I grew up in Jamaica, Queens, NY. I received my Ph.D. at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo, School of Medicine and completed post-doctoral training at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, at SUNY Buffalo School of Medicine, Department of Biochemistry and at the University of California Riverside. I have received continuous funding from the NIH for over 35 years. My laboratory is one of the leading laboratories in research related to vitamin D, its function and mechanism of action.
What brought you to your field of expertise?
My acceptance into a National Science Foundation funded program at Cornell Medical School during one high school summer introduced me to high level science. I credit Dr. Melvin Schwartz MD/PhD, my mentor during this summer program, for encouraging me to become a scientist. I also worked at St Vincent’s Hospital in NYC in the clinical pathology laboratory and in the research building during the summers when I was in college. This solidified my choice of a career as a research scientist.
What do you find most satisfying about the work that you do?
Being a mentor to 25 PhD students and teaching students at Rutgers, NJMS for the past 39 years. It is very satisfying working with graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and technicians and contributing through our research new information that has changed the way we think about the mechanism of action of vitamin D. I have learned so much from those whom I have mentored. It has been a privilege for me to participate in their training and education here at Rutgers, NJMS.
Do you have a woman role model? Who? Why?
My mother and grandmother. My grandmother left the island of Chios, Greece with her young daughter in the early 1900s. She established in lower Manhattan what became the first Greek school in NYC, teaching Greek language, customs and history to children of immigrants. My mother, with my dad, established floral businesses in Queens. After my dad died my mother expanded the original business. She read the Wall Street Journal and invested in the stock market. She worked 14 hour days in the 1950s when most women stayed home.
What would you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
To have survived in science with consecutive NIH funding for over 35 years. This funding (as well as the helpful environment at NJMS) has enabled me and my lab members to contribute significantly to the scientific community.
What would you consider to be your greatest challenge?
My greatest challenge is to be a good parent and to continue research excellence in this changing world of science.
What are a few resources you would recommend to other women in the field of medicine and science?
Go to the best meetings in your field. Present your findings. Get involved in your professional society. Become a member of a committee. Take on a leadership position. Change things for the better. Make a difference. Seek women role models/mentors at your school or professional society. Ask their advice both personal and professional.
What strategies would you recommend to other women in science/medicine for improving their work – life balance?
I believe work-life balance is difficult. Sometimes, when it’s grant renewal time and you need to meet deadlines, work does indeed take priority. However, you can have a successful career and a family as long as your children and family know they are your number one priority.
What advice would you give a woman going into a medical or scientific leadership role for the first time?
To lead by example. The best leaders are those who lead by serving and helping others. Always treat others as you would like to be treated.
What do you do to continue to grow and develop in your field?
I continue to present our findings at meetings (always trying to be “state of the art” in our science), to publish, to read the literature, to collaborate.
What strength or characteristic do you have that contributes most to your professional success?
Resilience and perseverance. When you are pursuing academic goals never take no for an answer. “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time” (Thomas Edison).