Full Interview with Dr. Grace Smith

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Background/Interests

-What do you do for fun? I enjoy fly-fishing, photography, running/cycling, meeting friends for fun.

-Did you always like science? Yes. It made sense to me.

-What do you enjoy about science? It is quantifiable and logical.

-Is anyone from your family in a field of science? My father, and two sisters are also physicians.

-Did you know anyone with this job before you decided on this career path? I think I was mostly influenced by my father and older sister  (both physicians). I also had mentors along the way that helped me decide on this career path

Schooling

-Where did you go to school (HS and college)? Grosse Pointe (Michigan) South High School, a public high school. Then University of Michigan for undergraduate and medical school.

-What was your major? I did a combined premed-medical school track that condensed everything into 6 years.

-How long did you need to go to school for your position as a doctor? I trained for a total of 15 years AFTER high school. Yes, I really liked school.

-Besides going to school/college did you have to do anything else to prep for your career/volunteer position? Yes. I did research during the summer, shadowed established professors or doctors, and volunteered in local community hospitals during high school. I also worked part time in the public library during high school, a job I loved.

Job

-What is your job title? Director, Pediatric Cardiology Mahoning Valley, Akron Children’s Hospital Heart Center

-How long have you done this job?  I have been in this job for 13 years.

-What is a typical day like for someone with your job? I start seeing patients at my office around 8AM and finish by 4PM. Some days, I do procedures in the Heart catheterization laboratory at the children’s hospital.

-Are you working towards one specific goal? I am trying to find why children born with heart disease also have problems with learning. Also, school can be very difficult for them, and they find it hard to fit in with others.

-How will what you’re doing affect people? I hope my work will make the life of a child with heart disease better

-What do you still want to study/work on? In science, there is always new things being discovered in the field, so there is constant homework that I make myself do. We have to do presentations to our partners or a larger audience regarding various scientific topics we are interested in.

-Why did you choose to go into this career field? I love being able to help babies and children. It is very satisfying to me to see them get better.

-Has your job taken you any place interesting? I have traveled to Hong Kong to give a scientific presentation. Also, Denver, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle.

-What’s the coolest thing you have done at your job? Being able to save a baby’s life

-What’s your favorite thing about your job? Mentoring medical students and teaching them how to listen to the heart.

-If a girl was interested in a career such as yours, what does she need to know? You need to be prepared to go to school for a long time:  4 years college, then 4 years medical school. This is followed by 3 years of pediatric training, then 3-4 more years of specialized pediatric cardiology training. So you must be patient, you must  be able to teach yourself. If a girl wants to go into this career path, it may mean delaying getting married and having a family. It is a career that demands a lot from you, as a scientist, a teacher, and advocate for the children you take care of. 

Being a G.I.R.L.S.

-Why do you think young women should study science? I think more people should study science, but girls are under represented, perhaps because some have the misconception that they are not “smart enough.”  NOT true.  Science requires a natural curiosity about our world, and self-discipline to be in it for the long run.

-Did you encounter any struggles on your path to this job?  The long training process was a challenge.

-Who is your favorite female scientist? Marie Curie

Lastly

-Any words of encouragement you would like to share with the GIRLS participants?

  1. Believe in yourself. Be brave.
  2. Be in it for the long run. Achieving great things doesn’t come from going the easy path.
  3. Speak up when you don’t understand something. Don’t think you are “dumber” than the person next to you.
  4. Work really, really hard. This will get you far in life.
  5. Learn to talk to people. Look them in the eye. You will make a big impression with good social skills.
  6. Show kindness even when others don’t deserve it.