My mother always warned me that as I got older, the years would go by faster and faster. By extension, each month must be going faster as well. Between the demands of work and the whirlwind speed of life, it is easy to lose sight of what is truly meaningful to you in your life. In recognition of this, I wanted to take some time to sit still and thoughtfully reflect on the many contributions of women to science and society and acknowledge how much they have done to make my reality a possibility. On this last day of Women’s History Month, I would like to pass along these thoughts for those that may be interested before there aren’t any more days left in March!
I feel very fortunate to work at NIH, both as a scientist and policymaker. In thinking about this blog though, I was reminded of one of NIH’s early female pioneers, Margaret Pittman, who in 1936 was the first woman named as a laboratory chief. It really hit home to me that this monumental event occurred so recently. This is not ancient history. There are millions of people walking the Earth today who were alive when Dr. Pittman made history. While this is recent history, it also shows how far NIH has come. In 2023, the NIH Office of the Director features twelve extraordinary women serving in leadership positions, including the Acting Principal Deputy Director of the agency. Furthermore, there are currently eleven amazingly talented women running either an NIH Institute or Center.
From my own experience, I have had so many people, men and women, inspire and help me along in my career. However, when I look back through college and my early professional career there are some towering female figures who provided me with advice and mentorship that got me to where I am today.
Speaking of where I am today, the NIH Office of Science Policy, has been ably and steadily led by some of the most talented women I have had the pleasure of knowing. Each of my predecessors, Dr. Lana Skirboll, Dr. Amy Patterson, Dr. Kathy Hudson, and Dr. Carrie Wolinetz, have blazed a path for the next and I am so honored to get the opportunity to lead this office and this team.
Finally, to the women out there who have broken through the glass ceiling and marked the path for women like me, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. To my current colleagues, I love working and learning from you. To the next generation of female leaders, I implore you to remember those who have come before, but don’t forget to make your own history.