For longtime Pope Paul VI Institute employee Pam Yaksich, working at the Pope Paul VI Institute for the better part of the past 30 years has had a tremendous impact, both professionally and spiritually.
After having graduated from Creighton University in Omaha with a degree in Biology in 1984, Pam Yaksich was attending a banquet where she heard a young Doctor discuss his pro-life research. As a scientist and a person of faith, Pam was intrigued.
“I didn’t even know that there was such a thing,” Pam recounts. “But I knew I had to find out more.”
Shortly thereafter, she reached out to the young Doctor, Thomas Hilgers, who would eventually hire her as a research assistant first at the former St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, a role she would maintain when the Pope Paul VI Institute opened its doors in the fall of 1985.
“It was so exciting to work with Dr. Hilgers back then, and his approach was so visionary,” she says.
In 1993, Pam left the Institute to accept a job as a science teacher at a Lutheran High School where she later became its principal. Twelve years later, in 2007, she again reached out to Dr. Hilgers who was in search of an executive assistant, a role that includes a range of responsibilities from human resources, to credentialing for the Institute’s doctors, to some building administration.
Having been with the Institute in its early days, Pam has seen some dramatic changes at the Institute since it all began 30 years ago.
She shares, “In our early days, our education programs would attract about 20 students, and we were excited if even one of those attendees was a physician. Now, our education programs have up to 100 per class, and it is not unusual for half of them to be doctors.”
One of the most incredible changes Pam has witnessed while working at the Pope Paul VI Institute is her own personal conversion to Catholicism. A former Lutheran, Pam cites the Institute and its day-to-day witness as the impetus for her conversion.
“When I first started here, I had a tremendous appreciation for the fact that Pope Paul VI Institute did not run from its Christian values,” she recalls. “And I saw the way the Institute treats its patients, and the courage in practicing its faith holistically in the marketplace. I started attending mass in the chapel and eventually felt that heartfelt call to convert.”
As for the young Doctor whose research compelled her to seek employment with the Institute?
“He’s the real deal,” she says. “Over the past 30 years, he has had a lot of reasons to give up … being a pioneer is never easy, but I have seen the fruits of his faithfulness and hard work firsthand and, truly, to do what he has done here is amazing.”
Amie Holmes, MD, OBGYN, NaPro Fellow
My path to the Pope Paul VI Institute has not been an easy one, but it has been filled with blessings. I decided to become a NaPro surgeon when I was in medical school. I had started attending RCIA with my (now) husband, Jon, who was also a medical student at the time. I decided to convert to Catholicism during my second year of medical school. Although I was drawn to Obstetrics and Gynecology, when I decided to become Catholic, I thought “well, that makes my decision easy, I will just become a surgeon” (in order to avoid all of the ethical dilemmas present in the field of obstetrics and gynecology). Well, God had another plan as he planted me as president of the International Health Club and sent me to Cuba and Puerto Rico for a “Women’s Health” experience. In a valiant effort to help me follow the right path, Jon discovered NaPro and helped me to make arrangements to attend EP1 and 2 during my fourth year of medical school. I spent a few extra weeks with Dr. Hilgers after EP2. The care that the patients received at the Pope Paul VI Institute was outstanding and I decided to pursue residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology so that I could become a NaPro Surgeon.
Well, marriage, babies and life happened. I didn’t make it to the Pope Paul VI Institute for my fellowship as quickly as I would have liked to. We matched into residencies that were more than an hour apart. We purchased a home half-way and I was able to commute until my third year of residency, when my program merged and my commute doubled. After a several months of struggling with a long commute on top of an 80+ hour work-week, a complicated pregnancy and a financial crisis, I decided to resign and let my husband complete his residency. This was one of the most difficult decisions of my life, but I had a deep-seated trust that the Lord would provide. Later that week, I was offered a job as a general practitioner in an urgent care. I spent two years working in urgent care where I gained an appreciation for primary care and grew tremendously in my professional approach to medicine and scope of care. When Jon graduated from his surgical residency, an OB-GYN residency position opened up in Fort Worth, Texas. I was offered the position so we packed up the family and moved to Texas for 18 months. Jon took a position as a surgical hospitalist in California (our original and future home). He has been able to spend one to two weeks per month with us but his absence has been both a challenge and a sacrifice. I successfully completed my OB-GYN training in Texas and was extremely happy to accept a fellowship position at the Pope Paul VI Institute.
Looking back at the tumultuous course of my training, I see that we have been blessed by good fortune. I have had the opportunity to interact with countless co-workers, friends, neighbors, churches and patients. Our lives were enriched with the experience of living in different states and climates. My experience thus far in the Pope Paul VI Fellowship has made all of the challenges to get here worth the while. The office staff is amazing: they start every day with prayer and are extremely supportive. Dr. Hilgers, Dr. Keefe and Dr. Pakiz are excellent teachers and mentors. The patients travel from across the US and even across the globe to receive treatment. The surgical training is state-of-the-art and focuses on minimally-invasive laparoscopic techniques and robotic surgery. Most notably, the patients are treated as unique individuals and a true effort is made to restore them to health. The deliveries that I have been involved in are true “miracles” that are celebrated. Every patient is treated with dignity. I did not have much “pro-life” support during my residency training, so my experience in fellowship has been incredibly rewarding as I witness compassionate care daily. I am so thankful for this opportunity and look forward to practicing NaProTechnology in California where I plan to start my practice after I complete my fellowship.