Pam Yaksich Finds Fulfillment and Faith at Pope Paul VI Institute

Longtime Pope Paul VI Institute employee Pam Yaksich.

Longtime Pope Paul VI Institute employee Pam Yaksich.

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.

Pam at the end of the seventh Educational Phase in 1984.

Pam at the end of the seventh Educational Phase in 1984.

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.”

Following God’s Path and Rejoicing in the Journey

Dr. Amie Homes

Dr. Amie Homes

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.

Couple Find Hope, Healing and Faith at Pope Paul VI Institute

Sebastien and Genevieve Giraud

Sebastien and Genevieve Giraud point to their home of Mauritius on the map at the Pope Paul VI Institute.

From the Winter 2014 Culture of Life newsletter

In the 30 short years since it was founded, the Pope Paul VI Institute has been building a culture of life that has extended well beyond the boundaries of its headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska. The Institute’s reach is reflected in many ways, but it’s perhaps most evident in the men and women who travel hundreds and thousands of miles to Omaha each year in order to receive the healing and hope that Pope Paul VI Institute so abundantly provides.

Such was the case with Sebastien and Genevieve Giraud, residents of Mauritius, a tiny island in the Indian Ocean, situated just east of Madagascar, known most prominently as the former home of the now-extinct Dodo Bird.

Suffering with infertility, the Girauds were being urged by local physicians towards methods that conflicted with their religious beliefs. Strong in their faith, they did what many Catholics would do: they conducted a Google search — seeking a patron saint for infertility — and were drawn to the story of St. Gianna Beretta Molla, the 20th Century Italian woman who demonstrated steadfast courage and faith in the face of a difficult pregnancy that would claim her life.

After signing up for the St. Gianna Center’s online mailing list, the Girauds were soon contacted by a representative of the site who, aware of the couple’s infertility issues, mentioned the work being done through the Pope Paul VI Institute.

Despite some initial skepticism, the Girauds visited the Institute’s website where they were captivated by the testimonials of former patients. “We thought ‘wow here is a place that heals the root causes of infertility’,” said Sebastien. “We knew then that we needed to contact the Pope Paul VI Institute.” After submitting bloodwork and a follow-up laparoscopy, Genevieve would be diagnosed with endometriosis, a painful condition that often results in infertility.

Like many couples suffering with infertility, the Girauds were told repeatedly that in-vitro fertilization was their only option for pregnancy. The Pope Paul VI Institute offered a different option — using state-of-the-art robotic surgery, Dr. Hilgers successfully treated the conditions that caused her infertility (endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome and blocked fallopian tubes).
For Genevieve, the Pope Paul VI Institute and Dr. Hilgers offered healing and a rare doctor who represented the best in medicine and practice, one who, according to her, “truly respects the Hippocratic Oath.”

While the Girauds found healing at the Pope Paul VI Institute, it was faith that has left the most indelible impression on the couple.
“We knew that the Pope Paul VI Institute was a Catholic organization but to see Dr. Hilgers and the staff say a prayer before surgery or to have the nurse hand me a rosary … these brought us closer to God,” said Genevieve. “Not only this, but our story has provided a witness to those around us and it is bringing them closer to God, also.”

From Poland to Omaha: Father Jay Offers Support and Enlightenment

Father Jay and Dr. Thomas W. Hilgers

Father Jay and Dr. Thomas W. Hilgers

From the Winter 2014 Culture of Life newsletter

The Pope Paul VI Institute is proud to maintain a large network of resources that extends even intercontinentally. One such resource is Father Jarosław (Jay) Szymczak, PhD, from Lomianki, Poland, a small town on the outskirts of Warsaw. Father Jay serves as Chaplain for the Institute’s EP I and II programs and as Retreat Master for the I + You = We Program, one of a cycle of Love and Life Programs for married couples (which he co-developed in Poland) that fosters the development of marital relationships amongst couples.According to Father Jay, the program “is addressed to believers and non-believers, giving them six simple steps leading to a life in unity.”

In an age when marriage and sexuality are attacked on many fronts, Father Jay has dedicated his work to helping couples form marriages that meet God’s vision for the family and to enlighten couples regarding Catholic sexual ethics. Father Jay is a consecrated priest of the Secular Institute of Consecrated Life Holy Family in Poland. He holds a doctorate of theology in marriage and the family, is a lecturer at the Faculty for Studies on the Family at Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Lomianki and is a chairman of the Family Support Foundation, which develops the Love and Life Programs and offers them worldwide.

While Omaha is a long distance from his native Poland, Father Jay has found a home at the Pope Paul VI Institute. The opportunity to work with the Pope Paul VI Institute is one that Father Jay cherishes. “I have fallen in love with Pope Paul VI and his landmark encyclical, Humanae Vitae,” says Father Jay. “The Pope Paul VI Institute is a direct result of the Blessed Pope Paul VI’s work and his call to medical professionals to seek solutions that promote life. I am so honored to have the opportunity to help the Institute answer this call.”
For more information about these programs, please visit­

Profile of Paul Comeau, Long-time Board Member

Paul Comeau in front of the “Miracle on Mercy Road” in Omaha in 2014.

Paul Comeau in front of the “Miracle on Mercy Road” in Omaha in 2014.

From the Winter 2014 Culture of Life newsletter

Longtime Pope Paul VI Institute Board Member, Paul Comeau, is proud to recount the Institute’s many accomplishments since he joined the Board of Directors almost 30 years ago. A former attorney for Union Pacific, Comeau was contacted by Dr. Thomas Hilgers in the early 1980s for help in finding a location for what would become the Pope Paul VI Institute.

“We were looking all over for a suitable location, and one day I was driving down Mercy Road, which makes so much sense now, and saw a lot with an old car wash. It had some weeds and needed some work, but it seemed like a perfect spot,” he recalls. “So I looked up the owner through the County Assessor, an Iowa farmer, who had long been considering selling the lot. A year and a half later we broke ground and the rest is history.”

When Comeau joined the Board more than 30 years ago, the Institute consisted of the Hilgers, Dr. Hilgers’ research, and a vision for an Institute that would meet Pope Paul VI’s appeal to medical professionals (as stated in Humanae Vitae).

“Here was this young doctor who was doing really amazing work, and there was nothing else like it,” says Comeau. “He works so hard but he is also so talented. I can’t imagine there are many people who would have the talent and commitment to build what he has over the past 30 years. To do what he has with the help of a few faithful donors is remarkable.”

The car wash formerly at 6901 Mercy Rd. in Omaha.

The car wash formerly at 6901 Mercy Rd. in Omaha.

The accomplishments Comeau cites in speaking about the Institute are many. It includes educational programs that have trained physicians and other medical professionals from six continents, an advisory board with bishops from the throughout the United States and the Vatican, the support of former popes and a medical clinic that “creates life.”

While Comeau is extremely proud of the Institute’s many accomplishments, he understands that the Institute has a lot of work left to do. “We are building a culture of life and it’s been against great odds,” he says. “But looking back, there is no doubt the Holy Spirit has helped guide our work.”

Historic Moment in St. Peter’s Square

IMG_0007Rome, Italy
October 19, 2014

“It was truly an emotionally, spiritually and uplifting experience to be present at the Beatification of our namesake Pope Paul VI. It was a special honor for me to read the English petition at the Prayers of the Faithful and to represent the worldwide FertilityCare and NaProTechnology providers and all those who live and love Humanae Vitae.”


Stories and interviews during our trip to Rome for the Beatification of Pope Paul VI

The Beatification of Pope Paul VI


“Let them [doctors and healthcare professionals] constantly pursue only those solutions that are in accord with faith and right reason.”
Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae

On the figurative eve of the beatification of our namesake, the late Pope Paul VI, I have some very exciting news. I have just been informed that I will be designated as the reader of the English language petition of the Prayers of the Faithful at the Beatification Mass of Pope Paul VI! This is truly an honor — I never imagined, when I first read his historic encyclical letter Humanae Vitae in 1968, that I would be someday be a part of this great man’s legacy. He was such a staunch defender of the faith, and the courage he demonstrated continues to serve as a source of inspiration to both the Institute and to me personally.

When I first read Humanae Vitae, I was a senior medical student attending the University of Minnesota, and Pope Paul VI’s words struck a real chord with me, both as a Catholic and as a soon-to-be member of the medical profession. In the letter, he appealed directly to doctors and healthcare professionals to “pursue only those solutions that are in accord with faith and right reason.” This compelled me initially to conduct research on reproductive health care solutions, which led to the development of our two breakthrough reproductive technologies of NaProTECHNOLOGY and the Creighton Model FertilityCare System, and later leading to the establishment of the Pope Paul VI Institute.

Together, we have made tremendous strides since we were founded, but we still have a lot of work left to do. Please continue to keep us in your prayers as we work to bring the Culture of Life in women’s healthcare to couples and families around the world.

May God bless you in a very special way,


Thomas W. Hilgers, MD
Director of the Pope Paul VI Institute
Developer of NaProTECHNOLOGY

You will be able to watch the Beatification Mass of Pope Paul VI live on EWTN Sunday, Oct. 19 at 3:30 am and rebroadcast at 2 pm. Check your local listings or watch online at

Fitzgeralds Find a Second Home at Pope Paul VI Institute

Deacon Tom Fitzgerald and his wife Marilyn

Deacon Tom Fitzgerald and his wife Marilyn

From the Fall 2014 Culture of Life newsletter

Deacon Tom Fitzgerald and his wife Marilyn share more than just a marriage; for the past 26 years, they have shared a common workplace, the Pope Paul VI Institute, where Deacon Tom works in the publications department and Marilyn works as an RN.

The roads which initially led them to the Institute are as different as their jobs.

Following the completion of her nursing studies in 1988, Marilyn was seeking a job where she could help people, and she was drawn to the Pope Paul VI Institute and the work being done by Dr. Thomas Hilgers. Tom, meanwhile, a Deacon at St. Margaret Mary Church in Omaha, took a part-time job with the Institute mailing out packets to students in the Institute Education Program — a job which would eventually grow into a full-time position.

Twenty-six years later, the couple has witnessed many changes at the Institute. Most notably, tremendous advances in technology have had a profound impact in their respective areas of publications and patient care. Despite the challenge of these ever-evolving professions, the Fitzgeralds have found a home at the Pope Paul VI Institute.

“It’s the people here,” shares Marilyn. “Dr. Hilgers, the staff, the patients … They are just amazing. It is a very supportive and positive environment.”

In addition to his responsibilities in the publications department, Tom also serves as resident Chaplain, where he assists with mass services in the Chapel.

As an RN, Marilyn has the opportunity to work with patients on a day-to-day basis and sees first-hand the impact the Institute has on these women and families.

“The methods developed by Dr. Hilgers are so effective, and it surprises so many women who have suffered without answers,” she said. “That is probably why so many of our patients later become educators: to help other women find true healing.”

My Longing for Truth, by Emily O’Donnel, research assistant

Emily O'Donnel

Emily O’Donnel, research assistant

Written for FertilityCare for Young Women, Fall 2014

I took an honors English class my first semester of my freshman year of college entitled “Rhetoric as Argument”. Fabulously naïve and painfully zealous, I prepared myself for what I imagined would be a delightful daily gathering of intelligent individuals willing to discuss differing opinions in a sophisticated and enlightened manner. My professor was a young, single, female PhD candidate with a vibrant personality and a thinly veiled bitterness towards the patriarchy, whose goals included shocking the conservative Midwestern students in the front row while simultaneously encouraging us to question everything we had ever been told was truth and drastically change our life plans “for the greater good”. Needless to say, the semester proved an interesting one.

We read provocative environmental pieces, radical feminist literature and profound works on the history of obstetrics and gynecology in America. While I admired that professor for several noteworthy reasons, her ability to keep her opinion to herself and grade papers impartially were not among them. I respectfully locked horns with her several times over the semester as I struggled to meet her ideological expectations in my writings. To her dismay, I chose to write my final research paper on the subject of hormonal birth control and its detrimental effect on women’s health. I interviewed Teresa Kenney, the Nurse Practitioner at the Pope Paul VI Institute, read several books cover to cover, and turned in a very concise argument on the environmental, emotional, spiritual and physical ramifications of hormonal birth control.

According to Merriam Webster’s online dictionary, feminism is “organized activity in support of women’s rights and interests”. In my paper I stated that I am, in fact, a feminist. I do firmly believe in women’s rights and, as a woman, am incredibly supportive of female interests. As a result, I firmly believe that a woman’s reproductive system should be celebrated and not suppressed by hormonal contraception. In my paper, I stated something of this nature. To this day, my most profound college experience was flipping through my graded paper full of comments from my professor, and seeing my sentence “I am a feminist” underlined several times with a penned comment: “No. You are not.”

In retrospect, that class actually did radically change the trajectory of my life goals and plans, though ironically in the opposite way that my professor had hoped, and I wouldn’t realize its full effect until almost two years later. From that moment on, I did become restless with the system — with everything society had told me was truth. I read everything I could get my hands on about Natural Family Planning methods, NaProTechnology and the Creighton Model FertilityCare System. I began charting my own cycle a few months after that semester ended in order to monitor my own fertility. I devoured everything I could find about fertility, cycles, pregnancy, nutrition, hormonal birth control, feminine spirituality, holistic women’s health care and current issues in the field of obstetrics and gynecology. I began compiling a library collection specifically devoted to these subjects for the purpose of lending books to fellow women on this journey of truth. (My collection now needs another book shelf).

Along the way, a few important saints have nudged me in the right direction and continue to guide me and encourage me daily. St. Edith Stein, a brilliant feminist and philosopher, has been a continuous light and sisterly presence for me on this journey and I am so grateful every day that this beautiful and holy woman of God pursued my friendship. St. Gianna, mother and physician, has become a major role model for my life, encouraging sacrifice and selfless love. St. Joan of Arc, a warrior woman of fearless passion and devotion to our Lord, has continued to surprise me with words of ardent wisdom, quiet strength and dedicated grace. And of course, the Blessed Virgin herself has been my motherly companion, especially those days when I felt most alone, a relationship for which I will spend every moment until my last breath thanking God. These holy women are a few among thousands who questioned everything society told them was true, lived their lives with a passionate zeal for Christ, and gave brilliant examples of what it truly means to be a woman.

Interestingly enough, my journey to learn more about these issues surrounding the modern approach to women’s health pointed out other fallacies in our society’s key teachings. Reading St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and Love and Responsibility, as well as revolutionary writings like Pope Paul VI’s Humane Vitae and St. Edith Stein’s Essays on Woman, began an incredible new chapter in my journey of discovery. I started making new connections and began filling in dots I hadn’t previously known existed. New light was shed on issues like homosexuality, environmental disregard, consumerism, abortion, the “hook-up culture” so prevalent in modern society, divorce, mental illness, pornography, atheism, loveless marriages, abuse and rape. As time went on, it became more and more clear that none of these issues stand independently from one another. I came to realize more deeply that they all have two major things in common: 1) they are all intensely on the rise 2) and they all largely stem from society’s rampant hormonal contraceptive use. As this understanding grew more solid, my passion grew deeper and much more fervent. In the eloquent words of the wonderful St. Edith Stein, “My longing for truth was a single prayer.”

It took a period of deep discernment, but eventually, everything started to quickly change. My life turned upside-down. I switched my major, I withdrew from several programs I had planned on participating in my entire life, and dove head first into totally new things I never dreamed I would include on my resume. I am now majoring in Biology at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and looking into medical school, nursing and bioethics graduate programs as exciting options for my continued education. I am currently on staff at the Pope Paul VI Institute as a research intern for Dr. Thomas Hilgers, a hero of modern reproductive medicine.

I just applied to become a practitioner of the Creighton Model and I am so excited for this journey. The Creighton Model FertilityCare System has radically changed my quality of life, restored hope in my reproductive future, and empowered me as a woman more than I could have ever possibly imagined. I desire to become a FertilityCare provider because charting is a brand new language that has allowed me to understand myself, my body and my fellow sisters in Christ in a much deeper way. As a NaProTechnology surgical patient myself, I know first-hand the miracles that the CrMS working hand-in-hand with NaProTechnology can facilitate. I want, with every fiber of my being, to help other women’s lives go through similar miraculous transformations. If feminism involves female empowerment, the Creighton Model FertilityCare System proves to be the epitome of reproductive empowerment. The CrMS allows a woman to take control of her reproductive health, schedule preventative and diagnostic procedures, pursue holistic and necessary fertility treatments, and work cooperatively with her spouse and/or doctor regarding her fertility.

In the last two years, Christ and His beautiful servants the saints, have very clearly guided me towards the path I am supposed to follow. I do not know the details of the future, but I do understand that I am supposed to join in this glorious mission of spreading the word about diagnostic women’s health methods, rather than today’s widely used suppressive “medicines”. I firmly believe with all that I am that hormonal birth control is the root of many of society’s greatest ills today and I have a fierce desire to help reverse the current trends. My greatest wish is that every woman, of every age and every state of fertility, can receive the truly beautiful gift of deeply understanding the miraculous thing that is her reproductive system, and that this understanding will help her realize how much God faithfully loves her.

Institute Hosts Pre-Medical and Medical Students for an “Amazing” Summer

From left to right: Courtney Skow, Emily O’Donnell, Dr. Tom Hilgers, Marah Smith, Dino Francescutti, and Samuel Smith.

From left to right: Courtney Skow, Emily O’Donnell, Dr. Tom Hilgers, Marah Smith, Dino Francescutti, and Samuel Smith.

From the Fall 2014 Culture of Life newsletter

Each year, the Pope Paul VI Institute attracts a select number of pre-medical and medical students from across the United States to participate in a summer-long internship program that immerses each intern in the Institute’s cutting-edge research and medical environment.

This year’s interns included Courtney Skow (Texas A&M University), Emily O’Donnell (University of Nebraska-Omaha), Dino Francescutti (University of Tennessee-Knoxville), and siblings Marah Smith (University of South Dakota-Vermillion) and Samuel Smith (South Dakota State University).

During their time at the Institute, the interns shadowed Dr. Hilgers and other medical staff, providing them the opportunity to view ultrasounds, and participate in lab reviews. One student even observed a robotic surgery. The Internship Program is one of many programs sponsored by the Institute’s education department, and similar to the Institute’s other educational initiatives, it is designed to build a culture of life in women’s health care.

This mission was not lost on the students. “It radically changed the trajectory of my life, my goals, and further strengthened my views on Catholic social teaching,” remarked Emily. “I definitely want to pursue a career that supports Dr. Hilgers’ work.”

For Marah, the experience had an equally strong impact. “If you are a Catholic and you are going into medicine, it is easy to avoid issues such as contraception, sterilization, and so many others. To come here and see medicine that is inspired by the Catholic faith … it is something that makes you very proud to be a Catholic.”

Her brother, Samuel, agrees. “It is a medical community that promotes the Gospel and there are so many great people here who are living out their faith in the community.”

Perhaps one of the most memorable aspects of the internship was the opportunity to work directly with
Dr. Hilgers, who the interns affectionately describe as both a “role model” and “hero.”

“Despite everything I knew about the Institute, I was still surprised by the scope of his research,” said Dino, referring to Dr. Hilgers. “It’s amazing to think that one guy made all this.”