In celebration of Women’s History Month, KPSOM is highlighting varied women leaders and physicians working in medicine and STEM-related professions throughout the month. Each woman profiled has forged their own path to a career in medicine and/or STEM. Here, we gather more insight on their personal and professional journeys, influences, and key advice for women and girls interested in medicine and STEM-related professions. As we kick off our series, we spotlight Maureen Connelly, MD, MPH, KPSOM Senior Associate Dean for Academic and Community Affairs.
What made you want to become a doctor or enter the field of medicine?
I entered college with no interest in science or medicine. During my junior and senior years, I worked as an abortion counselor at Women's Health Services in New Haven. The experience of supporting women at one of the most difficult moments in their lives and seeing the dedication of the health care providers changed my career path 180 degrees to medicine.
Was there a specific person(s) who inspired you to go into a STEM-related industry or to medical school? Was there a specific event that was the catalyst to pursuing a career in medicine or STEM? If so, can you tell me a bit about that?
Two women physicians: one was Susan Williamson, the ob-gyn who, in her retirement from Columbia University, provided abortion services to women. She was undaunted by the personal risk of her work and was determined to support her patients. The other was Eleanor Shore, former dean of faculty affairs at Harvard Medical School. She was my grandmother's doctor who was willing to serve as a mentor to me as I navigated the post-baccalaureate approach to entering medicine. That someone of her stature would take the time to assist me and provide exceptional health care to my grandmother was an inspiration to me.
Women make up less than 30% of the workforce in STEM. What advice would you share with young women and girls interested in building a career in this area?
Fortunately, women now represent a critical mass in STEM. Joining forces with other women to support each other is key. Those partnerships can help one weather the many challenges and provide the type of peer mentorship that can make all the difference. My other piece of advice is that women in medicine and science can have it all - but usually, we can't have it all on the same day! It is okay if our careers have arcs to them, including times when we are more engaged with the profession and others when our personal life needs to take precedence. Our career is a marathon, not a sprint, and we don't need to accomplish everything right away.
What is your personal mission as a physician or a leader in medicine?
I am at KPSOM to support our students in their development as physicians, particularly regarding community engagement and service. I am deeply committed to the mission, vision, and values of the school and fervently hope that the approach and innovations we are pursuing here will result in physicians who do not accept the status quo and will change medicine for the better in whatever sphere they ultimately work.