“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In, 2013

The first time I read those words was in the summer 2013. I was 34 and getting married. I found the book to be very interesting, but it didn’t ‘speak’ to me yet in my career. Perhaps because I wasn’t ready for the message. Perhaps because I wasn’t ready to face my fears, or was even aware of what I was afraid of.

Then came the most tumultuous years of my life.

In my personal life–I got married (yay!) to a wonderful guy, and love him dearly, but the transition to being married is definitely an adjustment.

From a career standpoint, I started working as the Medical Director for a camp that cares for medically complex children in addition to being an attending in the ED of a children’s hospital. The transition was challenging and required efforts comparable to my training years.

In 2015, I learned how palpable fear can be.  We were excited to finally start our family in the spring, and were  blindsided when we realized having a baby wasn’t going to be as easy as we thought. Over the next year we experienced miscarriages, prolonged medical fallout and a roller coaster of hormones that seemed to rage on endlessly. I felt a grief that I didn’t know existed (That is a post for another day…).

Time slowed down, and we had some really hard days, weeks, and months. Somehow we found ourselves in an intensive counseling group that not only resulted in closure and ‘redemption’ from grief, but also an incredible transformation that brought us to an unshakable togetherness. It was a true gift, but nonetheless fear followed me.

Then we had a baby.

Our beautiful baby’s first day home was Nov. 11, 2016. We had a party to celebrate our homecoming as well as the election. And Donald Trump won. And me and my pregnancy hormones cried for a week. I cried for the little girl in me who wanted to see my gender crack the ultimate glass ceiling, and I cried for the world that our new president was creating for me and my little family. And I cried because I was scared.

And then I read Lean In again.

This time, when I read those words, ‘what would you do if you weren’t afraid,’ I suddenly had all these thoughts about women in medicine and the reality of gender bias and invisible barriers.

I realized that more females make up our field than ever before, but the amount of leadership positions we hold is unrepresentative. That recent studies have reported women make about 20% less money than our male counterparts. But in truth the wage gap is still incompletely understood due to lack of widespread salary transparency.  And most importantly, I realized that we as women still haven’t figured out how to fully support one another. 

We haven’t learned yet that if we were to band together, we might actually see more change than if we suffer in silence, slowly burning out from a career that doesn’t always appreciate our efforts or sacrifices. And I realized, that if I wasn’t afraid I would try to talk about my thoughts and concerns in the open. To create community with my female colleagues, to model a way of being supportive of others, so we can learn that we don’t have to play the ‘zero-sum-game.’

So I decided to start a blog.

Sheryl Sandberg, this is what I would do if I wasn’t afraid. Truth be told. I STILL am, but my fear is less than my desire to help other women, to start the conversation.

How about you? What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

28 comments

  1. Bev says:

    Love this! So excited to be part of your community…and I promise not to add in comments of things you did as a baby or toddler 😉 Though every Christmas Eve I remember your dad’s announcement of your arrival! *Amazing since by my math I was what, maybe 3 at the time 😉

    It’s been such a joy to watch from the sidelines and I am so damn proud of the woman you have become, and are continuing to become.

    • Annieslatermd says:

      Thanks so much, Bev! I am touched by your comments. It would be ok to share my embarrassing stories here…it’s all about being vulnerable AND imperfect! 🙂

  2. Sally Speaker says:

    The Annie I’ve known for 30 years lives FULL ON, ALL IN, ALL THE TIME so I’m not surprised that miscarriages felt like falling into the abyss. I’m very sorry you had to be in that place and find a way to climb out. ❤️ BTW, all my various doctors and dentists are women – deliberately! Their lives mirror yours and I admire each for their energy and commitment. Write on, friend.

    • Annieslatermd says:

      Thank you so much Michelle. You HAVE to know that your journey has been such an INSPIRATION to me, and really helped me to get over my fears of pulling the trigger and just “doing it!”

  3. Wakara says:

    I love this and completely feel you!! This brought me to tears. I’m in a place of analyzing my life that I’m a paralysis!

  4. Tracy says:

    I love how you started with these very vulnerable areas which are major life transitioning points yet we women don’t discuss in the open enough. Looking forward to reading more, learning and sharing with you!

  5. Missy says:

    I could hear your voice as I read this and realized how much I missed your face in Pittsburgh! I love your views and look forward to more of what’s in your head!!!

  6. Shelby says:

    Annie,
    Your blog means a lot to me as I am about to enter an accelerated BSN program in January! I always looked up to you as a physician at Camp Korey and had this notion you were unstoppable professionally and personally. Your personality is so caring yet strong. When you spoke, the entire room stopped and listened. It is grounding to be reminded that there are challenges in life for all of us, but what I would do if I wasn’t afraid, is not stop at becoming a nurse, but strive to become a leader in healthcare like yourself. I would not let money, stress, or anything else get in my way. Can’t wait to read more!

    • Annieslatermd says:

      Thank you so much Shelby!! I appreciate your insights, and am so excited for you to start your journey into the medical field!!

  7. Gabriella Horvath says:

    Dear Annie, I could not imagine what would YOU be afraid of! The little time that we shared together in camp has led me to believe that you are strong, smart, invincible… Nothing like me, who loved camp because I was excepted who I am, like the kids in camp… I’ll read every story you’ll share!

  8. Sarah Bergman Lewis says:

    Good for you for starting to write. These are many of the themes also on my mind these days. Gotta find a way to talk more!

  9. Susan Earl says:

    Way to go Annie, great first Blog. You got me thinking of the things I would say or do if I weren’t afraid. Thank you for the inspiration. Can’t wait to read more.

  10. Max says:

    One of the things that I have realized is if only 5% of CEO of Fortune 500 companies are women, then that means that 95% of the mentor for women who aspire to be leaders are men. This is a problem because role models of leadership are male oriented and do not consider the differences in communication styles and the way we perceive the world. I feel that it is crucial for men who mentor women leaders to consider the differences in how men and women handle situations and think outside of their gender normative views of leadership styles and communication. Let people do what comes naturally to them and stop trying to force people into the same mold. A mentor’s job is to guide someone to grow within themselves by providing guidance and perspective, but that perspective needs to come from a place that honors our differences and uses those difference to make the world a better place.

    • Annieslatermd says:

      Yes! Thank you Max for pointing this out. This is so true, and with most people NOT considering that their point of view may have gender bias, it is challenging for women to be mentored in the way that they need to be.

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