How did you end up going into medicine and/or why did you decide on your specialty?
I started college with plans to become a psychologist. I was raised by two neuropsychologists and have always loved learning about human behavior. In my sophomore year of college, I took a class called “Spirituality & Health” and it changed my trajectory entirely. The discussions in that class were led by a diverse set of instructors who include basic scientists and physicians, which caught me by surprise. We talked about human suffering, shared humanity and the different cultural perspectives on the meaning of “health.” This class really sparked my interest in a career in medicine because it was the first time I realized that I could practice medicine and play a role in tending to existential questions that arise in and around illness.
Between college and medical school, I worked at the National Institutes of Health where I had my first true “bench-to-bedside” experience. My principal investigator’s laboratory was located literally three doors down from his clinic, so I was able to see the work I was doing under the microscope actually translate in a meaningful way to the lives of the patients. In the evenings and weekends, I worked in the greater Maryland area doing health outreach work and began to better understand the ways the communities and systems in which we live really impact the care we receive.
Oncology, as a specialty, encompasses all of these things that initially ignited my passion in medicine. From translational basic science to medical humanities to social determinants of health, I’m not sure you can find a specialty where so many interconnected elements come together in such a meaningful way.
Who or what has inspired you to pursue this career?
I have had incredible mentorship and been so lucky to learn from some truly amazing physicians and leaders in the field. These relationships have cemented my love for medicine and the discipline of hematology/oncology. They have all, in their own varied and unique ways, taught me the art of the doctor-patient relationship and the importance and value of a life of service to others. My career trajectory has not been a traditionally linear one and I’ve carved a gratifying path for myself thanks in very large part to mentors and sponsors who have invested in me. In this way, they have all had an impact on my passion for and role as a medical educator.
Why did you decide to focus on cancer?
Aside from my interest in the basic science of cancer, I was drawn to the opportunity to help people during a very vulnerable and scary time in their lives. The relationships that I have with my patients are so meaningful to me and if I can make a very frightening time feel less scary or painful, that is very important to me.
What do you want to achieve with your work and/or in your career?
I hope my work moves cancer care forward with regard to ensuring that all patients, no matter their background or social standing, have access to and receive the highest quality care possible. I also hope that, with my work within medical education, I can help to ensure a healthy, vibrant and equitable training environment for trainees from all walks of life.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I love to spend time outdoors especially with my family – we recently moved just outside of town onto about 13 acres of land in the country. I spend a lot of my weekends boating with my partner/husband and two kids, Emma and Ben. We love to travel and experience different parts of the world. My husband is a general contractor and business owner so we are always getting into new design or renovation projects, one way or the other. I love to read, ride my Peloton and write. One of these days, I’ll revive the blog I used to maintain. I recently took up painting and am learning how to use acrylics.