This year, the William Smith Alumnae Association will honor Dr. Kathy D. Platoni ’74 for a lifetime of outstanding achievement and service. The award is the association’s highest honor to recognize an alumna’s distinction in her chosen field and will be awarded at a ceremony this spring.
Inspired by a quote from Thomas Mann: “Be afraid to die until you have done something for mankind, Platoni has dedicated her life to serving others. During more than 28 years of service in the U.S. Army, including three deployments; one stateside tour of duty during the Gulf War, command of a Combat Stress Control Detachment at Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay, and one tour of duty in Iraq, Platoni has ventured “beyond the wire and into the crucible of war to care for the soldiers who need it most.
An expert in treating post-traumatic stress disorder, Platoni works with sufferers who are just as wounded as the victims of bullets and bombs, counteracting flashbacks, nightmares, sleep disorders, panic and other symptoms of “the horrors of war. In 2001 she was deployed to Ground Zero in support of the New York Police Department in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
After serious combat incidents, Platoni prepares a “critical event debriefing, leading soldiers through a seven-step process of group intervention to discover how the events transpired and help them deal with the extreme conditions they face everyday. “I try to enhance our fighting strength, she said.
Platoni has also been a vocal critic of the Army’s treatment of PTSD cases and other topics in clinical psychology. Her expertise has given her voice national attention, and she has been quoted in The Washington Post, Newsweek, MSNBC, U.S. News and World Report and other local and national publications.
“I probably would have been voted ‘least likely to join the Army’ during my colleges days, said Platoni, who remains active in private practice, “But I discovered that the bonds of friendship with fellow soldiers are relationships stronger than family. It’s extremely rewarding to find something that’s your passion, something that gives you value, meaning and purpose.
A psychology major at the Colleges, it was at William Smith that Platoni said she learned to commit herself to a higher purpose. “I learned that life is about finding something you can give of yourself – education is not just a degree, she said, “but finding something to do for humanity. She went on to earn a master's in education in 1975 from the University of Miami-Coral Gables and a doctorate in clinical psychology in 1985 from Nova Southeastern University in Davie, Fla.
For her leadership, courage and service, Platoni will be recognized with the Achievement Award. “Of all the medals I’ve received during my time, said Platoni, “this surpasses them all.