Member Spotlight: Jackie
Each month, we invite DBC members with a connection to our theme to share their personal experiences with us. Interested in sharing your story with the DBC community? Email us at email@example.com.
Please introduce yourself to the DBC members.
Hi DBC members! Jackie from @nyc.skylinebooks here, and I am very excited to be featured this month recognizing women in science. There are so many strong women in our #bookstagram community from diverse backgrounds, and I love that March highlights those of us in science. I’ve been an emergency room doctor for the past four years, and am looking forward to sharing part of my story with you.
I got into reading pretty late in the game – less than two years ago. One day I became interested in a summer library book sale I had been going to for years, and there was no turning back. I discovered the bookstagram community when looking for reviews of books I was reading, and couldn’t wait to be a part of it. I’ve lived in NYC my entire life, which inspired my IG handle; that and the skyline of course.
Why is this month’s topic, women in science, near and dear to your heart?
I've loved science for as long as I can remember. It is the basis for my profession as an ER doctor. Every time I am at work, I get to see physiology in action, watch as pathology rears its ugly head and wreaks havoc on bodies, and employ interventions and medicine in an effort to combat it. All of these principles boil down to fundamental scientific building blocks, which I can’t do my job without.
How did you discover your passion for medicine? How did you learn that you wanted to specialize in emergency medicine?
Medicine was the perfect marriage of my passion for science and my skills as a people person. I fast tracked into a combined BS/MD program straight from high school. During medical school, emergency medicine (EM) was an optional elective, and I wasn’t going to take it, but one of my friends encouraged me to because she thought I would love it. I had my doubts, but she was right. EM is just my speed – rapid and ever changing (which exists in other parts of my life, possibly explaining why I’m reading at least 5 books at any given time). I love the teamwork, new people I meet and treat, dynamic work environment, varied presentations patients come in with, and the bonus of a very flexible work schedule. EM is a specialty where I can employ my talents and skillset to do the most good for the greatest number of people.
Did you have a favorite book that featured women (or girls) and science while growing up? Is there one you've read in your adulthood that you love?
Not exactly science based, but Nancy Drew was a great character whose adventures I loved to read about. One of my sisters is an NYPD detective – that makes me wonder if she read Nancy Drew also? I also loved the American Girls series, but I don’t recall it being too scientific.
I recently read Working Stiff by Dr. Judy Melinek and her husband T.J. Mitchell. It recounts Dr. Melinek’s experience as a fellow in forensic pathology at the NYC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME). Though the gore is vividly detailed, and not for the faint of heart, her dry humor and wit shine through. I appreciated it even more because my last rotation in medical school was at the NYC OCME, so I was already familiar with many of the things she described. I highly recommend it if you’re curious about what goes on at the morgue, a totally different world.
Do you find you have faced obstacles in your field because of your gender?
Even though it is 2018, a surprising number of my patients and their families refer to me as “miss” or “nurse” even though I always introduce myself as doctor. It doesn’t bother me as much as it does many of my female colleagues, but as I become more senior, I realize the importance of correcting their mistake. I’ve had patients complain that they hadn’t seen a doctor yet, meanwhile I had already evaluated them and initiated a workup. These are the same people who also automatically assume that any male taking care of them is a doctor. My days of ignoring this identification snafu have come to an end. I can’t speak to obstacles faced by female physicians when they start or expand their family, but I am sure they exist on certain levels. That being said, it is definitely not an issue limited to the medical field. One of the best ways to overcome this is for women to continue to support women. If we don’t elevate each other, who will?
Are there any additional resources (books, articles, podcasts) about women in science that you would recommend to our readers?
Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmesh (starts with Apgar scores, the numbers assigned to newborns, created by Dr. Virginia Apgar)
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky
There was a great article in Science magazine recently (February 2018) called Celebrating women in science. You can check it out here:
Do you have any advice for young women looking to pursue a career in medicine?
Good news – for the first time ever, there were more women than men enrolling in US medical schools in 2017! Like anything else, if you want to be good at something, you really need to put in the time and effort. In the case of medical school, that often entails brute force memorization. Though notoriously difficult, it is definitely doable.
If you are considering going into the medical field, whether as a nurse, physician assistant, doctor, or any other title, get some first hand experience. Reach out to the volunteer department at your local hospital to see what kind of shadowing opportunities are available so you can develop a general idea of what to expect and what those jobs entail. If you have specific burning questions, ask me on instagram.
No matter your career, find a mentor. There are a few female doctors I really admire. I learn from them not only in the clinical setting, but also outside the hospital. Their advice has been invaluable to me.
Foster a support system. Whether it is friends, family, a partner, classmates, or your book club, find people who will be there with open ears and warm smiles at the end of your tough days.
Keep your passions alive. We get to medical school and residency and suddenly become nerd bots. It is easy to become dehumanized. To combat that, make it a priority to continue doing what makes you happy – whether that’s reading, writing, singing, sports-ing, whatever, find a way to get it into your week.
Is there anything else you’d like our members to know?
I don’t have any pictures of me with books, so I was planning on taking one for this interview. But if there is anything I love (way) more than books, it is music by @matkearney. After being a hugely devoted fan for the past decade, I finally had the opportunity to meet him a couple weeks ago. It was awesome.
Thank you to the @diversebooksclub for highlighting women in science. Feel free to message me on IG @nyc.skylinebooks any time you want to talk books, science, medicine, NYC, or anything else! Happy Spring!