About the Episode

March is Women’s History Month. In honor of the month, Charged is celebrating the women behind the innovations in health care at Mass General. We recognize their success stories, their strength in overcoming adversity and what keeps them charged to achieve their goals.

In this special episode, we ask our guests from throughout the hospital to share stories about what drove them to pursue a career in medicine and what keeps them motivated to drive forward.

We hope you enjoy this bonus episode with the women of Charged!

Featured Guests

  • Katrina Armstrong, MD
  • Gaurdia Banister, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN
  • Marcela del Carmen, MD
  • Denise Gee, MD
  • Vicki Jackson, MD, MPH
  • Pamela Jones, MD, MPH
  • Sareh Parangi, MD
  • Noopur Raje, MD
  • Sue Slaugenhaupt, PhD
  • Aswita Tan-McGrory, MBA, MSPH

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March is Women’s History month, a celebration of the women who overcome adversity and break boundaries. On Charged, we recognize the risk-takers and innovators at Mass General by sharing the stories of their challenges and successes and how they are fueled to reach their goals. We’ve asked our guests what inspired them to pursue a career in health care, and we’ve collected their stories of mentors, teachers, friends, and family. We hope you enjoy this bonus episode with the women of Charged.

A: My name is Denise Gee. I’m a minimally invasive general surgeon and bariatric surgeon.

When I think about who inspired me, I think my immediate answer was just the broad concept that I would be able to make a positive impact in people’s lives on a daily basis.

I remember in high school spending some time volunteering at our local community hospital, and it was just something that was really basic. I still remember I worked in a cafeteria and got people’s food ready that got delivered to patients, and I still remember the smells, the putting on the hairnets and all that. It was such a little thing that I was doing, but it made me realize that it was having such a large impact on the entire hospital.

A: My name is Gaurdia Banister. I’m the executive director of the Institute for Patient Care.

So I was inspired by two great aunts who took care of my great grandmothers when I was growing up, and I saw their compassion, dedication, commitment, their caring, their thoughtfulness, and it planted a seed inside me. I don’t think I was truly aware of it at the time, but I do think it planted this seed that made me think that at some point, that was a career I really wanted to think about.

A: My name’s Katrina Armstrong, and I am the physician-in-chief.

I went into medicine because I grew up in a small town in Alabama and it turns out that in small towns, doctors have this incredible presence. They mean something to the people of that town in a way that I think almost nothing else does. And so, when I was in high school, I really first got to know the family physician in that town, Joseph Fritz, and he was a person who dedicated his life to making the world a better place for that community, for his patients. I worked with him for a summer and I never looked back.

A: My name is Marcela del Carmen. I am a gynecologic oncologist and also the chief medical officer for the MGPO.

I think my most memorable and longer lasting connection to medicine was my grandfather who was a urologist, who had trained at Hopkins, very serious guy. I remember that his affect would change dramatically whenever he came into contact with a patient or with a patient’s family member. I think you know early on, you want to be, or serve in space that allows you to have direct contact with people. And so, I think for me it was basically that. I grew up in Nicaragua during the 1970s and the two years before Somoza was ousted and the Sandinistas took over were basically very disruptive. I mean, the fighting during the revolution happened in the streets of Nicaragua, but I think that at a young age I became very much exposed to social justice. So I think for me, being exposed to that, being exposed to my grandfather, medicine was just the perfect place to be able to do that. You know, to be able to serve human kindness through a space that allowed you to really try to make it right for people beyond just their health care.

A: My name is Pamela Jones, and I am a pituitary surgeon and brain tumor surgeon within the Department of Neurosurgery.

I would have to say that the biggest inspiration for deciding to enter health care and enter neurosurgery was my dad. He’s a neurosurgeon and someone who always was very passionate about his career. So when I was thinking about what I wanted to do with my career, I wanted to feel that same deep reward from a job that I could see that he felt from his. And I felt that as soon as I started medical school and have felt that through my training and career now.

A: I’m Susan Slaugenhaupt. I’m the scientific director of the Massachusetts General Research Institute and a professor of neurology in the Center for Genomic Medicine here at the hospital.

So when I went to graduate school,  I went to the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and was pursuing a PhD in human genetics, you know, with the goal of trying to identify disease genes. After I graduated, I came to Mass General as a postdoctoral fellow, and it was during that time that I really began to think of myself as a woman in health care, if you would, even though I was a basic scientist.

I worked with patients and families and was mapping a disease gene for familial dysautonomia. We’ve taken that work from identification of the gene to understanding the mechanism and have developed a drug that’s on its way to the clinic, which is really exciting. After being here for a little while, and when we first identified the mechanism and thought we could develop a drug, I realized the work that I was doing was a fundamental page that scientists could impact human health.

A: My name is Aswita Tan-McGrory and I am the administrative director of the Mongan Institute and the deputy director of the Disparities Solutions Center.

When I was twenty-two, I joined the Peace Corps and I went to Nigeria, West Africa. There was no running water, there was no electricity, and I realized that not having health care has a huge impact on the population itself and it really limits the growth of a population if there’s always the threat of malaria or guinea worm keeping people sick. And then when I came back here, I just couldn’t believe that with all the resources that we have in this country that we still can’t get it right and that people still can’t have access to healthcare, that we have high rates of infant mortality and maternal mortality. And then, I was born in the Netherlands and I lived there for thirteen years, so I know what a successful system looks like and the impact it has on really just raising the bar and the quality of life for everybody when you have health care. That’s really what sort of inspired me to go in the path that I’m on.

A:  I’m Noopur Raje. I’m a medical oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center. I direct the Multiple Myeloma program.

I've always wanted to be a doctor. Why, I have no idea. Because right from when I was, I think, very little I used to tell my mom, “I'm going to be a doctor.”And I don't think I knew what that meant. And I used to go to the extreme of saying, “I'm going to be a neurosurgeon.”

I think I've been inspired by a lot of different people along the way. My biggest inspiration has been my father. The other folks who really inspire me are my patients are the ones who inspire me every day.

A: I’m Sareh Parangi. I’m a surgeon. I specialize in thyroid, parathyroid and adrenal surgery and do research in thyroid cancer.

For me, I’d say definitely my mom. Like early college years, she hadn’t really told me the story ever before that she had gotten into medical school as a 20 year old and that she was really excited about going to medical school. But, that it was in a far away town and she was already married and she wasn’t really sure that my dad would be willing to move to this far away town. And then what would happen to his career and would they be able to have kids.

So, after she told me that, it was kind of inspiring to me the fact that she was thinking about that in her late 40s made me think that I really got to do what I like. And it just so happened that I liked surgery.

A: I’m Vicki Jackson. I’m the division chief for Palliative Care and Geriatric Medicine and I’m co-director of the Harvard Medical School Center for Palliative Care.

When I was in medical school there was a psychiatrist who I did a summer internship with, and she was amazing in her ability to be incredibly connected, also to be this really generous mentor in a way that allowed me to see that there were just many aspects of a career in medicine that could be really fulfilling and helped me realize I could find my own way in it and put my own stamp on it.

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