that there was a second woman president."
Elected First Woman President of the Middlesex County Medical Society, New Jersey
Appointed, Department of Family Practice, St. Peter's University Hospital, New Brunswick, NJ
Co-Founder and Associate Director, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Department of Family Practice Residency Program at St. Peter's University Hospital, New Brunswick, NJ
Elected First Woman President of the Medical Society of New Jersey
Elected President of the Academy of Medicine of New Jersey
University of Rome, Italy