Celebrating 30 Years of Dedication: A Tribute to Susan Stacy, FACOI, on her Retirement


February 26, 2024

For over three decades, when you think about the American College of Osteopathic Internists (ACOI), you think about Susan Stacy, FACOI. Her retirement signals the end to a remarkable journey marking over 30 years of service to the ACOI.

Susan began her tenure with the ACOI in August 1993, never anticipating it becoming her professional home for the rest of her career. Since then, she has served as a pillar of support for its members.

To many, Susan is more than just a staff member; she is a constant presence and a trusted friend. Whether members seek guidance on various College-related inquiries or personal or professional advice, Susan is always there to listen. Over the years, she has cultivated meaningful relationships with countless individuals within the ACOI community, earning their appreciation and respect.  

Reflecting on her journey alongside the ACOI, Susan has witnessed the organization's growth and evolution firsthand. From a small office of just four employees when she started, to its current standing as a beacon of educational excellence in the field of osteopathic internal medicine, Susan's dedication has remained unwavering.

As her retirement date of March 8 approaches, join us in expressing gratitude to Susan Stacy for her invaluable contributions to the ACOI. Her commitment, compassion, and unwavering dedication have left an indelible mark on all those fortunate enough to have crossed paths with her.

As we celebrate Susan's remarkable contributions, her legacy will reaffirm the commitment to upholding the values of camaraderie, professionalism, and excellence that she personifies. Here's to Susan Stacy, a true cornerstone of the ACOI family, wishing her a relaxing retirement full of discovery and adventure.  

In a conversation with Susan, we had the privilege of delving into her experiences and memories from the past three decades. She shared insights into the challenges and triumphs she witnessed and the profound impact that the ACOI and its members have had on her life.

Q. When did you join the ACOI?  

A. August 1993.  

Q. What were you doing before that?  

A. I came from The Miller Cassidy Law Firm in DC. They specialized in white collar crime.  

Q. How did you find the position at the ACOI?  

A. It sort of found me. In the early 1990s Washington, DC had created a no-smoking policy prohibiting smoking in buildings. My office was in accounting and many staff smoked. My office was in the back corner, the furthest away from the door as possible, so I was inundated with smoke all the time. I had become friends with one of the partners and questioned him about enforcing the no-smoking policy. He indicated that unfortunately the policy wasn’t going to be enforced until it became law. Wanting me to be happy, yet conflicted about the possibility of me leaving, he said to me one day, “I don't want to lose you, but my wife's office (the ACOI) is hiring, and I think you'd absolutely love it. She likes it there, and I think you'd fit right in.” His wife was Michaeline Curtis, and she was one of the first ACOI staff hired in the DC office. So, I went to the interview and met the team, which at that time included Brian Donadio, Michaeline Curtis, and Valarie Singleton. I was hired immediately. My position was Finance and Membership. I became the fourth employee. And now I am the last one standing of the original four, which is very hard to believe!  

Michaeline Curtis, Valarie Ghant, Susan Stacy, and Mirella Curtis.

Q. Did you know the ACOI was the right fit for you immediately?  

A. I didn't apply for any other job because it just felt right. For me it is like that feeling when you are looking to buy a house and you walk into one and go, this is it! It's that same kind of feeling. I felt comfortable with the interview. I remember leaving thinking, I could really enjoy working here. They made a quick offer, and I accepted right away.  

Q. Was the ACOI office in Washington, DC, at the time?

A. Yes, it was at 300 5th Street on Capitol Hill. We had a perfect location. It was a four-level townhouse that we shared with the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) at the time. It was a beautiful building.  

Before that, the ACOI was in Miami. When Ralph Tomei, DO, MACOI, (a past ACOI president) was the Executive Director, he decided to move the office to DC. We ended up selling the building because the AOA was hiring more people and needed additional space. We then moved to Friendship Heights in Northwest DC, and then eventually the office was relocated to Rockville, Maryland. During COVID, we moved again, and now, we are in Arlington, Virginia.

Q. What did you know about the osteopathic internal medicine profession before you started at the ACOI?  

A. Absolutely nothing! It was very eye opening to me. Of course, I did my research before I went to the interview, but I really had no idea. It was a whole new world for me. I felt so comfortable in the interview; I knew I would be able to learn more along the way. As I did, I found out how truly amazing our members are. Osteopathic internists are so kind, caring, and considerate. I feel so honored to have gotten to know so many!  

Q. Obviously you have learned much about the osteopathic internal medicine profession so how did that knowledge influence your approach to your own health care? Has it at all?  

A. Oh, yes. It definitely has. And I tell everybody that when you see an osteopathic physician, you see and feel the difference because they tend to take the time with you that’s needed. They don't make you feel like you're rushed. Ultimately, they care about the patient more than they care about the politics of medicine.  

Plus, as I dug in and I started learning more about what osteopathic internists do, and the history of the profession, I thought it was so amazing that this one person back in the day, Andrew Taylor Still, had this vision and what it has developed into today.  

Q. Thirty years is a long time to stay at one place. What has kept you at the ACOI for so long? 

A. People have asked me a lot about what has kept me at the ACOI all this time – especially because I had such a terrible commute for so many years! But I dealt with the commute because I always felt like the ACOI staff and members were like family. And when you find a job that you feel is home, why would you leave? Everybody got along and helped each other. I just don't think that you find that very often in life, which is why it was worth it to me.  

Also, ACOI afforded me flexibility with my kids which was important to me as a mom. We’ve always been a sports family, so I didn’t want to miss my kids’ ballgames while they were growing up. I was able to leave early and make up the time. Those kinds of things were important to me. There were a lot of positives that outweighed the commute time.  

Susan with the ACOI staff over the years at Annual Conventions. 

Q. So this is probably the most emotional part for you, but how have the members affected your life? Did you did have any idea how well you would get to know the members and how they would impact your life?  

A. I never expected any of this, honestly. The doctors are so approachable. It was the Board Review Course where I started to get to know the doctors well. I used to manage that meeting by myself for many years so that is how I initially got to know so many of them.  

One of my favorite stories is when Kevin Hubbard (who was a Program Chair for the Board Review Course) and I were sitting at the registration table at the meeting, and one of the members (I won’t reveal who) came up, and asked us, “Hey, would you two mind signing my prenuptial agreement?” And we said, “yeah, sure, ha, ha,” and he said, “No. I'm serious!” We realized he wasn’t joking. So, he said, “Come here. My lawyer's around the corner.” We still didn't believe him, but we stood up, walked around the corner, and there he was with his lawyer and his wife-to-be. So, Kevin and I ended up being the witnesses and signing his prenup right there at a meeting! You realize you must be close to people to do something like that. That is truly one of my favorite stories. It was so great that he trusted us to do something like that; clearly, he considered us friends and we've been friends for life.  

Another story that means a lot, and it is something I tear up over every time I think about it, is when another member and I bonded over his dog. The dog had died and obviously he was very upset, and we were talking about it because I had just lost my dog six months prior. And now we're lifelong friends and it's all because he was upset about his dog, and I asked what was wrong. It’s the little things like that that mean a lot.  

There's just so much to remember that I could go on forever with these memories. What touches me is the fact that these people could be talking to their colleagues or their friends, yet they will come up to me and the staff and want to hang out with us too. It is that kind of thing that makes you feel welcome and that you belong. There are so many members that I've gotten close to and the thought of leaving them is what's so hard for me.  

Q. You became a Fellow. What did that mean to you to join the ranks of being a Fellow?  

A. It happened in 2008 and it was a major surprise, and trying to surprise the person who's planning the meeting was a very difficult task! But it just meant the world to me. Jack Uslick, DO, MACOI, and Mark D. Baldwin, DO, FACOI, nominated me for the FACOI designation. I was so blown away. It’s something I am truly honored by, and I will never forget that day.

Q. You have been part of something special here at the ACOI. What would you say are the ingredients that are important to a successful membership organization?  

A. I think the success of an organization really depends on those who are dedicated and who care about the mission and are working for the betterment of the profession. I believe in everything that the profession and the organization stand for, and I always wanted to help make it succeed.  

Q. You've made countless contributions over the years. What do you think your biggest contribution has been?  

A. Definitely the student clubs and the Visiting Professor Program because I was part of starting that back in the mid-1990s and it's become a huge success today. I also think our educational meetings have become better each year, which takes a team effort to be successful, and is something to be proud of.

Q. There are more osteopathic physicians being trained than ever before so what would you say to non-members, students, residents, and other osteopathic internists about joining?  

A. I would say that you don't know what you're missing unless you join! The camaraderie, the education, the friendships, the mentors. There are just so many things that you miss out on that you can't get from your computer screen. The people that come to our meetings, whether physicians, exhibitors, grantors, or guests, leave feeling it was worthwhile for them to attend. We've had people from other specialties, MDs, NPs, PAs, etc., come to our meeting, and they would tell me how great they think our meeting is, which I think says a lot, especially when it's not part of our group making these comments.  

Q. How have the Annual Conventions evolved over the years?  

A. I've been doing them since 1995 and I can remember the first meeting that I was at. There were probably only around 350 people there. But now we have 1,500 to 1,800! And since COVID, we have also been doing successful hybrid meetings. The Fellows Convocation and the Memorial address given by the Immediate Past President were always part of the meetings, but we've always worked to enhance the Conventions with new events and programming and to meet the needs of all our members as best we can.  

ACOI added the recognition of Master Fellows in 1994 and the special awards (Internist of the Year, etc.) in 1996. We also added the Resident and Student Session focusing on the unique educational needs of that group. As the profession has grown, we've included state mandatory CME and workshops, like OMT and POCUS, and most recently, we have added new interest groups focusing on diversity, coding, and physician wellness.

My hope is that the Convention continues to grow each year. I expect that the ACOI will always be at the top of its game with content and offerings that reflect the evolution of the profession. One of the strengths of the organization is that we have always stayed in sync with the profession and the changing educational needs of our members. We have incorporated those changes at the Annual Convention, in our Spring Meetings, and on our Online Learning Center.  

Q. So what do you think has been the most memorable Annual Convention? Is there one that stands out to you for any reason?  

A. I think they're all amazing, and it's because of membership, not because of what I'm doing. The one that stands out for me is when they surprised me by making me a Fellow in the College. Also, Brian Donadio’s last meeting in Arizona was very memorable. After working with somebody for so many years, it's hard to say goodbye, so that one stands out! We're fortunate to have gone to great cities, but the highlight has always been seeing friends again. It really does feel like a family reunion to me. I know I say that a lot, but that's how I feel.  

There's just so much to remember that I could go on forever with these memories. What touches me is the fact that these people could be talking to their colleagues or their friends, yet they will come up to me and the staff and want to hang out with us too. It is that kind of thing that makes you feel welcome and that you belong. There are so many members that I've gotten close to and the thought of leaving them is what's so hard for me.

Susan with members at ACOI events. Left: Marisa Gambino, Susan, Charles Gambino, DO, FACOI. Right: Martin Burke, DO, MACOI, Pedro Espat, DO, MACOI, Susan, Gerald Blackburn, DO, MACOI.

Q. What parting words do you have?  What do you want the members and staff to know?  

A. I don’t know what the future holds, however, I do know I will always be grateful to the ACOI, the staff, and our membership, for all it has brought me…and most of all, for the friendships I’ve made along the way.  Those friendships mean the world to me. I am truly thankful to you all and confident as I leave you in great hands with the staff we have now.  

Read comments from some of ACOI’s members: 

Thank you so very much Susan for everything you have done for our profession and for all the sacrifices you made to strengthen our Osteopathic community!!! From all the times you put into growing our future physicians, you are so very appreciated!!!! You will be missed dearly, and we wish you all the best in this next chapter of your endeavors!!! 
—Jasper Yung, DO, FACOI 

Congratulations on your retirement. You deserve it. You’ve been a friendly voice at ACOI almost as long as I’ve been a member, always responsive and helpful or sympathetic as appropriate. I’m retired now but I well remember how you helped us all. You will be missed! Thank you and enjoy this new phase. I highly recommend it.  
—Jerry M Littlefield, DO, MACOI

I just wanted to say thank you for all your years of dedication and hard work at the ACOI. Thank you for all the times you assisted me and countless other physicians. Thank you for inspiring me to be involved and feel comfortable. I will always appreciate you. I will truly miss you at the meetings and everything ACOI. Like many, your announcement is bittersweet to me because it’s hard to imagine you not being around ACOI. You deserve to have some rest and enjoy new beginnings in your life. I pray that it is not goodbye, but rather see you later in a different capacity. I can’t wait to see what you’re going to do next. Thank you for being a friend to me and so many others. Godspeed!  
—Watson Ducatel, DO, FACOI

Thank you for your wonderful contributions, and happy retirement!  You will be missed, and hope you come join ACOI events from time to time!  
—Rodney Bates, DO, FACOI

Very sorry to hear the news but happy for you to start on some new adventures in retirement.  You truly were the glue that helped keep the ACOI together for many years and I greatly enjoyed working with you and appreciate all the help you provided The ACOI will have some big shoes to fill. Hope the best for you in your future endeavors.  
—Peter Gulick, DO, MACOI  

Say it isn't so!  It won't be the same ACOI office, convention, review course or any aspect of the organization without you.  However, I'm very happy for you and wish you the best. 
—Jack Bragg, DO, MACOI

I wish you and your family many blessings as you retire. I want to thank you for the many things you have done for me, as a young internist, as a board member, as a fellow and master fellow and most importantly as a colleague and friend! Thank you for being an ardent advocate to osteopathic internal medicine and the ACOI. Stay in touch and stay well! God Bless You. 
—Bob Juhasz, DO, MACOI

This news hits on so many different levels. Susan took me in as a young junior attending and has nurtured my ACOI experience over two decades. Her investment in me has paid dividends; to my patients, to my colleagues and in so many more ways, to me. She created an environment that made you "want to give back." Every strong structure has cornerstones that are required to support the heavy weight of growth. She did that with grace, vision, and generosity of heart. Susan's stewardship has steered the ACOI ship through many storms. And here we are, still sailing. Susan, I hope you rest, find your center and decide you weren't quite ready. We will be here waiting!

With respect and gratitude!
—Patrick Cullinan, DO, FCCM, FACOI, FACOEP

Well deserved and you have made an immeasurable contribution to the college. The consistency and success of this college is because of you and your commitment and the personal respect the DO internal medicine community gives to the ACOI.  
—Scott Spradlin, DO, FACOI

Thank you for all your kindness, support, and leadership through the years!  
—Natasha N. Bray, DO, FACOI

Stay True to Why You Pursued Medicine.