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Johns Hopkins has many women in leadership positions

Tina Cheng serves as the Director of Pediatrics for the school of medicine and Pediatrician in Chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital. (File photo)

Tina Cheng serves as the Director of Pediatrics for the school of medicine and Pediatrician in Chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital. (File photo)

Every school year, Tina Cheng would fill in information in a book including teacher’s name, year of education and age.

In one section, the page asked “When I grow up, I want to be a … .” Boys were given the option of checking boxes like astronaut, baseball player, soldier, policeman, fireman and cowboy. Girls had choices like model, secretary, airline hostess, school teacher, nurse and mother. Cheng always wrote doctor in the “other” area every year. “I think I felt like I wanted to be in a helping profession,” she said.

Cheng achieved her dream of becoming a doctor and today serves as the director of pediatrics for the school of medicine and pediatrician in chief at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. She is one of multiple women to hold leadership positions at the hospital.

“I feel like Johns Hopkins has very much of a culture of excellence and we do have some strong women leaders,” Cheng said. “I think we could probably have even more but I think there is very much of an emphasis on inclusion and diversity here and I think that is part of our values here at Hopkins and I think we need to continue to focus on that.”

Hospital President Dr. Redonda Miller points out that the school of medicine may not have existed had it not been for a woman — Mary Elizabeth Garrett. Johns Hopkins founded the university and hospital before passing away. The Board of Trustees ran out of money before they could open the school. Garrett, an influential philanthropist who championed women’s rights, heavily contributed to the school’s founding on two conditions: women be admitted on the same terms as men and the facility be graduate level.

The school’s first graduating class had three women in it. When Miller graduated, more than 50 percent of the class was made up of women.

“Mary Elizabeth Garrett set the tone right from the very beginning about women in medicine and how they would be valued,” Miller said.

Having so many women in leadership positions, Miller believes, “sends a strong message to the younger generation especially young girls who may be interested in a career in science and medicine. Yes. It is possible. Just look up at how many women have come before you.”

Dr. Redonda Miller

Dr. Redonda Miller is president of Johns Hopkins Hospital. She said Mary Elizabeth Garrett set the tone for women at Johns Hopkins when she help with the founding of the university and hospital. (The Daily Record file photo)

Miller continues to see patients while serving as a president. “It is the part of my week that I look forward to and really enjoy,” she said. “It does make me a better administrator because I understand what our clinicians do.”

She notes it is one thing to stand up in front of a room and discuss rolling out a new hospital feature but she makes sure she completes the training as well. Miller also can better understand frustrations about issues because she is right alongside other clinicians. Her patients also act as personal focus groups. “They tell me when they find things that work or encounter something that doesn’t work well,” she said.

Dr. Sherita Golden, vice president and chief diversity officer for Johns Hopkins Medicine, notes having women leaders is very exciting and forward-thinking.

“It really makes me feel that my voice is appreciated and my perspective is valued as a woman,” she said. “I think that is what really makes it exciting to be a woman leader here. There is enough of a critical mass now that in various meetings there are many of us in a room so it is not just one person speaking up to address another perspective but their is a collective voice which is really nice.”

Initially wanting to be a school teacher, Golden changed her mind after talking to one of her parents friends, a school teacher and principal, whom she admired.

“She said ‘You know, you can have broader dreams than that. For me, as an African American woman leaving college (during the Civil Rights Movement), the options were limited but they are not for you’.”

During fifth grade, Golden studied the human body in science and decided to become a doctor. Golden has been at Hopkins in various roles for 25 years which is about half of her life. She has seen the voice of women grow and expand during this timeframe.

“It has really been wonderful for me to be able to be here as a woman, as a trainee, as a faculty member and now as a leader and to be a part of that process and to have benefited from those who came before me,” she said.

Dr. Maria Oliva-Hemker, director of the division of pediatric gastroenterology, hematology and nutrition, notes having female leaders is great for the new generations to see people that look like them in positions where they want to be someday.

Immigrating from Cuba to the United States at a young age, she recalls her parents promoting the importance of education. “You never know when you have to leave your country and go somewhere else and you can always take your brain with you,” she said.

Choosing medicine, Oliva-Hemker knew it was a profession that would keep her brain active while providing an opportunity to interact with people.

She also believes it is very important for women in leadership positions to make sure that they look at the junior women around them and extend a hand for help.

“It is really important to always make sure that you understand how you got there,” Oliva-Hemker said. “It was always with the help of people. It is something I do take seriously.”

A recent graduate from the program wrote Oliva-Hemker a thank you note that read, “You really helped me find my voice over these last few years and I gained so much confidence and the ability to present myself with the help.” I thought, “You know, that is the kind of thing that brings tears to my eyes because you just want so much to be able to help as many people as possible.”

Women Who Lead This article is featured in The Daily Record’s Women Who Lead: A Woman’s Guide To Business. The mission of the Women Who Lead (formerly Path to Excellence) magazine is to give our readers the opportunity to meet successful women of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs and learn how they define success. Read more from Women Who Lead.