Visit Mentors' Round Table to read our interviews of women in the fields of science and health. These are women of varying levels of experience and backgrounds, brought to the table to answer your questions about everything from work-life balance to financial management. Read on, be inspired, and leave them (and us!) a comment!
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Barbara Barlow (b. 1938)
Barbara Barlow was the first woman to train in pediatric surgery at Babies Hospital, Columbia University Medical Center (now called Babies' and Children's Hospital of New York). By researching and documenting the causes of injuries to children in Harlem, and increasing public education about their prevention, she has helped to dramatically reduce accidents and injuries to inner-city children in New York and throughout the United States.
Born in 1938, Barlow grew up in rural Lancaster Pennsylvania, where she still spends many weekends. She has had a lifelong desire to care for children in need. Her father, who believed that she would some day have a career in medicine, died when she was sixteen and her younger sister was eleven. To support her daughters, her mother returned to school for a degree in psychology and became a guidance counselor and assistant professor of psychology. By her mother's example, Barlow came to believe that with hard work, she could achieve anything.
After studying psychology on a scholarship at Vassar College, Barlow earned her M.D. degree in 1967 from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. The director of pediatric surgery there helped Barlow obtain a training fellowship at Babies Hospital Columbia University Medical Center (now called Babies' and Children's Hospital of New York). She became the first woman to train in pediatric surgery at Babies Hospital.
Questions and Answers with Dr. BarlowWhat was my biggest obstacle?
I don't think that I can identify a professional obstacle. My mother was correct —work harder than everyone else and you will reach your goals in spite of the fact that you are a woman. When I arrived at Harlem Hospital in the 1970s, a man warned me, "Doctor, don't come here. You'll get hurt. Go Away." I didn't listen. Now I've been here so long I forget I'm white.
Who was my mentor?
The most important mentor was my mother—Esther Stoll Barlow—who taught me that with hard work I could achieve anything. Although she was an at-home mother until my sister and I entered school, she then returned to teaching junior high school. When my father died leaving her with an 11-year-old, my sister, and a 16-year-old, me, to raise and educate she entered graduate school at Temple University, working during the day and commuting to Philadelphia to study nights and weekends. She became a guidance counselor and then an assistant professor of psychology at Millersville University in Millersville, where she ran the guidance clinic. She encouraged us to apply to the private school in town for high school, The Lancaster Country Day School, where we both received scholarships. She had us aim high for college and helped us apply for scholarships. Both my sister and I graduated from Vassar College. As I continued with graduate school and medical school, always on scholarships, she was always there as a mentor, friend, and mother.
During surgical training there were three pediatric surgeons who I consider mentors. Dr. Keith Schneider, director of pediatric surgery at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, helped me obtain a training fellowship at Babies Hospital Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center where I was the first woman to train in the program. Dr. Thomas Santulli, director of pediatric surgery at Babies Hospital, directed me into an academic career in pediatric surgery and taught me how to organize a pediatric surgical service. Dr. Alex Haller, director of pediatric surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland supported my work in trauma and injury prevention, making sure that I was appointed to national committees and that I was asked to lecture at national meetings.