Did you need to coordinate your training and
career goals? People often struggle to coordinate
those goals in two-physician families.
Yes, he was applying to otolaryngology residency programs while I was in my third year of general surgery
residency. At Michigan, we all took time off for research
after our third clinical year. I applied for research fellowships locally as well as at the University of Washington,
Seattle, and Beth Israel Deaconess, Boston, MA. He had
applied to those training programs as well as other programs. We had a tentative plan in place where I could
do a research fellowship in the same city as his residency program, but luckily he matched at Michigan.
When I finished residency, he was still a resident at
Michigan. I took a faculty position at Michigan for two
years as a staff surgeon at the VA (Veterans Affairs) hospital. Then we applied for fellowship together, which
was a different challenge as we looked for fellowships
in each of our specialties that were the same length
and available in the same city. We figured out that only
about three places fulfilled those criteria. Fortunately,
we were able to go to OHSU for fellowship.
When we were looking for jobs afterward, it
required tight coordination for positions, which luckily
worked out first at University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and now at Stanford. We both made many
compromises along the way, and the important message is that you can still be successful if you have a
Did you find when you were applying for these
various positions that there were any gender-
specific questions, such as, "Do you plan to start
a family soon?"
Looking back, it was so unusual for women to have
children during residency at that time that it did not
even come up. I had a two-year-old child and was six
months pregnant when I started my fellowship. I think
they were a little surprised, but it turned out okay.
When you started your first faculty position at
Michigan, was research a major focus?
At that time, my husband was finishing his residency, and my mother had been diagnosed with
gastric cancer. My father died when I was a child, so
my mom was my only remaining parent. I also had
my first child in August of that year. I was faced with
having a newborn child and a dying parent, which
took a lot of my attention and focus. I took good care
of my patients, but I could not do much academically
beyond that. It was a tough start to a faculty job. The
second year, we were looking for fellowship positions,
so it was really hard to get anything going. I honestly
did not accomplish much during those first two years.
I think it challenged my idea of what I wanted to do
with my career, because those first two years were so
tough combined with the other challenges in my life.
At this point in your career, you are a well-
recognized health services researcher. How did
you become interested in research?
During my research years in residency at the University of Michigan, I did bench research in colorectal
tumor genetics. My research was outside the department of surgery, and I was funded through a cancer
prevention and control grant from the School of Public
Health. One of the requirements of the grant was that
I complete an MPH program. At that time, I used my
MPH training with my research project, as we were
looking at responses to chemotherapy for patients with
different tumor types, whether or not they had micro-satellite instability. It was not until I took my faculty
position at UAB that I transitioned to health services
research. Before I took that job, there were buzzwords