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Thursday, March 8, 2018
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I make difference every day of my professional life - whether it's taking care of severely ill stroke patents, teaching neurology residents the art and science of the 21st century medicine, or mentoring my postdocs who are brilliant and are hard at work moving the field of stroke research forward!
We need to spread the word: science is empowering. In today's world, the only way women and girls can change the societal power equation is by getting the most out of any educational opportunity that comes their way. Science offers just that – the power of knowledge, the advantage of being independent!
I knew I wanted to become an academic neurologist ever since my first year of medical school, and my mentors at Boston University, Drs. Carlos Kase and Phil Wolf encouraged me to apply to Partners Neurology Residency program. Dr. Kase said, "If you want to do stroke, you have to go to Mass General - they are the best." And that's the message I took along with me for the duration of my career - seeking the highest standard in becoming the professional I wanted to be.
While this advice was gender-neutral, what I quickly realized is that there weren't too many women role models in the field - that is until I met Anne Young. She was as assertive and fearless in her leadership style as I ever hoped to be; and yet she made you feel respected and supported in every way. I have fond memories working with Anne as my attending - both during my junior and senior residency years - and I am forever grateful to her for offering me my first job.
We are fortunate at MGH Neurology to have such a strong lineage of women leaders, including our current chair, Dr. Merit Cudkowicz. I have an opportunity to network within the largest professional organization for neurologists, the American Academy of Neurology, and I am always very pleased to know how broadly Merit is respected for her academic leadership and dedication to the field of clinical research. She is truly an inspirational figure, and as her faculty member, I feel her support and encouragement at all times.
I am also grateful to have been mentored and supported by Dr. Karen Furie, who was the Stroke Division Chief during my early, formative years on MGH staff, and who is currently Chair of Neurology at Brown University. Karen was the only woman-stroke neurologist at MGH at the time and her steady leadership, academic savvy, and at times, her great sense of humor is what got me through some “bumps” along the way. In addition to being a mentor, she was also a true sponsor to a young faculty member like me by providing some incredible career development opportunities I would not have otherwise had access to.
I am fortunate to have been supported throughout my career by a great number of women and men, both in supervisory positions and my peers. But we all face challenges, and the one I am still working on is breaking the stereotypes in academia regarding the roles for men and women in leadership. As women in leadership, we all can make a difference and ”move the needle” in this process by stepping up, speaking up, and supporting women every day, one day at a time.
Be fearless. Ultimately, our experiences are what we make of them. Be persistent. Learn from the best. Become the best. And as you do, be generous and empower others along the way.
My mother. Being the first one in her family to receive a university degree back in Russia, she understood early on the power of education as key to a productive, purposeful and fulfilling life. Fiercely independent, my mother encouraged us to dream big – and more importantly, she helped these dreams come true by bringing our family to the US twenty-five years ago. And what a journey it had been ever since!
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