Celebrating Women in Science and Medicine: Interview with Erica Shenoy

During the month of March, Massachusetts General Hospital is celebrating Women’s History Month by highlighting our outstanding women scientists, physicians and staff members. In the coming weeks we’ll be sharing a few of their profiles, and be sure to visit the women’s history month landing page to see the full series.

Erica Shenoy, MD, PhD
Assistant Physician, Division of Infectious Diseases, Massachusetts General Hospital
Associate Chief, Infection Control Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Dr. Shenoy specializes in the evaluation and management of infections among both hospitalized and ambulatory patients at Massachusetts General Hospital. Her research addresses the clinical, operational and economic impacts of competing infection control strategies for pathogens such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), and Clostridium difficile. This involves hospital-based clinical studies, implementation research, as well as “dry-bench” studies using mathematical modeling and machine learning.

What is special about Mass General?

Mass General is a special place in many ways. From the perspective of a student/trainee/physician, it is an amazing place to learn from both colleagues and patients. I am in a continuous state of learning and the expertise is both broad and deep. The intellectual resources are unparalleled and colleagues are generous with their time and their knowledge. Even at late and inconvenient hours, the care of the patient comes first and that is unquestionably the guiding principle at Mass General

Mass General functions as a team, in the most inclusive sense of the word. I have come to realize this over the years in situations in which the “all hands on deck” approach is needed, and there is never a shortage of hands to help. Throughout my time at Mass General, I have benefited from support for physician-scientists and (I believe unique to Mass General) for scientist-moms in the form of the Claflin Award.

Beyond grant support, I have had the encouragement and guidance of mentors, and a division (infectious diseases) that promotes the diverse careers of their trainees and faculty.

What do you like most about your job?

My job has it all! I do a mix of patient care (inpatient and outpatient infectious diseases), administrative work as Associate Chief of Infection Control, and research in infection control, antimicrobial stewardship, and hospital operations.

The work I do in all three areas is overlapping in many respects, and I derive some of my most interesting and challenging research questions from the patients I see and the surveillance and investigation involved in infection control.

My clinical, administrative, and research work also takes me all over the hospital and requires interactions with almost every discipline, working with individuals in all role groups. There is never a dull moment!

What is one piece of advice you would give a woman entering the field of medicine and/or healthcare?

I would encourage her to take advantage of opportunities for leadership as they come your way, to take calculated risks with respect to extending yourself into areas that perhaps are not familiar but which offer the potential for professional growth, and to seek out and cultivate mentors who will support you along with way.

Has there been an influential woman in your life who supported or inspired you on your journey into health care/medicine?

My mom, hands down, who is my role model as a physician and mother. My mother’s passion for medicine is why she still practices full-time as a pathologist. She trained in Argentina and then immigrated with my father, also a pathologist, to the United States in the late 1960s where they began a family and started their careers.

She still recounts with anguish how she was only able to be out of work for two weeks after my two brothers and I were each born. But it wasn’t her passion for medicine that returned her to work so soon. It was the pressure of maintaining the viability of her career.

She made the deliberate decision when my brothers and I were very young to switch from a primarily research-focused career to private clinical practice. I have been so fortunate to have the luxury to build a clinical and research career, and with my husband to have four children.

Throughout medical school, graduate school, residency and fellowship, my mom’s dedication to her work, her pride in doing her job well, and the continuous joy of learning as medicine progresses has been an inspiration, and something I find in my own experience to be true about this chosen path.

Erica Shanoy

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