By Christina Annunziata, MD, PhD
How do you manage a busy career and an active family? It’s a question many women in medicine are often asked. It’s a respectable inquiry—balancing an engaged life can be complicated no matter one’s profession, gender, or home dynamic. But the motivations behind the schedule a woman keeps are far more interesting than how she allocates her time.
March is Women’s History Month. Can you imagine 31 days of time-management tips? It’s the work that happens between the tasks on the to-do list that stands the test of time, and it’s the impact of our ideas, passions, and discoveries that women in oncology should be sharing. There’s a reason WWWC, the program created by ASCO’s Conquer Cancer Foundation to promote and support female oncology researchers, is called Women Who Conquer Cancer, not Women Who Conquer Calendars. Let’s change the narrative for women who are enthusiastic about their work. Ask women why—not how—we are dedicating our time and resources to changing the course of cancer. Here is my Why List:
Why do you work in oncology research?
There is intense gratification when, after months of observation and exploration, a scientific pathway leads to a discovery that puts patients closer to a cure. I am continuously inspired by my colleagues who seek these discoveries, and I am recharged by the bravery and inquisitiveness of patients who participate in research.
Why do you support other women?
I was invited to attend an event for WWCC at the home of Dr. Sandra M. Swain, who founded and still leads the group. I was intrigued by the powerful theme: Women Who Conquer Cancer. At this first event, I was surrounded by women leaders in the field of oncology, who had come together for the purpose of lifting up the young women just starting in the field of oncology research. There are so many intelligent, driven, compassionate, insightful young women beginning their careers as academic oncologists. Supporting their promising careers and encouraging them to build on their ideas is an honor.
Why do you volunteer for cancer causes outside your work in the field?
Every year, each one of us has a neighbor, friend, or colleague who enters the battle against cancer. It can be a bewildering time trying to make sense of the diagnosis or understand the course of treatment. When I host a WWCC event, I bring together current and future cancer researchers with people whose lives or the lives of their loved ones have been touched by cancer. I enjoy seeing how much both groups of people are inspired by each other.
Why is changing the narrative for professional women important?
I don’t want my sons or your daughters to just be busy when they grow up, I want them to be fulfilled. I want them to contribute to their communities. And when I see them thriving, I will want to know why they are putting in the extra hours and making the worthy sacrifices. I want their Why List to be just as long as their to-do list.
Dr. Annunziata is a medical oncologist and cancer researcher practicing in Bethesda, MD. She serves on the Evaluation Committee for ASCO’s Conquer Cancer Foundation and is an active volunteer and supporter of Women Who Conquer Cancer (WWCC). Follow her on Twitter @CMAnnunziata.