Patricia L. Bononi, MD, FACP, has been named 2021 ACMS president, becoming the 155th president and the fifth woman to hold that position. A native of Greensburg, Dr. Bononi knew at an early age that she wanted to be a physician, and found inspiration from her mother, a registered nurse, and from Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to receive an MD degree in the United States, in 1849. “I liked to read a lot, and I read a biography of Blackwell when I was nine,” she recalls. “It made a strong impression on me.”
Dr. Bononi attended undergraduate school at Georgetown University, where she became acquainted with the Ignatian-Jesuit principle known as “curae personalis” – a Latin phrase that translates as “care for the entire person.” It expresses the ideal of promoting human dignity and caring for the health of the whole person, body, mind and soul. “The Jesuits had a profound effect on me, through this philosophy and a mentor I was fortunate to have,” Dr. Bononi says. “They are social justice advocates, and they opened my eyes to a lot of things. It still surprises me to recognize how significantly they influenced me. Curae personalis is inspirational for me, personally and professionally. It includes caring for others with great respect and encouraging their fullest possible development.”
Dr. Bononi went on to earn her medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh and completed her internship and residency in internal medicine and her fellowship in endocrinology at UPMC. Originally envisioning a career in pediatrics, she decided to switch to endocrinology, finding that the complexity and long-term relationships with patients were deeply rewarding.
“Diabetes is difficult, but there has been so much progress – new medications and technologies are changing it. It’s a huge burden every day to cope with diabetes; you have to think about it all day, every day, with never a day off. Some patients strive for perfection, but I tell them that is not the goal; no one can be perfect. You shoot for 80/20 and do the best you can.”
Since 2013, Dr. Bononi has served as the medical director of the Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Center for Diabetes and Endocrine Health and has been site Principal Investigator for more than 20 clinical trials testing medications for diabetes mellitus. She is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes Mellitus. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund of Western Pennsylvania and is a past member of the Community Leadership Board of the American Diabetes Association of Western Pennsylvania. She has been recognized by Pittsburgh magazine as one of Pittsburgh’s best doctors since 2015.
As ACMS president, Dr. Bononi hopes to grow the organization and help it become more relevant to the needs of diverse physicians, those in private practice and those who are employed. She states that as a leader, she is a consensus builder: “I take in many opinions and find a mutual path forward. I bring to the role of president a sense of fairness and balance. I’m reasonable – I’m not the loudest voice in the room. I am another doctor, trying to support physicians in the area where we live and practice. It all goes back to that.”
A member of ACMS since 1992, Dr. Bononi has served on the Board of Directors since 2012 in various capacities: treasurer in 2017; secretary in 2018; and vice president in 2019. She has served on the Executive Committee since 2017 and has co-chaired the Foundation Gala Committee since 2014. Since 2017, she has been an ACMS delegate to the Pennsylvania Medical Society.
Soft spoken and thoughtful, Dr. Bononi’s quietude belies the intensity of her convictions about medicine. “Medicine is more than a job, it’s a vocation. You don’t just put in your hours. I think it’s important for physicians to be invested in their communities. I’m heartened by seeing young doctors who are interested in this and are giving to their communities. The new Asthma Clinic is a good example of this. I’m very supportive of advocacy, and I hope to see more advocacy for patients and communities among the young doctors and medical students. This is part of the value of membership in ACMS: There are lots of opportunities for community service.”
She expresses concerns about the impact of the COVID pandemic on the mental health of front-line workers, including, of course, the physicians. “The stress for physicians is tremendous, and we have established a mechanism for them to get counseling very privately. It’s anonymous and they can have four sessions. I’m pleased to say that they are taking advantage of this program.” ACMS was able to offer additional support to front-line workers, Dr. Bononi says, by providing PPE to members, through the ACMS Foundation Front Line Relief Fund in collaboration with the Allegheny County Health Department.
In addition, ACMS and the ACMS Foundation, with the help of Direct Primary Care Practice, were able to administer more than 700 COVID-19 vaccinations to healthcare providers and medical students who were not affiliated with a major healthcare system. This allowed many more people to have access to the vaccine.
Dr. Bononi’s own stress management consists mostly of relaxing with good books at her home in Wexford and connecting with her family. She has two children: son Chris, 27, is in the U.S. Navy, stationed in California, and flies F-35s; daughter Maura, 24, works in the fashion and beauty industry in New York City. Dr. Bononi also has a sister who is a retired internist in Philadelphia. Dr. Bononi especially likes to read biographies and is enjoying former President Barack Obama’s book at present; she recently has taken up needlepoint. “It’s a new COVID activity for me!” she says.
In her practice, Dr. Bononi likes to focus on helping her patients achieve and maintain a high quality of life despite having a chronic illness. She also emphasizes diabetes prevention. “There is a tsunami coming, unfortunately, with greater numbers of people having diabetes for a longer portion of their lives. We need to do more pre-diabetes education and prevention, starting with children and families. We need to keep kids healthy and fit with more activity, healthier diets and reasonable body weights. We have improved, but we have a long way to go.”
As a physician and leader, Dr. Bononi embodies the Jesuit ethic of academic achievement coupled with service to humanity. “I have lived that quietly, and I have no regrets at all. I’m doing what I always wanted to do. Serving as ACMS president is an opportunity to have a greater impact, to support and encourage other physicians.”