Marilyn Heng, MD MPH FRCSC, of the Massachusetts General Hospital Orthopaedic Trauma Service, discusses her work in health care and how more women and girls can be encouraged to enter the sciences.
How long have you worked at Mass General?
I spent six months at Mass General in 2013 as an Orthopaedic Trauma fellow (and six months at Brigham & Women’s Hospital). I returned to the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Mass General in 2014, so have been here 3.5 years as an attending surgeon.
How can we encourage more women and girls to enter the sciences?
At all ages, we should encourage girls to enter the field of science and let them know that the sciences are a diverse field that can be tailored to their interests and allow them a framework to discover and explore. We need to do more to combat the underlying biases and stereotypes that hold women back. Girls and young women in the sciences should be exposed to both the trials and disappointments of science but also the opportunities and examples to excel. Lastly, more women in sciences in leadership roles can demonstrate to young women that it is possible to achieve that level of success.
Describe your journey into health care.
I did my undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto where I obtained an honours Bachelors of Science degree in Pathobiology. I attended Medical School and completed my Orthopaedic Surgery residency at the University of Toronto as well. I have completed two fellowships – one in Orthopaedic Trauma at Mass General/Brigham & Women’s and the other in Orthopaedic Oncology at the University of Toronto. And I have also completed a Masters of Public Health from Johns Hopkins with a focus on Quality, Patient Safety and Outcomes Research.
What contributions have women made in the field of medicine that have influenced your role or specialty?
In medical school at the University of Toronto, all the medical students are assigned to an Academy, which is their academic home through the years. I was in the Peters-Boyd Academy. Vera Peters was a pioneer Canadian radiation oncologist whose story is inspirational both in the research she conducted and her endeavor to change the early clinical practice of cancer care. We stand on the shoulders of the giants who have come before us – Vera Peters was a pioneer clinician and investigator who regardless of sex was a giant in the contributions she made to medicine.
Has there been an influential woman in your life who supported or inspired you on your journey into health care/medicine?
During my orthopaedic surgery residency, Dr. Veronica Wadey was a great mentor who always “told it like it is.” She pushed me to seek opportunities outside my comfort zone also taught me to seek out great male mentors because the female ones in leadership positions were in short supply, and we cannot do it alone just yet.
Presently, Dr. Maria Troulis has been a fantastic and supportive mentor who demonstrates a wonderful altruism in helping women succeed at Mass General and Harvard. Dr. Rachel Clark-Sisodia and Dr. Marcela del Carmen are great role models in the Mass General Physicians Organization who are demonstrating the great leaders that women in medicine can be.