Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dr. Ellie Corigliano, One Woman's Story: Science, Self Discovery & You

Women, Science, Self Discovery & You

The pursuit of science is a lifetime endeavor toward the pursuit of knowledge.

It is a traveling affair engined by questions, by ideas, by imagination, by “What if’s” in the hopes to one day arrive at a destination where the unraveling of life’s great mysteries are revealed. Sometimes, however, that alone is not enough to stimulate the study of science and requires a more intimate introduction, and perhaps even more so for women.

As a young girl I was exposed to the practice of medicine. My mother and father ran a medical clinic, where my father was the primary physician and my mother; well she did everything else from drawing blood samples to scheduling appointments. My father loved science and medicine and was fascinated with the workings of the human body. He would introduce my siblings and I to medical equipment such as the microscope, the stethoscope, a blood pressure cuff and essentially allowed us to play “Doctor”. Of these technologies, I found the most intriguing to be the microscope. Under the magnifying lens of a microscope, the smallest components of life appeared to be larger than life. It was as though the most unimaginable, magical aspects of life came alive! I was soon enamored with the chemistry of life and found that science became my favorite subject in school.

Meanwhile, a love for the arts had been developing along side my educational pursuits in the form of dance and music. I soon found myself dancing with the Los Angeles Joffrey Ballet. Though I was just a teenager at the time I realized that both of these pursuits enhanced my view of the world and from then on have believed that all things are possible.

In college I had the privilege of having four amazing professors, three men and one woman, that took the time to flatter my questions with discussion and encouraged me to read material beyond the scope of the course textbook. Their direction introduced me to the notion of scientific research. I had been a pre-med student focusing my degree in biochemistry, but in my senior year I decided to pursue a graduate degree in lieu of medical school.

My fascination with medicine, however, continued along side my research and soon I found myself more interested in the application of nutritional biochemistry for disease prevention and disease therapy. My graduate school campus did not house a medical school, and made my interest of nutrition and science challenging. My colleges, my professors, even my friends, were uncertain of my new direction. I realized at that point how valuable it is to have mentors that encourage you, support you and enable you to chase your imagination, your interests.

In the last year of my doctoral studies in biochemistry I began to attend nutritional conferences, take online courses from top Universities (that housed a medical program) and found a place of inspiration. I recently completed my Ph.D. in 2008 and continue to pursue nutritional biochemistry from both a research aspect and an applied aspect. Though challenges are always present, one of life’s greatest gifts is the ability to direct yourself and surround yourself with others who believe in your assertions. As a mother of a teenager, I witness the powerful influence ones environment has on the motivation and commitment to continue and push through the challenges of ones interest.

Women have historically been key contributors to many scientific discoveries, and today many of us turn away from scientific careers, but we are needed in science for our creativity, our relational thinking, our ability to multi-task and our contribution to excellence. I want to encourage women to continue their pursuit of science, their pursuit of family, and their pursuit of happiness by standing up and initiating the restructuring of your environment to enable you and to work with you for your success. All things are possible in the right environment!

Dr. Corigliano will be one of the speakers at the 2009 International Women's Festival, for more information please visit


Unknown said...

Science reaches to the core of our existence as human beings, yet our country does a lousy job of developing our future scientists. We all can benefit from reaching into the scientific world and making it part of ourselves. Although I chose a business path, I've been an arm-chair Physicist for years. The secrets of the Universe compel me. Excellent advice from Dr. Corigliano.

Al Walsh

Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. C,
I am thinking about going into medicine too but I cannot stand the sight of blood. How did you overcome that? Or did you simply move on to research and hormones thereby negating the blood and guts aspects of health education?
Also, please write alittle about the costs of medical school today. How can one afford it?

Anonymous said...

Dear Bonnie,
Medicine is a broad field where you can find a branch of work that doesn't require you to work with blood. I do suggest, however, that you try to think about your response to the sight of blood and its origin. For many there is an association of blood with "dying" or "tragedy", and therefore respond to it with avoidance and/or fear. If you can find a new association for blood, such as "the substance that nurtures life and protects the body", something more positive, perhaps the site of blood would not evoke the same response.
As far as cost, this is a dilemma many find themselves in. A wonderful program, though competitive, is the MD/PhD program that will pay for your medical school tuition, and then provide you with a salary as you go through the Ph.D. aspect of the program. Also, though I am not an advocate of going into dept, federal student loans are given at low interest rates, and the repayment programs are flexible once you graduate. Remind yourself of the financial resource you will have once you graduate.

Best Regards,
Dr. Corigliano