What was my biggest obstacle?
Financial. I have worked my way through my undergraduate, graduate, and medical school years. I had to work in a lab throughout most of my medical school years to make ends meet. Fortunately I received several scholarships, which helped immensely. It's funny; I was coming through medical school at a time when some would think a significant challenge would be to navigate through a system dominated by men. I made it work. In my life, I was quietly assertive. With wit and humor, I got over those speed bumps during my training. For instance, women medical students were asked to wear those ridiculous (and freezing cold!) dresses in the operating room while the men got to don comfortable scrubs. Not a problem. I would continuouslyand courageously!walk into the men's ("doctor's") lounge and grab the scrubs I needed. After multiple passes, they got the point. Soon, the scrubs were placed in the women's ("nurse's") lounge. Soon after, the signs were changed to "Men's" and "Women's" locker rooms.
How do I make a difference?
I feel I make a difference as a communicator and an educator. My work in television and the media allows me to touch many lives. I like to give people hope that, with courage, tenacity, and a good sense of humor, along with the best of what science has to offer, it is possible to weather life's tough storms. Nothing makes me happier than when someone, a patient or an individual who has listened to me or read my work, tells me that they have changed for the better. That's such a gift. I also love to teach my medical students, as they are so eager to have the chance to put it all together. The mental, nutritional, and physical components come to life in an integrative and holistic way. I make a difference in shaping the mental attitudes and knowledge base of those future practitioners.
Who was my mentor?
My personal mentor was my mother, to whom I'm grateful for her staunch attitude that "you can do anything you want to in life regardless of your gender." I would try anything and everything and never felt limited. She lived a life in which she became a lawyer while mothering five children and then went on to build a corporate empire with my father.
My professional mentors were all men. I went to graduate school and received a master's degree in public health and public policy from the University of California, Berkeley. Drs. Henrik Blum and Aaron Wildavsky were my mentors from there on out. Henrik was like a father to me. Drs. Arthur Korhman, Bill Weil, and Andy Hunt were pivotal during the years I trained in Michigan. Dr. Alan Stone was a valuable mentor and friend throughout my internship and residency training. Finally, while at the National Institutes of Health as a senior fellow, I was blessed to meet and have as my continuing mentor, Dr. George Chrousos, a handsome and brilliant Greek scientist, who taught me what "ella!" meant when our lab phone rang. He also taught me priceless lessons in what the pursuit of excellence in science and research was all about.
How has my career evolved over time?
I have always followed Helen Keller's motto: "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all." Armed with my M.D., I received further training in a field rarely studied by physiciansnutrition and metabolism. With that training and my medical training, I left my original field of practicecritical careand became a scientist. While at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), I was given the opportunity to become the first senior fellow at the Office of Alternative Medicine. What an exciting and challenging time to apply research science to this new field. From there, more surprises. I feel that as life goes on, you learn about special gifts you may have to share with others. Mine turned out to involve the media. One day, while at the NIH, a CNN correspondent interviewed me for a story on nutrition. Lo and behold, I was comfortable in front of the camera and more television work ensued. Next, I wrote a consumer book on nutrition that became a national bestseller. Who knew? Now I am a regular in-studio medical expert for the networks. I write monthly national columns in consumer magazines, work as a member of Oprah's team, and I teach nutrition and metabolism to medical students. I am also continuing to write consumer books and articles hoping to motivate people to learn and change their lives to incorporate healthier lifestyles. I work with the White House as the medical director for the National Race for the Cure for breast cancer and as a consummate athlete, have run the New York City Marathon with my patients, the Peeke Performers. In all, I've found my M.D. to be invaluable in opening doors to allow me to fulfill my passions and discover new passions to explore.