What was my biggest obstacle?
I think I was my own biggest obstacle. I was oblivious. When I was in medical school in the early 60s, I thought that if I worked hard, I could do it all and that was that. I didn't understand how the system worked for women. For example, I remember when I was offered my first job. I was told the salary was $18,000. Another fellow was offered $21,000 for the same position. When I asked why I was told, "Because he doesn't have a husband." I had no idea that there would be different sorts of criteria to hire us when we had the same credentials.
It was not until I got into the business side of medicine that I became aware of how to get an edge as a woman to make things happen.
How do I make a difference?
I believe I make a difference in a couple of ways. First, I chose an area of medicine that was not very popular. As a pediatrician I chose to work with children with chronic illnesses and disabilities. In this position I can help children maximize their potential without dwelling on their deficiencies. I believe it also helps that I have personal experience in the field my daughter was born with severe cerebral palsy.
I also made a difference teaching about five or six classes each year on children with debilitating illnesses. For most medical students, this was their only exposure to this area of medicine most medical training gives mental retardation and chronic illness short shrift or no attention at all.
Through my involvement with the American Medical Women's Association (AMWA) I believe I've helped other women in medicine not be in "la-la land" as I was early in my career. BY providing a network of mentors, the AMWA helps women realize their greatest potential in medicine.
Who was my mentor?
My first mentor was Thomas McPherson Brown, M.D., chairman of the department of medicine at George Washington University. He brought me into a special case of Lou Gehrig's disease that would not be a normal part of third-year medical studies. He involved me in the whole process and mentored me throughout the nine months that we worked with the patient. It was the greatest mentoring experience of my life.
Caroline S. Pinock, M.D., my pediatrician as a child, was also a mentor by example. She was married and had three children, one with a slight handicap. I remember being in her office as a patient at about three in the afternoon when her children came home from school. She stopped for a moment, called them to check on them, and then resumed our visit. I remained her patient from my childhood throughout medical school, later realizing that she, too, went to George Washington. Dr. Pinock was also a past president of the AMWA. Through all this, she was my guiding light that you could have it all, and do it all, and be a woman. I would also have to say that the thousands of women in the AMWA served as my mentors. They have served as both good and bad models of how to be all that you can be.
How has my career evolved over time?
My career has taken two major deviations in what I had though would be my path. I had originally envisioned a private pediatrics practice with an office on the side of my house. Yet, when my first child was born with severe cerebral palsy, private practice was no longer practical.
The second major turning point came when I was awarded a fellowship with the National Center for Health Services Research and Development of the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare. I was one of nine people accepted, and the only woman. It was a wonderful opportunity to sculpt my career and learn about administration. When I finished and returned to Washington, DC, I had decided to move the concentration of my career from helping individual children to helping to change the systems that help handicapped children.