What was my biggest obstacle?
My biggest obstacle was my own lack of confidence in my ability to complete the remaining premedical requirements in chemistry and physics and to successfully complete the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). I had it in my head that women are not good in science and math and therefore I had shied away from physics and a premedical major in my undergraduate degree. Initially another obstacle was the premedical advisory committee at the school where I was teaching nursing and where I completed my remaining prerequisites. They advised me to retake all my science courses prior to applying to medical school. Others might have noted that my age could have been an obstacle, as I had already obtained a bachelor of science degree, an additional degree as registered nurse and a master of science in nursing degree. Then, rather than being an obstacle, the premedical advisory committee became a rallying point for me to prove that I could do it.
How do I make a difference?
I hope I make a difference by role modeling and speaking out about the ideals and values of medicine and health care and the need for academic health centers to be more accountable to societal needs and to win back the public trust. I continue to work to bring changes in medical education curricula that ensure that future generations of physicians are compassionate and caring, competent, excellent communicators, collaborators with other health professionals, continually improving their skills and abilities, and committed to the profession of medicine and serving patients and communities. I stay involved in professional organizations and working with others to continue to improve our systems of health care and education and to emphasize collaboration and respect across the professions.
Who was my mentor?
I have had several mentors. One is Dr. James Hallock, who saw in me something I did not see myself, and opened a door to me in medical school administration. Another is Dr. Robert Daugherty, who shepherded and encouraged me as a medical student and showed me that leadership in medical education, although challenging, is something that can be fun and rewarding. I have the privilege of having several colleagues and peers who have been supporters and encouragers. Dr. Dona Harris, who, from early on when I was a medical student, encouraged and supported my ideas and my career path and was always there to provide wise counsel. Dr. Kathy Kolasa shared with me numerous opportunities for scholarly activity, including projects, presentations and publications and was also an encourager and supporter.
How has my career evolved over time?
When I was in my family practice residency I planned to have a practice where health professionals worked collaboratively as a team to provide holistic care to patients. A practice where prevention and nutrition and exercise were all incorporated into the office setting. As I pondered the impact of this, I realized that it would be limited to those patients I could see as a part of my practice. I wanted to impact future generations of physicians who could then positively impact many more individuals in their practices. I chose to enter academic medicine and become a faculty member at a medical school. Little did I know, never did I conceive of the potential of that decision leading to me becoming a dean and having the opportunity and privilege to lead a medical school.
I continue to find doors opening to me to work on improving the collaboration between health professionals. I hope that when it is all said and done that I will look back and see that patients and their families are receiving compassionate and competent care from health care teams that communicate well and are continually looking for ways to improve the systems of care.