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Women Who Lead
Michele E. Paessler, DO ’97

Associate Professor of Clinical Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Headshot photograph of Michele E. Paessler, DO ’97“My subspecialty, hematopathology, is pretty unusual. I’m one of five division chiefs at Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania in the Department of Pathology, where we play an integral role in researching new treatments of hematological malignancies using cellular therapeutic approaches. I mentor the physicians in my division, and I serve on several mentoring committees for women faculty. I think one of the most important things in mentoring doctors is getting to know them at a personal level. Then, I make sure they’re on the right track for promotion. ... It’s very difficult to get promoted at Penn, which is a highly academic setting. One of my highest priorities is making sure they are supported and I’m helping them achieve their goals, whether it be writing papers, obtaining grants, or doing research. Also, it’s important to make sure they are succeeding clinically and academically. I make sure they are happy, engaged and getting recognition for their efforts. I think it’s important to recognize the strengths of your teammates and let them take on leadership roles and let them be recognized—that’s what builds a great department. ... I agree that there are cultural differences between men and women in the workplace; women do things and hope someone will notice. ... I am the only DO in the pathology department at Penn. I’m proud of my background, and I think PCOM has generated many great doctors. While PCOM has a strong primary care philosophy, I believe my education gave me a well-rounded knowledge and approach to pathology and gives me depth and perspective on patient care that enables me to direct top-notch clinical labs. ... Mindy George-Weinstein [PhD; chief research and science officer, PCOM] has been such a big part of where I am today. I worked in her lab for years. She was a pillar for me—to get me to think more like a scientist. ... We have a lot of women in pathology. Many lab directors are women, and our chairman is incredibly supportive. ... Of course, some things are hard no matter what. I have a long commute, and I have four children. When I’m here at work, I’m here. When I’m at home, I try to be at home. My kids understand that. I’ve learned through the years that I have to say no to things—this is hard for me. I’ve yet to find a ‘balance.’”