28 December 2023: MOULTRIE, GA – Beginning Jan. 2, 2024, Marla DePolo Golden, DO, MS, FACEP, will become dean of the osteopathic medicine program at PCOM South Georgia. A 1988 graduate of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, she is currently associate dean of clinical education for both PCOM Georgia in Suwanee and PCOM South Georgia in Moultrie.
“Dr. Golden has served our College in various administrative and faculty capacities since 2010,” Peter F. Bidey, DO ’08, dean and chief academic officer of PCOM, said in announcing Dr. Golden’s appointment as dean. “She first functioned as a preceptor to PCOM students in her integrative pain medicine practice, teaching students the benefits of a comprehensive osteopathic approach to patients and their pain and allowing them to hone their OMT (osteopathic manipulative treatment) skills.”
Dr. Bidey continued, “Dr. Golden began her administrative career at PCOM as a regional assistant dean for PCOM Georgia, creating a clinical anchor site for students in Jacksonville, Florida, as well as overseeing other anchor sites in Northeast Florida. In addition, she developed relationships with partners in South Georgia. She went on to serve as interim and then chair of clinical education for PCOM South Georgia, while maintaining her position as regional assistant dean before moving into her current role.”
Dr. Golden understands pain. Whether she’s working with a patient suffering from pain or teaching a student physician how to treat a patient’s pain, she understands because she’s been there. Her career in osteopathic medicine began partly because of her own experience of intractable neck pain.
In the early 1980s, Dr. Golden and her family lived outside Philadelphia. Her sister, Mary, was looking into a career in osteopathic medicine and possibly applying to PCOM. She shared that information with Dr. Golden, who was a graduate student at Drexel University studying organic chemistry and considering her own career path.
Then Dr. Golden was in a five-car accident that caused a severe whiplash injury resulting in neck pain. When her family doctor realized that she was not healing properly and she could not take medications while continuing her classes, he referred Dr. Golden to an osteopathic medicine physician in South Philadelphia. The DO’s use of OMT significantly improved Dr. Golden’s neck pain.
“He helped me so much with OMT and opened my eyes to the profession,” she said. “It inspired me to want to be a DO who could help people with the work of my hands in addition to everything else!”
Not only did Dr. Golden and her sister, Mary, graduate with DO degrees from PCOM, but so did their cousin, Michele Romano, and Mary’s husband, George Schmieder.
“When I finally made that career decision, I never had another doubt about what I should do with my life,” Dr. Golden said. “I was able to provide that compassionate care to each patient I saw without forgetting about their family members and the people around them. I was able to ease suffering and touch people’s lives, calm their nerves, reassure them, take care of their problems and on wonderful days, heal them.
“I feel like it’s a God-given privilege to be able to do that. And now, I realize that as an educator, I can pass on that osteopathic approach to taking care of the whole person. I can teach students how to listen to patients, look at them with an osteopathic eye and truly help them by going the extra mile. If I can inspire students to do that, then I will do so much more than I ever did working with one patient at a time.”
At PCOM, Dr. Golden is also an associate professor of emergency medicine and recently served a term as a faculty representative to the PCOM Board of Trustees and chair of the Committee on Committees.
Dr. Golden was previously an associate clinical professor at the University of Florida Health Science Center, Shands Hospital. She served on the board of directors of The Brain Health Foundation, the Institute for Integrative Pain Management and the Florida Academy of Pain Medicine. She was the spokesperson for the Florida Academy of Pain Medicine during the opioid crisis and worked on various committees of the American Board of Pain Medicine. Dr. Golden lectures nationally on the use of neuroplasticity techniques and OMT in the management of persistent pain. She is co-founder of the Neuroplastic Transformation Program and co-author of the Neuroplastic Transformation Workbook.
Dr. Golden’s recognitions include the Felix Linetsky Award for Excellence in Education from the Florida Academy of Pain Medicine; the Outstanding Senior Emergency Department Resident Award from University Medical Center; and the William F. Daiber, DO Memorial Award from PCOM.
She holds a bachelor’s degree from Cabrini College, a master’s degree from Drexel University, and a doctor of osteopathic medicine degree from PCOM. Dr. Golden is a diplomate of the American Board of Emergency Medicine and a fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians.
“Being selected as dean is an incredible honor,” Dr. Golden said. “I’m honored to know that the PCOM community has the faith in me to lead this campus and to continue my work in Georgia, specifically in South Georgia, a region to which I’ve become very attached. There’s a lot we can do in South Georgia because there is an incredible amount of talent in our institution at large, but specifically on the South Georgia campus. I think we will do great things for South Georgia and in South Georgia continuing the longstanding PCOM tradition of excellence.”
Even though the South Georgia campus is PCOM’s newest location, Dr. Golden sees the Moultrie location as an advantage for students.
“South Georgia has a special kind of connectivity that comes with that small-town feel,” she said. “The community here is all in on the effort to bring medical education and an expanded, diverse healthcare workforce to South Georgia. Legislators, educators, business people, everyone seems to be of the same mind, but they don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s about the people of South Georgia. This is how we will change the social determinants of health.”
Dr. Golden continued, “The best part is that we’re all trying to achieve the same goals. From the students’ standpoint, I think the amazing opportunity is that they get to experience a lot more than students in other settings, who might not get to do as much until later in their career. They’re getting very hands-on training that will make them incredibly capable to take on anything they encounter. We think it will put them ahead of the game when they go out to other clinical settings to learn. I think it is the best of all worlds. All things considered, I think South Georgia is pretty special.”
Dr. Golden succeeds the previous dean, William Craver, DO ’87, who retired on April 30, 2023. Robert Lloyd, DO ’91, has served as interim dean from May 1 through Dec. 31, 2023.