Why is Women’s History Month important to you?
It is important to me as a reminder of where we stand as women physicians on the continuum over time. When you think about all that has happened, from Elizabeth Blackwell to today, you realize that there are endless possibilities for our daughters that we haven't even contemplated yet.
What do you like most about your job?
For me, my two positions as general pediatrician and residency director are the best jobs imaginable. In my clinical practice, I am privileged to be welcomed into families’ lives when parents and children are most vulnerable. I see my role as walking along a path with a family as they grow and develop, offering guidance perhaps when the path forks and a hand to help them up if they stumble. Through the greatest joys and sadness alike, I can share in a family’s journey. My work as a residency director is quite parallel to that, serving as a gentle guide for pediatric residents during the most formative time of their medical training.
How can we encourage more women and girls to enter the sciences?
As a mom of two daughters who love math and science, this is near and dear to my heart. For one, we need to role model success in science for them. I am proud of the work I do and I try to talk about it a lot to my kids. (They might think I say too much!)
I remember when the Russell Museum had just opened and my husband and I brought our daughters to visit. A lovely volunteer, who turned out to be Lori Slavin, took the time to tell them that 50 percent of incoming medical students were now women. I replied that they spent a lot of time with pediatric residents, so they thought all doctors were women. In fact, pediatrics is a field dominated by women, so kids are seeing women in medicine every day at their doctors’ visits. I talk a lot with my patients about considering math, science and engineering as careers.
What is one piece of advice you would give a woman entering the field of medicine and/or healthcare?
When I was early in my leadership role and my children were young, many people would say they wanted to talk to me about how to achieve “work-life balance.” I would laugh because I never felt like it was balanced. It was only after I reframed the idea of balance that I came to realize you can be a great mom and a great doctor, in balance. The trick is that the scale is never balanced in a moment - it is balanced over time. Some days my family wins and other days, my patients do. The key is not to feel like a bad doctor on the first or a bad mother on the second. We can be better at each role because of the other, not in spite of it. I have always been incredibly lucky to have a supportive spouse, who on my latest days, instead of being angry, often turns to me and says “Thank you for taking such good care of kids today.”
Has there been an influential woman in your life who supported or inspired you on your journey into health care/medicine?
My mother, without question, has been an inspiration for me, not because she is in medicine, but because she never let me think that there were limits to what I could do if I set my mind to it. When I was 16, she let me get on a plane to Italy as an exchange student for a year. As a mom, I’m not sure I’d have the courage to do that for my daughters, but without question that was the most formative experience of my life. Despite plenty of challenges in her own life, my mom has always found time to care for others and really instilled in me the importance of doing good in the world.
What advice do you have for women to maintain a healthy lifestyle?
Make it easy. Make it fun. I used to go to our local YMCA to exercise, but there was a huge activation energy to spend the time to get there and get back, so I didn’t go very often. Then I started jogging outside because the whole time I was away from family I was exercising at least with no commute. Last year, we invested in a treadmill for our home and it has been amazing to see all four of us, no matter the weather, getting in our distance goals, even if they are modest. My high schooler also taught me that while I still prefer running outside, indoors on the treadmill you can watch your favorite shows and movies while you exercise.
What is special about MassGeneral Hospital for Children?
I came to Mass General for the people and that is why I stay. Each community I identify with is welcoming and supportive in a unique way - my residency family, other primary care doctors, the medical education community and departmental colleagues alike.