Why is Women’s History Month important to you?
The very term, history, has a parallel in “herstory”, our stories.
What do you like most about your job?
I love my specialty of medical genetics, the variety of conditions I encounter and the privilege to meet the people who live with them.
How can we encourage more women and girls to enter the sciences?
Role modeling is the most powerful tool, whether from a man or woman. My first role model was my father, a neurosurgeon who trained in China in the 1950s who inspired me because of his love of medicine. He was always curious and philosophical, a specialist in back surgery, yet broadly based. His confidence in my career was implicit.
What we can do for potential woman scientists and physicians is to identify them. Talk to them, be available and stick with them. One of my patients told me she wanted to be a doctor and though she is in high school, I’m going to steer her toward some programs.
Has there been an influential woman in your life who supported or inspired you on your journey into health care/medicine?
Two women who are both family members. My mother, like my father, had complete confidence in me, a great gift to any child. Then there is Jennifer, one of my four sisters who has best understood the challenges, struggles and successes. Though she is a journalist completely outside of the medical sphere, our careers have had similar themes. I’ve cherished her friendship and boosts.
Describe your journey into health care.
I grew up surrounded by medicine with a father who was a physician, who married my mother, a nurse, when he was a resident. His brother and sister were both physicians trained in China. I had a female cousin who was a psychiatrist, introducing me on two sides of the family to the reality of women in medicine. What an advantage to grow up understanding the lifestyle of a doctor, to be able to admire the science and humanity of the field and to know personally of the sacrifices. I wondered constantly how I would make choices, if possible to be a mother, too.
I think I can trace the path to my current interest in genetics and birth defects to childhood. A friend of our family was an outgoing girl with absent upper extremities and a short leg. She visited with her family to swim in our pool, and I saw how she adapted - the original fearless girl. After decades, we reconnected recently through social media.
What is special about Mass General for Children?
The excellence of everyone who works here and the tremendous pride in every aspect of medical care.