Why is Women’s History Month important to you?
It is an acknowledgement of women and their successes, a celebration of what it entails to be a woman and to achieve and motivation to aspire for loftier goals.
What do you like most about your job?
I enjoy being able to provide very specialized clinical care to patients with some very complex endocrine issues, the ability to discuss these patients at multidisciplinary meetings with experts from other subspecialties and the relative ease of transition of care from pediatric to adult medicine.
I am also passionate about the research I do and very thankful for the resources I have received from the hospital to conduct such research. I love interacting with trainees and opportunities to serve as an educator and mentor. I am also growing to enjoy my administrative duties in that I can fix systems that are broken, start new initiatives, and implement programs to optimize patient care, faculty and trainee job satisfaction and advance the careers of faculty in the division.
How can we encourage more women and girls to enter the sciences?
By mentoring young women in high schools and colleges, empowering their interest in the sciences, helping with science-related projects, showing them that work-life balance is possible for women in science and that the glass ceiling can be broken. Another important strategy would be to demonstrate equal opportunities and pay for women entering the sciences.
Have you encountered any obstacles on your journey as a woman? If so, how did you overcome them?
The challenges were mostly during the course of raising my son while also establishing an academic career. As with most working mothers, I faced the challenges of attending my son’s music and sports events, driving him around for his various activities, being around when he needed to talk, trying to invisibly monitor his activities after school and on weekends and most importantly raising a good and kind human being. I did this while also working on grants, manuscripts and invited presentations, traveling to meetings and conferences and meeting the inevitable deadlines.
Everyone develops their own strategies to overcome challenges, and so did I. I learned to complete work-related responsibilities after my son went to bed (or while he did his homework) and to optimize time management. As he got older, I talked to him about my responsibilities at work, and we developed strategies to work around our schedules. I carpooled, and picked morning drop-offs and weekend pick-ups and drop-offs in exchange for weekday evening pick-ups and drop-offs. When I needed to bring work home, I continued to work after he went to bed. When we were not car-pooling, I spent the time driving my son to his various activities to have fun conversations with him as well as more serious ones. My spouse was unable to be around much until my son got to high school for various reasons, but we were subsequently able to share many of these responsibilities.
Another tremendous resource was being able to talk to my mentor about the various challenges and listening to her suggestions and hearing how she dealt with these or others. A wonderful gift during the child-rearing years was the Claflin award in 2006. It was an acknowledgment of hard work and sacrifices at a time when conflicting responsibilities caused one to constantly question one’s priorities.
Another challenge was one common to many women is being appropriately assertive when necessary, being confident about asking for raises and promotions and learning to say ‘no’ when this was necessary. Much of this I learned from my mentor, a woman extremely successful in her own right and a superb mentor, who taught through example, encouragement and reinforcement.
What is one piece of advice you would give a woman entering the field of medicine and/or healthcare?
This is a wonderful field that will give back to you more than you give to it and it will inspire and fulfill you. The deeper you go into your area of specialty, the more exciting it will become. However, you may not be able to achieve everything as quickly as you want to, and that is okay. It is important to enjoy the journey and savor each day of the journey. For mothers, it is particularly important to remember that children grow up very fast and that time spent with family is priceless and to be nurtured.
What advice do you have for women to maintain a healthy lifestyle?
Try and get at least seven hours of sleep at night (I am still trying to figure this out), exercise daily if possible and do not miss meals. I have found that meditation first thing in the morning helps calm my nerves and helps me focus and prioritize.
Describe your journey into health care.
My initial interest in medicine arose from my interactions with my great uncle, one of the first physicians in our state in India to specialize as a pediatrician. His intellect, passion for pediatrics and incredible compassion for patients and their families were very inspirational. After completing medical school and a residency in India, I moved to the United States with my husband and son, re-did my residency, and then joined MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) as a fellow in Pediatric Endocrinology in 1999. After completing my fellowship in 2002, I stayed on here as faculty and am I currently the chief Pediatric Endocrinology at MGHfC.
What is special about MassGeneral Hospital for Children?
There are many things that make MGHfC very special. Some of these include the emphasis on mentorship, an understanding of one’s competing responsibilities and how best to deal with these while also developing an academic career, the excellent clinical care provided by faculty and excellent training programs for residents and fellows.