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Women Who Lead
Melissa George, DO ’04

Interim Chair, Department of Pathology; Program Director, Pathology Residency; Medical Director, Transfusion Medicine; Pathologist, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center
Hershey, Pennsylvania

Headshot photograph of Melissa George, DO ’04“I didn’t aspire to academic leadership; I just wanted to be an excellent pathologist, a doctor’s doctor (to use Dr. Fogel’s [Robert M. Fogel, DO ’58, emeritus professor, PCOM] words). I believe I was the only graduate of my medical school class to pursue residency training in pathology, and I went on to serve a four-year combined residency in anatomic and clinical pathology and fellowships in hematopathology and blood banking-transfusion medicine. ... I took an academic job and eventually became residency program director, and now interim chair. Sometimes different circumstances lead you to take on unexpected roles. ... [As interim chair] I have a tremendous opportunity to shape the department. Women account for only 22 percent of academic pathology chairs. I am currently one of the 21 women out of 95 academic pathology chairs, which compared to some other specialties is actually a high percentage of female leaders. Interestingly, I didn’t realize how much my role can intimidate people. I recently called someone to ask an innocent question, and they thought they were in trouble because I called. ... I’m somewhat introverted, but because I like to uncover fresh ideas, I’m motivated to network. Most people are very generous and supportive when you ask for help. I’m not impressed by titles, so I’m not afraid to pick people’s brains. ... I believe in paying it forward, and as residency program director I want to set an example for my female residents. I try to be mindful to introduce them, to coach them not take any flak and not let anyone diminish them. I stress the need for networking. Women aren’t as good as men at gracious self-promotion; we may think the world is a meritocracy, but, unfortunately, it does not always work that way. You have to publicize your own accomplishments or they might be overlooked. ... One thing I wish I had done is take more psychology classes. In medical school, you can be hyperfocused on your own industry. You can get great ideas from other industries. ... Work/life balance is something we all struggle with. I do not have children, but I have great respect for the additional challenges women with young children have. I am fortunate to have a supportive husband, Joe George [DO ‘04], which helps a lot. I realized a long time ago that I could not work a long day and be Martha Stewart at home. Women need to realize that when you get to a certain point you don’t need to feel guilty to hire someone to come in and clean your house. ... I draw a distinction between sponsorship and mentorship. Mentors offer advice and serve as sounding boards; sponsors put opportunities in your path. Men tend to naturally find sponsors. But women can get mentored to death; people think they need fixing. I did have someone put opportunities in my path, and I realized that was sponsorship, and now I strive to do the same for others.”