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Lourdes Candystriper Comes Back to Lourdes as a Gastroenterologist 18 Years Later

Born and raised in Willingboro, Doc is Proud to be Back Home

On any given day, Dr. Ann Marie Stephenson, a gastroenterologist at Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County, might see an old classmate, a family friend, or a fellow family church member. Whether it’s treating them as a physician, or running into them while getting lunch, Stephenson says it happens often.

Dr.Dr.Ann Marie“It’s one of the things that makes me feel at home,” she says.

Born and raised in Willingboro, Stephenson has deep ties to the area. Her mother still lives in the same house that she grew up in. Her father, who passed away three years ago, was the former Mayor of Willingboro, where he served five terms and served on City Council for more than 15 years. Her family belonged to the same Willingboro church since she was born. It’s the same church her mother still attends today.

But for Stephenson, coming back home wasn’t something she had planned.

With a strong desire to be a physician since she was 10-years-old, Stephenson volunteered to be a candystriper at Lourdes Burlington (then Rancocas Hospital) at age 12 — bringing patients meals, providing companionship to patients and assisting nurses. Over time, she donated more than 1,000 hours while also being on a swim team, working as a lifeguard, and earning her high school diploma at Willingboro High School.

After graduation, Stephenson then went to Spelman College in Atlanta. After earning her bachelor’s degree, she enrolled at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed a five-year program while earning her MBA at St. Joseph’s University. She then went on to complete her internal medicine residency at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and at Frankford Hospitals (now Aria) in Bucks County, PA. After that, she went back to the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey for a fellowship in Geriatrics, then on to Chicago to complete a fellowship in Gastroenterology. Specializing in Gastroenterology was important to Stephenson since medical school. Incidentally she lost her father to gastric cancer while in her first year as a gastroenterology fellow.

“Once I left for Chicago, I wasn’t sure where in the U.S. I would practice, but I didn’t think it would be in Willingboro,” says Stephenson. “I then started going on job interviews. I was home for Thanksgiving in 2010, and at that time met with the Lourdes team. I had a good interview and a really good feeling about things. I then went back to Chicago and couldn’t stop thinking about Lourdes and serving the community I grew up in.”

Stephenson accepted the Lourdes position and came home one month later.

“This was a really good choice for me,” says Stephenson. “My parents believed in giving back to the community, and they instilled that sense in me. My father was in public service for more than 20 years and my mother still teaches at the same Philadelphia High School where she has taught for 44 years.

“This is really home,” Stephenson adds. “I am a pleased to say I am a product of Willingboro. I work in Willingboro now and we have great people here. I am proud to work at a hospital that takes care of our community.”

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