Sareh Parangi, MD, is a professor of surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital. She became the second female professor of surgery in the history of Mass General. She is also a President Elect of the Association of Women Surgeons.
How long have you worked at Mass General?
I have been at Mass General for 11 years.
What is special about Mass General?
Mass General runs like a family. Your colleagues are all top notch and confident. This makes working with them as a team to provide exceptional care easy. The administration is very supportive of the physicians and tries to ensure an equitable and fair work environment.
What do you like most about your job?
Working at Mass General allows me, as a surgeon scientist, to work with leading endocrinologists who not only take great clinical care of my patients, but are also always pointing out the critical, unanswered questions about thyroid cancer.
The collaborative environment includes a fantastic group of scientists, surgeons and oncologists who are interested in improving the care of thyroid cancer patients, from the genetic and molecular basis of thyroid cancer to clinical trials involving novel targeted therapies. I honestly look forward to coming to work every day. I also love to take care of patients and perform translational research.
How can we encourage more women and girls to enter the sciences?
We need to constantly show them that it can be done. Role models need to be front and center in the media and in the classroom. In order to remove stereotypes that surgeons or scientists are all men, all women in medicine and science have an obligation to be involved and make sure our voices are heard.
We need to encourage women to apply to be chairs and division chiefs, and that scientific societies choose leaders and officers that include a variety of women and under-represented minorities. Panels of speakers at national meetings should include a wider array of qualified women. I know so many qualified women surgeons and physicians who are doing amazing research. These women need to be showcased here at Mass General, Harvard and nationally as role models for the next generation.
We need to interact with younger and younger students so their mental image changes to include women in these fields. Last year, one of the younger surgeons I know told me that her son had asked her if men could also be surgeons, since he had only been exposed to his mother and her friends whom are all female surgeons. This is the kind of mind shift we need for the future.
Describe your journey into health care.
My mom mentioned a couple of times that she had been admitted to medical school when she was younger, but she didn't go because it was difficult with my dad's career. She thought it wouldn't work with raising a family. I think that's what inspired me to enter the field of health care.
What is one piece of advice you would give a woman entering the field of medicine?
Dare to be yourself. Being authentic is instantly recognizable to patients. Don’t try to change yourself to fit anyone else’s mold.
I am running the Association of Women Surgeons in Boston in October of 2018, and this is the theme of my meeting: Dare to be you!
Also, learn how to write. I think learning how to write will make you very successful in the academic world and will build your path towards promotion and leadership. And as far as money goes, learn to negotiate. The literature shows that women physicians are not being paid equally as men in every field. Learning formal negotiation skills will help you get a good salary that is fair for your first job and that will help you make incremental gains at every further step.
What advice do you have for women to maintain a healthy lifestyle?
Don’t forget your hobbies. I garden and bake bread and this keeps me sane. Know the importance of keeping your family front and center. But remember yourself, too.