In honor of Women’s History Month, leaders offer guidance, advice to next generation

March 3, 2021  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership, ,

March is Women’s History Month — and in celebration, Headlines sat down with a few of the organization’s leaders to discuss their path to success and what advice they have for the next generation of women leaders at Michigan Medicine.

Whether in patient care, education, research or shared services, their perspectives are invaluable to others who are looking to take the next steps in their career journey.

Here’s what they had to say!

Lori Pierce, M.D.

Pierce is a professor of radiation oncology and vice provost for academic and faculty affairs. She also serves as the director of the Michigan Radiation Oncology Quality Consortium and president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Women have an important voice in medicine — a voice that must be and deserves to be heard. Medicine is a male-dominated profession, and the higher in leadership roles women go, the more in the minority we often are. But that just makes our perspectives and resilience all the more valuable. 

Diversity of opinion enriches us all. Our recommendations generally reflect our experiences and challenges, providing the opportunity for a richer exchange of ideas with others, leading to better and more sustainable solutions. In medicine, that often means not just surviving, but creating networks to thrive, navigating around obstacles that may be in our way.

In fact, the way we overcome these obstacles is often more impactful than the barriers themselves. We must seek out mentors (women and men) to align with and engage around research interests and overall career guidance. This helps create lasting relationships over the course of our careers, providing role models who have shared experiences. We gain from lessons learned through interactions with clinical colleagues and patients. And we learn through committee service experiences essential to effective leadership.

However we obtain knowledge, we must share it and share it broadly so others can benefit from that wisdom, so they, too, can join the next generation of leaders. Be bold and prepared for whatever may come your way.

As a passage I once heard and now hold dear says: “The world told her to be invisible. She heard, be invincible!

Maria Ceo

Ceo is the associate health system director for operations and ancillary services. She is responsible for providing oversight of reporting units as well as achieving strategic and operational goals for enterprise departments/services including: Logistics and Support Services, Patient Food and Nutrition Services, Clinical Engineering, Retail Contracts, Paging and Hospital Operators, OAS HR Finance Office and the UMHS Sustainability Office. She also works closely with radiology as a liaison for clinical services. 

In my career at Michigan Medicine, I have learned how important it is to be a humble leader and a good listener. 

This institution has a wealth of experienced and insightful individuals at all levels. Take the time to listen and learn — without distraction — particularly about subjects that are new to you. 

Ask questions with the goal of seeking an understanding — no question is too basic or trivial to ask. 

Donna Martin, M.D., Ph.D.

Martin is chair of the Department of Pediatrics. She also works as a medical geneticist and principle investigator of a basic science laboratory exploring mechanisms of neurodevelopmental disorders.

I have had the good fortune of having exceptional mentors, leaders and colleagues at Michigan Medicine who have provided me with support and opportunity at every stage in my career.

The organization is like a large extended family to me. I couldn’t be more proud to work for an institution whose values so closely align with my own: caring, innovation, inclusion, integrity, and teamwork.

Phyllis Blackman, M.B.A.

Blackman recently retired as director of the Office for Health Equity and Inclusion. However, she maintains an important role, currently serving as co-chair of the Anti-Racism Oversight Committee with a charge to identify practices that contribute to racism and discrimination and recommend changes, if needed. 

The key to success is building strong relationships, connections and a diverse network that will help you to grow and develop. You also need to be willing to listen and learn something new from others. 

Realizing that feedback is a gift can help bring a different perspective to your areas of interest. That will allow you to approach growth and advancement with humility.

Michelle Caird, M.D.

Caird is a professor of orthopaedic surgery and the interim chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.

There is so much we can all do to prepare women who will be in our next generation of leaders. Some of my suggestions are easy to say, but not always as easy to incorporate. 

First, it’s important that you value your skills, contributions, mistakes and goals.

Next, seize the experiential and educational opportunities for growth. Volunteer for committees within the medical school, departments, heath system and specialty societies — you can learn so much as a member and then work to be chair of the committee. Finance and budgeting and negotiation are important skills for women to concentrate on. If you cannot negotiate for yourself, negotiate in your mind on behalf of a group you are passionate about — patients who need you, faculty who rely on your voice, girls who need a chance in their future.

Women at all stages of their career (learners and leaders alike) can reflect on their pathway thus far and share their journey so that others can envision themselves achieving similarly. It’s also vital to find ways to make the path easier for others, and advise, mentor and sponsor other women. We all have the power to inspire and lift others. 

Stephanie Schroeder, M.Ed.

Schroeder is the senior human resources director at Michigan Medicine. Her role is to provide oversight to several HR functional teams that manage many of the daily interactions with department leaders, faculty, staff and learners, including the HR Solution Center, HR business partners and payroll.  

I would recommend to those who desire to be among the next generation of leaders to get a mentor and a sponsor, and always say yes to opportunities!  

Throughout my career, I have had the pleasure and privilege of working with several amazing mentors and sponsors that have helped me with my personal and career development. One of my mentors shared a piece of advice that resonated with me and I pass along to others: always say yes to opportunities, even if it’s out of your scope.  

Those opportunities really help you stretch and grow as a leader, and are usually where you learn the most about the organization. Also, just as important, is to work on a project that is multidisciplinary, which provides you with a unique opportunity to work with a more diverse group of colleagues than you might in your everyday role.

When leaders or sponsors see you in these roles, they are more inclined to tag you for additional opportunities in the future.