Career Tips From Female Physician Leaders

Stephanie Cajigal; Nancy W. Dickey, MD; Gail L. Rosseau, MD; Helena W. Rodbard, MD; Kimberly A. Skelding, MD


November 18, 2014

Medscape: How do you find the balance among your clinical work, your research work, and your personal responsibilities?

Dr Skelding: You need a lot of help at home. You need to prioritize what things you want to spend time on. For me, when I'm at work I try to be 100% at work, and then when I'm home and my son and my daughter are awake, I try to spend 100% of my time with them, doing things that are meaningful and trying to triage such things as laundry.

You need to be present with your patients when you are at work and with your colleagues, but be part of the family when you're home, which means that sometimes things like getting a paper done doesn't happen until the kids go to sleep.

Medscape: How did it help you to become involved in training opportunities early in your career?

Dr Skelding: Initially, I had a mentor who was not actually in cardiology, but in critical care, and she got me involved in research with pulmonary embolism as a resident. Her name was Angela DeAntonio. Then in my cardiology fellowship, I did research with Bill O'Neill and Cindy Grines. I had some strong female mentors early on who provided me with opportunities and taught me how to do research along the way.

Medscape: Is finding a mentor important for women who are interested in pursuing the research route?

Dr Skelding: Finding mentors in a field where there are very few women, such as the field that I am in, is a little bit challenging because you don't have as many people to choose from. It's hard to find someone who has every aspect of what you are interested in. You might do what is referred to as a "mosaic mentorship," where you talk to one person about their work lifestyle, and it might be a different person whom you talk to about the research opportunities. You find different mentors for different aspects of your career and life as you move forward.

I read a quote once by Madeleine Albright that said there is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women. I think that it is your duty as a woman in a field with little representation to strive for excellence. You need to work on rising in your position and make opportunities for other women as you move along. I mentor young fellows, and the fellows mentor residents, and the residents mentor medical students, and medical students mentor college students.

There is always an opportunity to share what you have learned, and to help women to maybe not make the same mistakes that you made. Maybe they will advance a little bit quicker because of the knowledge you can provide them with.

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