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long hours

Mandy Cromwell mandy_cromwell at hms.harvard.edu
Wed Apr 12 12:28:03 EST 2000


I'm posting here for the first time because I want to urge you not to
give up so early on a  career in medicine or science. If science is
where your passion lies, you should follow that passion. I can tell you
from my own experience that you can have a family while in graduate
school, though it may mean that some choices will have to be made out of

consideration of factors other than your scientific goals. For example,
as a doctoral student my choice of thesis advisor was made after taking
into account not only my research interests but also my feelings about
the extent to which various potential advisors would be understanding
about my having children while in school. So, I avoided the young,
single, male faculty member who seemed to be in the lab at all hours
when I was doing a rotation project there. I also ended up taking a
longer than usual time to finish my degree, having taken two maternity
leaves totalling about 10 months off. I also have a friend who had two
children while in medical school, and was able to work out taking leave,

then took a half-time residency in order to have more time with her
family. While some of these options presuppose a certain level of
financial support, the point is that it is possible to have a family and

be a scientist. However,  you should not expect to get a graduate
degree, start a family, and find yourself in a faculty position by the
age of 35! (unless you're one of  those highly energetic, supremely
organized people who thrive on juggling alot of balls at one time, and
have alot of luck in your research on top of it all).  After completing
my PhD I did a post-doc at a biotech company, where I found the
environment to supportive of scientists (female and male) with families
and where the hours worked by most people were reasonable.
So I say, stick with it! Its important to do what you love, and I don't
think you have to work an 80 hour week to do that that-there are other
options out there. I have to admit that having a family had a large
impact on my attitude about where I want to go with my career, and I'm
not as ambitious as I once was-but its all a matter of personal
Sorry to go on so long-
good luck with your career decisions, Stacey. I am now at Harvard
Medical School and would be happy to continue the conversation with you
by email if you're interested.


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