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Women in Medicine Spotlight: Desiree Morgan

Desiree Morgan, MD, shares advice and reflects on what has inspired and challenged her as a woman in medicine.

Dr. Desiree Morgan

What is your name, title, and department here at UAB?

My name is Desiree Morgan, and I am a professor and vice chair for education in the Department of Radiology.

Where did you attend medical school?

I attended medical school at the Medical School of Georgia in Augusta, which now is part of Augusta University.

Why did you decide to get into medicine?

I first decided on a career in medicine, believe it or not, when I was seven years old. When I was five, a car with nobody inside of it rolled backward down a hill and hit my mother, my little brother, and me, and I spent a lot of time in the hospital for the next 18 months. Being in a medical environment and being healed I think really set the foundation for me wanting to be a physician.

What is your leading charge or project here at UAB?

As the vice chair of education, I am responsible for medical student education, our two residencies in radiology, our radiology fellowships, and faculty development, so taking care of a whole lot of people and making sure they’re growing in their careers. I’ve had a lot of other jobs in my department at UAB over the years, though. I was vice chair for clinical research. I loved that because I got to think outside the box. I have been in charge of MRI, GI – I’ve worked here a long time. Whatever my department needs, I try to figure out a way to make it work.

Do you think that being a woman helps you in your job?

Not so much being a woman helps with my job, but my job helps me being a woman. By that I mean that in radiology we have a little more control over our lives. Particularly when my children were younger, I was able to better integrate my professional fulfilment and satisfaction with being a mother. So I would say the reverse is true.

What would you say to a young woman who aspires to be a physician or surgeon?

I would tell her to follow her passion, because that is what drives everything. Medical school is tough, you learn a lot. You never stop working, and you never stop learning. You’re dedicated and driven. You will succeed if you have passion for what you are doing, taking care of patients and working with others and always learning, and it is a fantastic life. I love my job.

What are some struggles you face as a woman in medicine?

Things are very different now than when I was training. Early on you had to fight a little bit harder to be recognized. There are some physical struggles related to life if you’re a woman physician. What I mean is that if you want a family, you have to figure out how to make it work. It can work. Then juggling your life as a person and a physician – they are the same thing, they are one. I think you spend your whole life trying to be the best at everything. I’m still trying to figure out how to do that. I think if you’re good at what you do, whether you’re a man or woman, you succeed at it. Especially now, it’s a lot easier for women in medicine than it was 30 years ago when I was first starting out. UAB is very good at promoting women leaders, and I’m grateful for that.

Do you have a strong female mentor, and, if so, how has she helped you in your practice?

Early on, I had four male mentors; I call them my foundational mentors. They encouraged me to go into academic medicine and they brought me along, put me on committees, introduced me to national meetings, and helped me do clinical research. In addition to those four men, I had three pillars who were women, not in my particular subspecialty of radiology but in other areas and at different ages. One was  an excellent researcher, one was a consummate clinician, and another was younger and just building an academic career, and I could look up to her and emulate her. I wouldn’t say that I’ve had one mentor because I’ve had so many. But I do have to turn this around and say that one of the great pleasures of being a mentor is that you can guide someone early in his or her career and then watch your mentee surpass you. I would say that Department of Radiology Chair Cheri Canon, MD – a former resident and mentee of mine – has been instrumental to my career. We have co-mentored each other, and I’m as proud of her and all of her achievements as I can be. Working together with her has made the UAB Department of Radiology what it is. So I am thankful for her and our mentoring relationship.

To watch more of Dr. Morgan’s story and learn what has inspired and challenged her as a woman in medicine, click here.