Rachel Pilliod

Assistant Professor, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Oregon Health & Science University

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We need you -- and you having persistence to push forward s what will make you invaluable to our field.

What do you do?

I'm a doctor specializing in high risk pregnancies. My patients have either a current or prior medical condition in the mom or in the fetus or a prior pregnancy outcome that makes their pregnancy complicated or potentially risky. I teach medical students, residents, and fellows in the hospital and in clinic. I also spend time doing research and advocacy to improve hospital quality, to reduce adverse outcomes, and to remove barriers to accessing care.

Why did you choose this field?

I was always interested in serving women. I was mostly raised by my mom and had two sisters growing up and that shaped my world view considerably. I didn't know what that would look, though. I worked as a medical assistant to pay for college (it paid more than campus jobs did) and I volunteered in hospitals and really enjoyed the environment, but didn't think of myself as a scientist or particularly good at STEM. One day a clinician I was working with said, if I can do it, you can do it. Having someone else recognize potential in me was inspiring and impactful. I felt seen and recognized. I try to model this when recruiting more women to our field. You may not have the belief in yourself, but I see it in you.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

I was embarrassed to admit I was applying to medical school. I thought it foolish to even put myself out there, so I only applied to two medical schools. I wish younger me would have dreamed bigger or that someone would have counseled me to reach for the stars and apply as broadly as possible and to include as many schools as I was truly interested in.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love having a rationale for the things that are happening to my patients. Pregnancy is such a universal experience and it's transformative in a woman's life. When something unexpected happens, it can be very scary and sad for my patients. We also get the intellectual challenge of thinking about two physiologies: maternal (the woman) and fetal (her baby). And that's really fascinating and challenging. I am so grateful that I have the ability to sit down and explain what is happening and what will happen and how the field of medicine can help. I also really love ultrasound and there have been so many advances and there will be more advances to come -- it's fascinating to think of how far we have come and we've only just scratched the surface.

Best advice for next generation?

Even if you're not top of your class or struggle in some of your classes, you are adding value and your hard work will pay off. One bad grade or bad teacher or bad experience doesn't mean your dreams are dashed. We need you -- and you having persistence to push forward, even if you're not "a natural" at STEM subjects, is what will make you invaluable to our field.

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

'A good education is a foundation for a better future." Senator Elizabeth Warren

NOMINATE a woman in STEM

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