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Career & Leadership

Critical Questions from the Northeast VIR Symposium

October 18, 2020

I’ve been so busy promoting my book, my head is spinning! In the midst of planning the launch of Save Lives, Enjoy Your Own, I was asked to join the 5th Annual Northeast Vascular & Interventional Radiology (VIR) Symposium at my home institution of Brown. So despite the book launch, I was excited to take part in the symposium. It was an honor to join other outstanding women in my field at the event, which happened on September 27th. The questions from the Northeast VIR Symposium were so good, I thought I’d share them here on the blog.

Tell us about yourself & your path to VIR

  • I’m a private practice IR in Southern California
  • Now 6 years out of training
  • I’m Chief of my IR section
  • I’m a wife and a mom to a little cherub
  • In the last couple years I’ve become a blogger and author!
  • My path to IR was via diagnostic radiology. I did residency at Brown and IR fellowship at UCLA. 

What other fields/specialties did you consider going into and why?

  • Family med- because of the breadth of practice, which is similar to radiology. You need to know about a lot of different things, and that keeps it interesting. I envisioned a role in primary care in which I’d do procedures– which is more common in the western part of the country. 

How did you go about seeking mentors during your training? What does mentorship mean to you as a woman in IR?

  • I found the process intimidating. 
  • Ultimately, the process of finding my mentors was somewhat organic. My 1st mentor was a woman in radiology who lectured us in med school. After her talk, I went up to her and made contact.
  • Later: it happened organically. Some people are more supportive than others. But I learned from all! 

What do you think are some of the misconceptions that may deter students from pursuing IR? How can we change that?

  • The idea that it’s not for women
  • That it’s not for women who want to have kids
  • That it’s so competitive that you have to be from an elite physician family
  • The idea that radiation is bad for women
  • How to change it? By being an example of what is possible
  • Showing the positive aspects of the field for women
  • Correcting misinformation regarding radiation and specifically, radiation in pregnancy

How have you been able to balance your career in IR with other interests/non-medical pursuits?

  • I strongly believe everyone has a choice in how they spend their time. Everyone has free time if they care to find or make it. Once you find time, you can harness it with passion and focus. That has allowed me to write my blog between patients, or to apply for a leadership position as I’m waiting for a trauma patient to be prepped. I used to fritter these moments away, but I’ve found satisfaction in using them more intentionally.

Can you speak to your time in leadership roles and give advice on making leadership a part of your career?

  • I like to talk about the messiness of learning to lead, because we all think of leaders as exemplary specimens of perfection. In order to learn to lead, you need to embrace the messy imperfection of leadership in medicine
  • I talk about my own experience and lessons specifically in the context of early career leadership in a private practice environment. 
  • Beyond local leadership, there are countless opportunities to learn to lead in our societies. These can be great places to find leadership opportunities. 

Have you had a particular challenge which you had to overcome on your path to IR that has left you with a lesson you could pass on to students or trainees?

  • Learning to listen to myself as I entered an elite hierarchical world where everyone knew more than me. I needed to learn I still had a valid guiding voice inside. 
  • Learning to nix the naysayers. It’s a skill to parce through advice which may be tinged with baggage or bias. Sometimes you need to discard the advice if it doesn’t suit you or your situation. 

Can you talk about any experiences you have had with imposter syndrome in medicine? What strategies have you used to overcome these experiences?

  • When you enter IR, it’s so foreign. Some students and trainees act like they may understand everything that’s happening, even if they don’t. Sometimes, it takes learning a ton of a field for everything to fall into place. So if it feels that way in IR, that’s OK. It doesn’t mean you can’t do it/ will never get it. 

What words of advice do you have for those interested in VIR and other male-dominated fields?

  • Don’t settle on a career just bc someone tells you it’s “more woman/ family-friendly” 
  • Follow your interest, and your work will always be enjoyable. 
  • Working with your hands in these procedural and trad male-dom fields is some of the coolest most gratifying work in medicine!

Those were some highlights from the Northeast VIR Symposium, which normally takes place in person. The virtual version was the next best thing!

What questions do YOU have about being a woman in VIR or in a male-dominated field of medicine? Leave a comment below!

And if you have a chance to attend the Annual Northeast VIR symposium in the future, I highly recommend it.

I also wanted to let you know about a new podcast called Marriage, Money & Medicine, started by my friend and fellow radiologist Dr. Kate Louise Mangona. I’m one of her inaugural guests! In our episode, we chat about how we came to form our families, and the finances of physician families, specifically as it relates to being a female bread-winner! You can check out that podcast anywhere you listen to podcasts. I’ve been enjoying Overcast, if you’re not totally happy with the medium you’re using. Link to the podcast page and show notes by clicking here.

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