Sister Katherine Seibert, far right, with fellow honorees.

Sister Katherine Seibert, far right, with fellow honorees.

On Thursday, August 21, Sr. Katherine Seibert, MD, was recognized for her contributions in health care, along with six others in the community as “Women Who Make a Difference” by the SUNY Sullivan Foundation in Rock Hill, New York. The co-honorees were:

Lisa Lindquist, Higher Education
Sgt. Cheryl Crumley, Law Enforcement
Glorianne Ellison and Kara Passante, Pay it Forward
Roberta Byron Lockwood, Tourism Development
Hon. Josephine V. Finn, Volunteerism

Sr. Jane Iannucelli with Sr. Katherine

Sr. Jane Iannucelli with Sr. Katherine

Joined by family, colleagues, Sisters of Charity, and friends for the award dinner, Sister Katherine was was the final honoree of the evening. She was introduced by Sister Kevin John, OP, who provided guests with Sr. Katherine’s education and professional background and details about some of the prestigious honors she has received.

Always the considerate soul, she decided that the guests had been sitting and listening long enough and did not read her prepared statement. We take this opportunity to share her eloquent and meaningful statement that everyone missed hearing that evening.

Sister Katherine Seibert’s Acceptance Speech

It is a great honor and privilege to be named as “a woman who has made a difference in Sullivan County.” I have worked in the present and in the past with so many generous, caring people who have made a big difference in the lives of others, and I accept this recognition in honor of all whose name is “unselfish service.”

Every individual’s life and any creative work is influenced and shaped by many people, and I am grateful for those who have nurtured me in religious life as a Sister of Charity for the past 61 years, and those in the medical and nursing profession that I have worked with as an Oncologist at Catskill Regional Medical Center and currently as Internist at Hudson River HealthCare.

For over 150 years, the Sisters of Charity, of which I am a member, have been very involved in health care and have made major contributions. They served in the cholera epidemic in 1849, spearheaded St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York, staffed the military hospital after the Civil War in Mc Gowan’s Pass (now part of Central Park) organized the smallpox hospital on Roosevelt Island during the smallpox epidemic, started the New York Foundling Hospital with $5 in a small rented brownstone on East 12th Street after infants were left by the poor on the convent doorstep, founded the Seton Hospital in 1892 for TB patients that were not accepted into the city hospital. My life is quite TAME compared to some of the early Sisters, but we are still doing great work at St. Joseph’s Medical Center and Nursing Home in Yonkers, the Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Center and the Children’s Rehab Center, both in Westchester. In addition to our specific medical facilities, the Sisters sponsor: a shelter for homeless women and children; a welcoming center for new immigrants, providing citizenship classes , English as a second language, and classes for job opportunities; support and faith sharing for those in homeless shelters in NYC; and support for a “safe house,” which provides assistance to victims of human trafficking.

The Sisters of Charity – and we are fortunate to have our President here, Sister Jane Iannucelli – have made generous grants to the needy people we see at Hudson River HealthCare, and with the $5,000 or more given yearly, for a total of over $40,000 so far, we are able to provide a $25 food gift certificate from Aldi’s market for those who have no food, and also pick up the cost of Emergency medication prescriptions at the local pharmacy for those who otherwise cannot afford their needed medication.

It is a great privilege for me to practice the special calling as physician in Sullivan County. At Hudson River HealthCare, the mission is to improve the health status of our community, especially for the underserved and vulnerable. There are many uninsured, needy, undocumented , sometimes people just out of rehab or incarceration struggling to find hope, health, meaning in life and the basic necessities. Sometimes people seek escape from the reality of poverty using drugs or alcohol. Many want meaningful jobs, but cannot or do not know how to find a job. For me, I thank God that I have the health and strength to be part of the struggle to find solutions for better health and life for the people I serve.

In this profession, the creative fire within allows the  work that one does and the gifts that one has, contribute to people in a special way. One sentence in the Hippocratic Oath that I took 38 years ago has special meaning for me —the promise, “Pure and holy I will keep my life and my art.” The physician-patient relationship should be sealed by understanding, kindness, truth telling, mutual trust, and respect. Besides giving compassion, physicians also give counsel. This is an art, for you do not substitute your judgment for that of the patient or family, but work in partnership with them to craft the best decision together, after sharing the accurate medical knowledge of the situation.

As a practicing Medical Oncologist for over 25 years, it was such a privilege to be with so many people as they take their last breath on earth. It is a moment as full of mystery as the first breath, and you can feel the holiness. You become well aware that a physician is a steward of life and not a master of life and death. The cancer diagnosis today is much more hopeful, and overall more than 60% are long term survivors of this disease that is so autonomous. A number of patients that I treated with chemotherapy years ago are now seeing me as their Internist. The difficult struggles that patients go through to help save their lives etch memories in your heart.

As the years pass on in my medical career, I have become even more aware of what I cannot do. It is learning to work with the movement of God, a drawing on God’s energy. As it says in the book of Sirach “Healing itself comes from the Most High, like a gift from a King” (Sirach 38:2 ). We need that inward gaze, so that when we look outward, we will be able to see and share with others what have true value. We must be people of HOPE for others. We look through the front view window with the wisdom and experience from the rear view mirror. There is true happiness if the things we believe are the same as the things we do.

As I continue the search to find what has heart and meaning in my own life, it’s good to know that one has made a difference in some way. I thank the College for this honor, for all our guests that have come to share this evening, and I ask for God’s Blessing on my fellow honorees.