Why is Women’s History Month important to you?
Women have a strong influence in shaping the history of any country or civilization. Their contributions to society are not limited to raising and educating strong, assertive and responsible citizens, but they have also played important roles in driving advances in social, science, technology, the arts and commerce. Many women have been visionaries and it is through honoring their work and achievements that future generations will continue to acknowledge and support their role.
What do you like most about your job?
I am fascinated by the precision within which the cardiovascular system works and the physiological cascade that allows us to predict the course and prognosis of each case. I love my patients and enjoy watching them grow and become examples of how to overcome the challenges of living with congenital heart disease. In each one, I find a source of challenge and inspiration. My patients provide me with learning opportunities in science and medicine and the privilege of witnessing the depth of the human bonds that form from the daily interactions between nurses, patients, parents and others providing care.
How can we encourage more women and girls to enter the sciences?
Much can be done at different levels of society. From supporting and loving parents who encourage girls to pursue their dreams and passions to strong teachers who nourish their creativity and provide them with tools that foster discipline, patience and perseverance. I believe that vocal and successful women in leadership positions in science and medicine can provide inspiration for future generations to come. We also should work to create an environment and work routines where women and men can see themselves as being able to achieve fulfillment in their work-life in balance with other aspects of their lives.
Have you encountered any obstacles on your journey as a woman? If so, how did you overcome them?
Like many women in science, the list of challenges is not short. During my career, I faced hard decisions and as many other immigrants did, I found myself leaving my family and my comfort zone. I needed to adapt to a new culture and language and prove myself to my other colleagues. I believe, however, that a strong set of values and determination are key. There are and always will be multiple hurdles in the way, but there is a great satisfaction to overcome them to reach your goals.
What is one piece of advice you would give a woman entering the field of medicine and/or healthcare?
Be true to yourself. This is a fascinating journey full of joy, sorrows and challenges. Your biggest obstacle can be your fears. Set a priority for your goals and don’t lose your horizon. Medicine is an art and women carry it in themselves. I think we are healers by nature and very intuitive.
Has there been an influential woman in your life who supported or inspired you on your journey into health care/medicine?
Sara Chaffee, MD, chief of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center was a fabulous role model for me during residency. She is an excellent example of a physician who cares deeply about and for her patients, is a wonderful mother, is gracefully assertive, and has achieved a leadership role in a field that is still dominated by men in most of the highest administrative positions.
What advice do you have for women to maintain a healthy lifestyle?
Learn and improvise how to prepare dishes in healthy ways without sacrificing taste while keeping a budget. Move, dance or enjoy the outdoors with seasonal activities. Laugh - it helps connect with people and lowers your blood pressure. Make your yearly checkups and screening tests a priority and never forget your flu shot!
Describe your journey into health care.
At a very early age, I was drawn to the mystery of life in all forms. I found interest in the wonders of the human body and how well orchestrated the body worked from a cellular level to organs to an entire human being. I remember having a passionate science teacher in a culture that expected women to have other interests. My parents had concerns about my inclinations, given the demands and hardships of a career in medicine, but nevertheless supported me by providing encouragement and opportunities for a well-rounded education. I was fortunate to live in a country where education was accessible to many independent of economic background and had the privilege to continue my training abroad.
What is special about Mass General for Children?
Every day, I see the smile in those who greet patients and their families, offering guidance and words of hope that may help to take away fear. I see the comfort that a nurse’s care provides to a set of worried parents. I see consistent professionalism and dedication in healthcare providers across different specialties. The hallways of Massachusetts General Hospital and MGfC are filled with science and history and it extends into many care providers, researchers and employees from different backgrounds. I find the focus, rigor and sheer effort that go into research to generate new insights and knowledge to be a source of energy and I am very proud to be part of this big family.