What's Past is Prologue: The Personal Stories of Women in Science at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

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9781577363644: What's Past is Prologue: The Personal Stories of Women in Science at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

One doctor’s career began more than half a century ago, during World War II; another’s began only recently, near the start of the new millennium. One scientist was a Kentucky farm girl who had never even dreamed of going to college; another survived the cultural re-education prescribed for intellectuals under China’s late Chairman Mao. Despite their various backgrounds, these women in science at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine have much in common with each other, and, they hope, with women who will come after.

In What’s Past is Prologue, twenty-seven female scientists share their personal stories of life in academic research. They reveal their family backgrounds and how they became interested in science, research, and medicine. Each one relates her educational growth, professional successes and struggles, and life experiences. Time after time, these doctors stress the joy of discovery and the keys to success: caring mentors, strong time management skills, and supportive friends and family.

With specialties that range from neonatology to microbiology, pediatrics to cancer research, and opthamology to law, these physicians and PhDs work as deans, investigators, chairs, directors, professors, and more at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Many are also wives and mothers, and they offer valuable advice on how to balance family and career, lab and clinic, and also recreation and work.

Personal, candid, and passionate, the essays in What’s Past is Prologue vividly capture the reality and promise of life as a scientist. In mentor-like fashion, these busy leaders encourage other women to consider careers of investigation, illustrate how they can succeed both personally and professionally, and emphasize that more women are needed in academic medicine. In sharing their stories, the writers hope to help the women who come after them, blazing new trails and celebrating exciting discoveries that will change the face of medicine and research.

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Expert Opinions aboutWhat’s Past is Prologue:
"Few things disappoint me more than hearing young women reel off the myths that have steered so many away from science. This volume dispels those myths with candid, inspiring stories of real women. It shows that you, too, can become a successful physician-scientist--no matter where you start from, no matter how circuitous your career path, no matter what other interests enrich and balance your life. This is a wonderful celebration of the adventures of academic medicine and of Vanderbilt’s wise investment in the future."
Nancy C. Andrews MD, PhD
Leland Fikes Professor of Pediatrics, Dean for Basic Sciences and Graduate Studies,Harvard Medical School

"This collection of stories of the careers of physicians, physician-scientists, and scientists from Vanderbilt provides a valuable resource, especially for young women scientists. Although it is difficult to generalize, women tend to be more open! and honest about their struggles, insecurities and setbacks, making the vignettes particularly compelling. Despite the obvious differences in temperament, choices, circumstances and positions of the professors, some generalities apply. Almost all the faculty members begin their story with their parents, not with their first exposure to science or to medicine; most had mentors at critical moments in their development who were vested not only professionally, but also emotionally in their success; contrary to expectations, most have children; and almost all attribute some of their success to the academic environment at Vanderbilt in which they work. A major challenge for everyone, but particularly women physician-scientists, is to maintain focus for career development in research. Many of the women have been very successful at crafting a challenging and fulfilling career. The profound gratitude these women exude for the people and the institutions that have assisted them along! the way is touching, and dare I say, particularly feminine."
Helen Hobbs, MD
Professor of Medicine and Chief of Clinical Genetics, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, UT Southwestern school of Medicine

"In collecting these brief autobiographies, Dr. Neilson has provided a wonderful travel guide for women embarking on careers in academic medicine. Like any good guidebook, this one offers something for everyone. While not trivializing the challenges inherent in such careers, the vignettes offer reassurance that such challenges can be overcome and that there need not be a ‘one size fits all’ approach. There is much here to be savored by women at all stages of their careers."
Carolyn J. Kelly, MD
Professor of Medicine, Associate Dean for Admissions and Student Affairs, University of California San Diego, School of Medicine

"A ‘must read’ for young women considering a career in the medical sciences. These personal stories stress there is no one road map to success. But the importance of mentors (male or female), setting priorities, having a passion for one's career, and, if married with children, a supportive partner, are all recurring themes among the twenty-seven successful women in science at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine."
Gail Morrison, MD
Professor of Medicine, Vice Dean for Education, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

About the Author:

Eric G. Neilson, MD, is the Hugh Jackson Morgan Professor of Medicine in the Departments of Medicine and Cell and Developmental Biology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee.

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