Cool Girls with Tag: doctor

Kara Connelly

Name: Kara Connelly
Age: 40
Location: Portland, OR
Occupation: Physician—Pediatric Endocrinologist

As a child, Kara Connelly knew that she wanted to be a doctor who worked with children. Growing up in Wisconsin, Utah, Wyoming, and Nicaragua, where her father worked for UNICEF, she quickly learned that every environment is different and every patient has their own unique challenges.

 “I always knew I wanted to be a pediatrician. When I was in elementary school I became obsessed with a book called Where There Is No Doctor, a very well-known healthcare manual originally written in the 1970s that was focused on ways to meet the basic healthcare needs of people of all ages living in under-resourced communities. I was most fascinated by the pediatric chapters and realized I wanted to work with children and their caregivers,” Kara recalls.

As an undergraduate student at Tulane University, Kara worked in a research lab where she studied the effects of hormones on learning and memory. She found herself riveted by the way hormones worked within all the systems of the body.

“I had never thought about combining my love of pediatric medicine with my interest in hormones and the endocrine system until I was doing my three-year pediatric residency and completed my four-week pediatric endocrinology rotation. I knew instantly that this was the right career path for me,” Kara said.

The field of pediatric endocrinology focuses on hormone systems within the growing body, meaning that, on any given day, Kara could encounter young patients with diabetes, growth conditions, thyroid problems, adrenal disorders, or rare hormone deficiencies. Currently staff at OHSU in Portland, she works both as a physician as well as the medical director of the Doernbecher Gender Clinic.

“One of the things I enjoy most about my job is the fact that every day is a little different,” Kara explains. “My job includes a combination of face to face clinical work with patients and their families, teaching medical students and residents, teaching pediatricians and other healthcare providers in the community about pediatric endocrinology, research, and advocacy.”

As the medical director of the Doernbecher Gender Clinic, Kara is working with the OHSU Transgender Health Program, which provides a variety of services including comprehensive patient and family centered care to transgender and gender diverse youth.

When she’s not in a facility engaging in face-to-face clinical time with her patients, she is tackling administrative and academic endeavors teaching as an Associate Professor of Pediatrics.

“As doctors, we are perpetual students. We are constantly learning new information and applying it to improve the care that we can provide to patients,” she explains. “I also see myself as a constant educator in my role as a physician and teacher – whether I am giving a lecture to a large group of physicians or students, working one on one with learners, or educating a patient and family about a hormone condition. Sharing these roles of student and educator is one of my favorite parts about being a physician.”

Kara also travels to other cities to provide care at “outreach clinics” for patients who live outside of the Portland metro area and may have additional barriers to receiving pediatric endocrinology care. It’s a very full career, but Kara still finds the time to advance her studies through education, research, and advocacy…as well as being the mother of two young children. “Seeking the right amount of work-life balance will always be a work in progress,” she explains.

Beyond growing their pediatric gender clinic within the Transgender Health Program, and continuing to contribute research and information exchanges at conferences, Kara would also like to investigate further treatment outlets for her patients, extending the care of transgender youth to include the greater communities that these young people are involved in. “I want to look at care holistically, for any patient, but especially our gender diverse youth and to start thinking about how we can use our influence to impact schools, faith communities, and parent support. We are already doing this in our dedicated gender clinic, but would love to expand this statewide,” she says.

For her compassionate and expansive approach to medicine and research, as well as her incredible ability to balance all of the demands as a working – and teaching – wife and mother, we think Kara Connelly is a very Cool Girl!

For more information on organizations Kara Connelly supports, check out:

Dr. Karen Wilcox

Name: Dr. Karen Wilcox
Hometown: New Milford, NJ
Occupation: Department Chair at the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Utah, Principle Investigator of the Epilepsy Therapy Screening Program

Dr. Karen Wilcox is a professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Utah, and the director of an anticonvulsant drug development program. When she’s not combing over new data with her students and postdoctoral trainees in the lab, she’s going to meetings, and trying to answer the copious emails she receives. This brainiac neuroscientist always knew that she had wanted to be involved in science, so that sort of a schedule is a dream come true.

Dr. Karen Wilcox“When I was a small girl, I wanted to be an archeologist. And then an influential high school science teacher got me interested in marine biology. Finally, a mentor I met in college taught me about neuroscience, and I knew I had found my calling. So as far back as I can remember, I have always had a sense that I wanted to be a scientist,” she explains.

After years honing her skills and becoming an esteemed researcher, she and her husband moved to Utah to follow a great career opportunity for him.

“It was a bit unclear whether I would find an academic position here,” she recalls. “I was lucky, but had to start in what is known as a research track assistant professor position, which meant that I was not in a more secure tenure line. Eventually I was able to be switched to the tenure line and that has helped with my career tremendously.”

Now she works to hire new faculty members for her department, and makes sure those eligible candidates ensure its long-term success. Beyond the scope of academia alone, she is the Principle Investigator for the contract site of the Epilepsy Therapy Screening Program.

“Just about all anti seizure drugs have been through our program,” Dr. Wilcox says, “so we are very proud of the fact that many of the medicines that are now available to patients with epilepsy have been through our program. When we test them for activity in our experiments, we are blinded to them so we can perform the experiments in an unbiased way. So I do not know which potential medicines we are currently working on!”

Fortunately, this contract for the program is NIH funded and has been at her university for over 40 years, though garnering funding for experiments is always a challenge. Nonetheless, Dr. Wilcox hopes that her experiments will continue to help those who suffer from epilepsy and that someday she and her team will either discover a cure or a way to prevent epilepsy in those patients at risk for developing it following a brain injury.

Beyond the lab, Dr. Wilcox explores the beautiful foothills of the Wasatch Mountains, soaking up the replenishing energy of nature with her husband and their newly adopted terrier, Milo. She also binge watches British detective shows, reads historical fiction novels, and gets her passport stamped as often as possible. “I love to travel to other countries, which my job lets me do!” she says.

For her tireless work researching, and running a department whose experiments and steadfastness help countless people suffering from epilepsy, and for enriching the lives and minds of her students and co-faculty, we think Dr. Karen Wilcox is a Cool Girl!

You can connect with Dr. Wilcox on twitter at @kswilcox
Or see more specifics on her lab and work on her faculty page on the University of Utah.

We made a $200 donation to Citizen’s United for Research in Epilepsy to support the awesome work that Dr. Wilcox and others do to help others. We encourage you to make a donation too!

Eugenia Cheng

Name: Eugenia Cheng
Age: 38
Location: Chicago
Occupation: Mathematician and pianist

eugenia-piano-resize-200Britain-born Eugenia Cheng knew at a young age that she wanted to be a mathematician or pianist, but didn’t know that she would grow up to be a wild success at both. Today Eugenia has brought her love of math to ink and paper, writing a new book on the subject called How to Bake Pi.

As a child, she began playing piano at only three years old, and couldn’t find a teacher willing to instruct such a young student until she was the age of five. She also started playing violin at three, but preferred the piano due to how self-sufficient it could be. “Which is funny because now my favorite thing to do with the piano is collaborate with singers,” Eugenia says.

As for her love beyond music, her attraction to mathematics also began at an early age, and that natural, youthful curiosity still hasn’t quit.
eugenia-cake-resize-200“I think I never stopped being the toddler who keeps asking the question ‘Why?’ until all the adults are fed up with them! For me, mathematics provides the most satisfying and irrefutable answers to the question ‘Why?’ at the end of a long string of ‘Whys’,” she explains. But that’s not to say that getting older and more proficient with her skills has made things less vivacious or fun. “The best thing about being an adult is that nobody can really tell me what to do! I can eat chocolate for breakfast, eat ice cream in midwinter, and stay up all night if I feel like it,” she jokes.

While music and math may seem different, Eugenia sees the similarities. “There is a lot of structure in music that is very mathematical to me, but that’s also because to me mathematics is all about structure,” she says. But she also sees how certain artists, like Bach, Wagner, and Chopin, jive with the more creative, less linear parts of her thought process.

eugenia-illuminated-resize“For me personally, music is relief from mathematics,” she admits. “Math is all about logic; music is all about emotion. I balance myself out with those two opposite extremes.” Much like finally solving a complex problem, uniting both of her loves is about striking a harmonious chord!

One might expect such a successful author, mathematician, and musician to have to conform to a disciplined, dull schedule to maximize every hour of the day, but Eugenia keeps her daily life fairly unrestricted, save for a little bit of routine to keep her sleep habits in line with the waking world. “My favourite bedtime is 4am, and then I get up around 9 or 10. However at the moment I’m trying to get up at 6:30am, I then force myself not to look at my phone or computer but to sit and think about pure research for a while,” she says. The rest of a typical day is spent writing and editing, cooking, exercising, practicing piano, and socializing.

eugentia-bagel-resizeEugenia’s next missive is to illuminate some of the lesser-known aspects of the math world, and to reach out to those who may feel distanced from the field itself. She hopes to show people how math can be both “fun and beautiful, not that awful hated subject in high-school.” Her goal is not just to educate, but to inspire. And to young women in particular who might be struggling to find their footing in the world of mathematics, Eugenia has some clever words of wisdom, “Remember: a lot of boys who say they find it easy are actually getting it all wrong!”

As for the future, Eugenia has big dreams, but for someone as talented as her they’re more than possible, they’re as probable and logical as math itself. “I hope to reach more and more people with both mathematics and music, and break down unnecessary boundaries around things so that everyone can share the things I love most,” she says. “I also hope we can get to a point where we don’t need female role models any more, because everyone knows that women can do all the things that men can do.”

For her inspiring triumphs in both mathematics and music, and for writing books that trigger thought and discussion, we think Eugenia Cheng is one Cool Girl!

Chee-Chee Stucky

Name: Chee-Chee Stucky
Age: 35
Location: Houston, TX (but I’m a Kansas Jayhawk first & foremost)
Occupation: Surgeon

Cool girl Chee-Chee during surgery.Growing up, Dr. Chee-Chee Stucky wanted to be either a hair stylist, concert violinist, archaeologist, or interior designer. A running-theme of working with her hands was clearly present! As a chemical engineering major in college, she quickly realized that there was more to her future than the technical aspects of matter, methods, and production.

Cool Girl Chee-Chee Stucky MD“I asked one of my engineering professors if I could work in her lab to get research experience,” she remembers. “She started me on a project evaluating the rate of drug dissolution in rats…the caveat was that I actually had to do surgery on the rats myself! I went along with it, and as I got deeper into the project, I realized I loved the surgical aspect of it. I had a natural ability for operating, probably from the seventeen years of classical violin training I was forced to take by my parents, and I actually looked forward to waking up early to get the surgeries started. When I realized how happy I was doing surgery, I did a lot of self-reflecting and at the beginning of my senior year, decided to apply to medical school!”

Dr. Stucky’s love of her field, and her specialized training in surgery, are clear. But her dedication isn’t all operating room smiles and Grey’s Anatomy-like storylines, her daily life is often infected with the low hum of physician’s anxiety.

“Our patients trust us completely to take a knife to their body, fix whatever problem we are there to fix, and then to bring them through the surgery and recovery without any harm done. I absolutely love being in the operating room, getting to work with my hands, and making a difference in people’s lives but keeping my patient’s trust is a huge responsibility that goes far beyond the technical aspect of surgery,” she explains. “If they have complications, I will also live with that devastation for the rest of my life.”

Dr. Stucky 90 Minutes of HIPECWhen it comes to giving ladies advice for how to succeed in a male-dominated field like surgery, Dr. Stucky has learned a few things.

“You will always have to do more work but do it more efficiently than your male counterpart. You will be tested by both your male and female bosses on your dedication to your craft.  They will ask you to stay longer, come down on you harder, and place you in more difficult or stressful situations because they want to see if you are going to quit or break down. Women are often meaner to other women than men are to women. For women just starting out in a Chee-Chee with her family at Easter.traditionally “male” field, I would say, let your dedicated work ethic speak for you. Don’t try to become one of the boys, but rather just keep doing your job well. Surround yourself with great support systems. Once you’ve established yourself as an irreplaceable member of your team, take other women under your wing and teach them how to succeed,” she says.

“Surgery is the only thing that has ever come naturally to me, and I firmly believe that this [is] because it is [a] gift from God. My husband and I are starting to become involved in international surgical missions but we also have roots ministering at our local church, so our options are wide open,” Dr. Stucky says. “The good part about having minimal spare time is that you never take moments with your friends and family for granted,” she adds.

For doing no harm and being all awesome, we think Dr. Chee-Chee Stucky is a really Cool Girl!