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'Loving the Work:' Even More Inspiration From CHOP Women in STEM

Published on March 30, 2022 in Cornerstone Blog · Last updated 2 months 4 weeks ago


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Women in STEM Part 3

Our three-part women in STEM gallery features individuals nominated by their respective Center of Emphasis leaders.

In the third and final installment of our 2022 Women in STEM series, six more scientists share their advice on thriving in fields historically underrepresented by women. Combining their experiences with empathy, these remarkable researchers acknowledge that while the work inevitably comes with challenges, there are always ways to persist.

For Allison Heath, PhD, director of Data Technology and Innovation at the Center for Data Driven Discovery of Biomedicine, that means remembering the value of your curiosity in the deepest moments of doubt. For Amanda O'Halloran, MD, a physician-scientist, it means finding a community within which you can celebrate your successes. And for Julia Slovis, MD, also a physician-scientist, it means taking the work step by step because "loving the work keeps you going when demands are high."

These are only a few of the tidbits of inspiration you'll find in this installment, as well as in parts one and two of the series. We are incredibly proud of, and grateful to, all 22 scientists who shared their stories to help inspire the next generation of women in STEM!

Cassie Kline, MD

Cassie Kline, MD

Cassie Kline, MD: 'Follow your True North.'

Attending Physician and Director of Clinical Research, Department of Neuro-oncology

"I think my advice would be simple – do not be afraid to follow your True North. You've got this. This applies to much of life, but for women entering a STEM career, I have found there are commonly feelings of 'imposter syndrome' or self-consciousness that affect confidence. I cannot say that mistakes won't be made along the way, but as long as you learn and grow from those mistakes, they should not hinder pursuit of your passion. I find this to be especially true in a field where women may be historically under-represented and where missteps may cause self-doubt. When this happens, take time to regroup, reframe, and navigate back to your True North."

Allison Heath, PhD

Allison Heath, PhD

Allison Heath, PhD: 'Remember that your questions are curiosity are valuable.'

Director of Data Technology and Innovation, Center for Data Driven Discovery in Biomedicine

"Be curious about what you don't know. On the surface, that might sound easy, but everyone runs across moments that can dull the natural curiosity that draws many of us to STEM. Whether it's internal moments, such as wanting to ask a question but worrying if you're the only one who doesn't know, or external moments, such as being told the reason something is done is because it's the way it's always been done, and a whole spectrum of things in between. In those moments, remember that your questions and curiosity are valuable and will guide you to discovery and innovation."

Diana Montoya-Williams, MD

Diana Montoya-Williams, MD

Diana Montoya-Williams, MD: 'We need you.'

Neonatologist, Division of Neonatology

"STEM-M fields need the passion, drive, curiosity, intellect, and advocacy that women often bring to the table. Unfortunately, female minds are minoritized in science. In my opinion, the only way to advance gender equity within science, and better answer elusive research questions, is to bring more women into science and scientific leadership. We need scientists who have diverse lived experiences, not just to drive science forward but also to make science more inclusive. So my advice is to never forget how absolutely essential we women are to moving science forward. There will be many experiences that might make you question your path or presence within STEM-M. My hope is to be the voice on women scientists 'shoulders telling them, 'We need you. You are valuable.'"

Amanda O'Halloran, MD

Amanda O'Halloran, MD

Amanda O'Halloran, MD: 'Find your community of people.'

Attending Physician, Division of Critical Care Medicine

"Expect that a career in STEM will be tough — it will challenge you. But you will know that you've found the right path because the challenges will be exciting and will keep you looking forward to moving your work and your skills forward each day. Stretch yourself to take on new opportunities, find the amazing colleagues around you who will help you do this, and return the favor by building up those around you. Find your community of people who value each other's contributions, both at work and outside of work, and get ready to celebrate each other's successes."

Julia Slovis, MD

Julia Slovis, MD

Julia Slovis, MD: 'Step by step.'

Attending Physician, Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine

"My advice to young women interested in a STEM career would be: step by step. You don't have to have your career mapped out, just do your best work today. Tough concepts, daunting tasks, and seemingly insurmountable workloads can always be broken down into tiny pieces. Taking it piece by piece is the best way to enjoy the work, and loving the work keeps you going when demands are high. Find a collegial atmosphere, enjoy what you're doing, and then work with integrity. When you get overwhelmed, put one foot in front of the other."

Jessica Foster, MD

Jessica Foster, MD

Jessica Foster, MD: 'Find what excites you.'

Physician/Scientist, Division of Oncology

"Find what excites you. Science can be a long difficult road with many failures on the way to success. If you don't love what you are doing, it can be easy to give up early, especially as other demands in life start to pile up. But if you wake up every morning excited to try to tackle the next problem, it is much easier to weather the storms as they come and go."