This September we are featuring six of Winship's women healthcare professionals for Women in Medicine Month. We have asked them to share their perspectives on working at Winship and what their careers have been like as women in medicine.
Lisa Flowers, MD, MPH, is Professor in the Department of Gynecology & Obstetrics at Emory University School of Medicine. Board certified in obstetrics and gynecology, Dr. Flowers specializes in the treatment of women with abnormal pap tests, HPV-related disease, and pre-cancerous gynecologic conditions. She is commited to continued innovations and advancement in the field of HPV-related disease. She has received many awards and honors for her outstanding teaching and community building abilities.
Do you see Winship as a place where women are supported and can advance in their careers?
Absolutely. I have been fortunate to get advice from Winship investigators and pilot funding that has supported my investigator-initiated research of novel agents in the treatment of cervical disease. Winship truly has been willing to think out of the box and appreciate talent that may present a non-traditional way.
I believe this benefits women whose career at times may not be a straight path, but rather twist and turns. As a Black Latinx woman, the research world can be a challenging and intimidating. Being supported by Winship is, and will continue to be, important in my success as a translational clinician scientist.
What was your "road to promotion" like (hopefully it wasn't rocky!)?
The road to promotion was intense, hours of hard work, strategic career planning and personal sacrifices. As a woman, you work harder to prove that you are driven, hardworking, dedicated, and willing to put it all on the line to achieve it. As a professor, and looking back at how driven I was to get promoted and the dedication I applied toward accomplishing it, though I enjoyed many of the moments along the way, balancing family life was a challenge.
Trying to be the best in all aspects of my life—mother, clinician, teacher, researcher—left very little for myself. I would go on vacation with family with my laptop at the pool, answering my cell phone to address patient issues or research dilemmas, and not disconnecting from work. I was a spectator and wasn't even aware of it. I promised my mother that once I was promoted, I would slow down but of course I had to go back and get my master's in public health at Rollins.
Finally, with my sister's diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer, family has become my focus and no longer do I take life and family for granted. Keep family first, it may seem that your career is everything but at the end of the day, your career will have peaks and valleys and your family will be there with the good and the bad.
Do you have advice for other women physicians early in their career?
I was fortunate to have a mentor and colleague come to visit me during a critical time in my career. He sat with me and asked me a simple question: "What did I want to achieve in medicine?" I told him I wanted to make an impact in the area of cervical cancer on an international level, and in research. We spent about three hours discussing my goals and creating a strategic plan. Advancement in academics is a marathon and not a sprint. Pace yourself, create 1, 3, 5, 10-year goals and revisit them each year to see if they are realistic and revise, as necessary.
During my career at Emory, I was asked to take on a position that clearly I did not feel passionate about and did not feel I had the skill set for it. It did not contribute to my career portfolio and it was another item on my things to do. Fortunately, I was able to move out of the position and continue to be productive on my career path. Stay focused on what you are passionate about and don't get distracted by opportunities that will not propel you forward but take time away from accomplishing your goals.
What do you wish you knew when you were starting out that you have learned since then?
When I first came to Emory, I wanted to make an impact in research and felt that I was prepared to lead in this arena. However, as a clinician it’s important to build a team, especially since many of us have a substantial clinical workload. So you don't always have to be the lead on every project. Team building will get you where you need to go, possibly faster, so collaborate, collaborate, collaborate, and build your network of colleagues that together will achieve success.
Understand your limitations and respect them. Women are amazing at multitasking; however, it can lead to taking on more than what's humanly possible. Be kind to yourself, your mind, body and soul. Schedule days off just to refresh and focus on you and your family. You have what it takes to make it. Adversity just makes you stronger and more resilient. And be willing to take a risk; the result may be a big reward.
As a clinical investigator, Dr. Flowers is commited to continued innovations and advancement in the field of HPV-related disease.