As the world celebrates International Women’s Day, we are highlighting several CHOC female physician and nursing leaders. They offer insight and words of encouragement to women seeking to pursue careers in medicine.
Melanie Patterson, vice president patient care services and chief nursing officer
“When beginning your career in medicine, don’t focus on one trophy. The fields of medicine and nursing have so many opportunities within them; be courageous and try new things. The most important aspect of leadership and of career success is to be kind. Remember to form your own opinion—go into every relationship with your eyes open and stop looking through others’ eyes; they don’t always have 20/20 vision.”
Dr. Mary Zupanc, pediatric neurologist and co-medical director of the CHOC Neuroscience Institute
“When I went to medical school, women were not encouraged and it was hard. There were a lot of things that happened that made it very difficult, but medicine is truly one of the most gratifying professions you will ever have.
Every patient is different. I believe that if you really and truly listen, a patient and their family will give you the diagnosis you’re searching for. Everyone’s story is so fascinating, and that makes our work like being a detective. Sometimes I feel like Sherlock Holmes searching for answers. Then once you do find an answer, you need to work with the family to make sure the treatment works for their lifestyle, culture and religion. That makes the work challenging, fun and meaningful.
The best piece of advice that I’ve ever received is to never apologize for excellence. Anyone would want their doctor to strive for excellence – and that goes for any profession.”
Amy Waunch, nurse practitioner and trauma program manager
“Never underestimate your capabilities; do not shy away from opportunities and always take on new challenges. Believe in yourself but don’t be afraid to ask for help. You may not have all of the answers all of the time, but you do have the ability to learn and grow.
Spot growth opportunities when they present themselves because they are the key learning opportunities. You will know because they make you uncomfortable and your initial impulse will be that you are not ready.”
Dr. Azam Eghbal, medical director, radiology
“Since I was 7 years old, I wanted to be a doctor and becoming one has been the best decision of my life. As a female immigrant, I was told that I could never get to medical school, which of course motivated and challenged me even more to do so.
The best advice I’ve gotten is: don’t be discouraged about all your falls and obstacles, think about how you can succeed to get where you want to be.”
Dr. Amber Leis, plastic surgeon
“My advice for women pursuing a career in medicine is to trust yourself! Early on in your career it’s easy to be overcome by feeling like you are not up to the task ahead of you. Your unique qualities will become your greatest strengths, so just keep chasing your passion.
I have great faith that if I stay true to my core principles, the right path will open in front of me. I try not to set specific goals for the future and instead I give my best to where I am. It keeps me focused on what I am doing now, and not distracted by trying to maneuver into some future place.
The best piece of career advice I’ve ever gotten has been ‘You get to choose what kind of person you will be.'”
Dr. Jasjit Singh, medical director, infection prevention and control
“My advice for women pursuing a career in medicine is to follow your passion! There are few other careers that offer the personal satisfaction and the intellectual rigor that medicine does. Find a good mentor early in your career. Later, make sure your practice partners have abilities that you respect, and the talent to make your shared time together meaningful.
I learned early on that delegation and time management are important, particularly if you want to balance a medical career and family. You can’t always do it all, and prioritization is tantamount to success in all the different spheres of your life.
One of the best pieces of advice that I got was from a mentor during fellowship, who told me “It’s not enough to just be a good clinician.” He showed me the importance of asking good research questions and pursuing new knowledge. He also encouraged my love of teaching upcoming generations of pediatricians!”
Dr. Katherine Williamson, pediatrician
“I love being a pediatrician. I help take care of kids every day and partner with their parents to help keep them healthy. To me, being successful is loving what you do because then working hard and being motivated to do well doesn’t feel like work; it’s fulfilling a passion.
When asked to give advice, I always say these three things: be yourself, don’t rush, and follow your heart every step of the way. Be yourself, always. No matter how busy or loud life gets, never lose sight of who you are and what you want to do. Don’t be in a rush. Enjoy the journey because that is where you learn who you truly are. Lastly, follow your heart in every decision you make. When I look back on what got me to where I am in my career, I realize that it was not one or two big decisions that were the deciding factor, but instead it was a million little decisions along the way. And with each of those decisions I followed my heart and my passion.”