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3 to Watch

3 to Watch

by Stacy Calfo  |   Back to Table of Contents

We caught up with three alumnae on very different journeys in STEM-related fields to learn about their work, how Ravenscroft helped prepare them and what advice they’d give to students preparing to join a diverse workforce.​​​​​

Tell us a little about your current role.

Heather Friedman (née Firth) ’92, President, Friedman Medical Communications, LLC: I am a freelance medical editor/writer. I write and edit everything from medical journal manuscripts to patient education materials, but my biggest project is an annual written examination that OB-GYN residents in the U.S. and abroad take during each of their four years of residency training. I often say that I’m doing my dream job, because it combines three of my favorite things: women’s health, grammar and standardized tests.

Megan Meyer ’99, Senior Energy Specialist, World Bank: When I first joined World Bank, I was supporting developing countries’ climate-change mitigation projects to meet their obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. Today, I work with governments in Latin America to finance clean-energy infrastructure investments, with a focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency. The work is multidisciplinary and involves technical design of projects, financial and economic analysis and social and environmental safeguards, among other things.  

Chloe Pacyna ’15, Marshall Scholar and incoming doctoral student at Cambridge University’s Wellcome Sanger Institute: I plan to pursue doctoral research on cancer genomics, particularly in childhood cancers. Building off my undergraduate research, I’ll develop and use computational tools to understand how healthy DNA can go awry and generate tumors, both by studying somatic mutations and single-cell gene expression. These approaches will offer insight into how cancer is caused and how it can be better treated with targeted therapy.  

How did Ravenscroft prepare you for your STEM journey?

Friedman: It occurred to me one day that my entire career is built on a combination of my favorite subjects at Ravenscroft! Medical editing is essentially a mixture of biology, English and Latin, so I am incredibly grateful to Leslie Pressel, Marcia Scraper-Jones, Angela Connor, Warren Gould, Martin Brinkley and Lora Holland for inspiring my passion for those subjects.

Meyer: The liberal arts education at Ravenscroft gave me an excellent foundation to work in a multidisciplinary job like the one I have today, where I need to have a mix of quantitative skills and soft skills to succeed. I remember being inspired to develop my quantitative skills with Ms. Wood, my precalculus teacher, and Mr. Miller, my economics teacher. And my soft skills were developed with so many teachers, including Mr. McGill for English, Mrs. Immediata for history, and Sr. Swaim for Spanish.

Pacyna: I was first introduced to the field of bioinformatics by Ms. Carroll, my precalculus teacher, independent study advisor and wonderful mentor. She showed me that it’s possible to love STEM and read voraciously — you don’t have to be either a science person or a humanities person. You can be both!

As a woman, have you faced any hurdles along your path?

Friedman: Honestly, being a woman has not felt like a career hurdle to me, because the field of medical communications is actually overwhelmingly female, as are so many health care-related professions. Obstetrics and gynecology, my primary therapeutic area, has also gone through an incredible gender shift in recent decades, with female ob-gyns now outnumbering men 5 to 1.

Meyer: One of the challenges working at the World Bank is that it can involve a lot of international travel. This was very exciting when I was younger and didn’t have a family. However, once I had children, it was a whole new dynamic — being pregnant, breast-feeding and traveling — all of this meant embracing a different work/life balance for myself, as well as coming up with some creative solutions at times (my little girls already have many stamps in their passports!).

Pacyna: There have been times people, both fellow students and those older than me, have questioned my ambition and enthusiasm for science and medicine, and I do find myself stepping up and taking more assertive roles in discussions and classes because I feel I have to prove my competence on challenging material. However, my experience also has been very encouraging and nurturing thanks to many inspiring woman mentors.

What advice would you give to students looking to enter a career field where they might be the minority?

Friedman: If you have no idea what you want to do, remember that your future career may not be something you’ve ever heard of! In high school, college and even my early 20s, I had no idea the field of medical communications existed. That’s why a liberal arts education is so advantageous. For most of you, the goal right now should be to broaden your horizons before you start narrowing them down.

Meyer: The world is changing and a lot of workplaces view diversity as an advantage to their business, so use your diversity to your advantage and identify the unique perspective you can bring to the institution. And, very importantly, find a mentor!

Pacyna: Seek out mentors who care about your success. It’s even better if you can find mentors who look like you! I’m very fortunate to have worked with brilliant woman physician-scientists and trainees who challenged me and made me confident in my ability to pursue a career in science.

What successes have you experienced?

Friedman: Three years after earning my Master of Public Health in maternal and child health, I experienced a series of near-fatal obstetric complications, most of which could have been prevented through better clinician education. It’s no coincidence that I’ve since built a career that affords me substantial input into the education of future ob-gyns! Playing a meaningful role in improving women’s health care is as rewarding personally as it is professionally.

Meyer: It’s been very rewarding to see the impact of the projects I work on in developing countries, particularly those that have a strong impact on climate change and the local communities. Learning and using multiple languages in my work is also one of my personal successes. It was a steep learning curve to be able to use Spanish and Portuguese to do business with foreign governments.

Pacyna: Of all my work in undergrad, I’m most proud of mentoring students through MERIT, a nonprofit organization that introduces disadvantaged Baltimore high school students to health care professions. Many of the students I’ve worked with have earned full-ride scholarships to prestigious schools, and they plan to pursue careers as physicians, nurses and public health leaders.

Heather Friedman ’92

Megan Meyer ’99

Chloe Pacyna ’15

from the archives

Ravenscroft Magazine, Spring 2019

Ravenscroft’s female STEM+ teachers support and mentor girls in the field, part of the feature “Spheres of Influence.” 

Changing Your World