Why did you choose to become a doctor?
My father was a neuroradiologist at UCLA. When I was in high school, I went to help him over the summer. At first I did menial office tasks, but I became friendly with a lab tech who asked if I wanted to volunteer in his pig lab.
The lab was fascinating: they were using pigs to create aneurysm models for interventional radiology techniques. By the end of the summer, I was assisting the surgeons with the surgical creation of the vascular models. Once they saw how much I loved it, they let me scrub in and sew! It was quite amazing. This lab developed the patented aneurysm therapy called the Guglielmi Detachable Coil. Then during my summers while in college I was a camp counselor for kids with diabetes in Kings Canyon National Park, and it was there that I started thinking that Pediatrics would be the best fit for me.
What’s one of your craziest medical school memories?
One day, I was studying in the cafeteria and this tall, cute boy interrupted me, and gave me a slip of paper with his phone number on it. He was a surgical resident taking some visiting professors on a tour of the hospital and he asked them if they wouldn’t mind waiting a moment, saying “I’ve been wanting to meet that girl.” They waited for him while he walked over and introduced himself. I called him and we went out to coffee the next night. Ken has been my husband for over 22 years.
If you could achieve one medical breakthrough, what would it be?
Our health is affected by our environment more than we know. I worry about the hurricanes in New Orleans. I worry about the air we breathe with the California wildfires. I worry about entire populations who will be forced to migrate out of dry regions, like large parts of Africa. If I could solve something that would change human health, it would be climate change.