Episode 12 Interview with Gastroenterologist Marian Rosenthal

In this episode I welcome good friend and renowned Gastroenterologist Dr. Marian Rosenthal.  A gastroenterologist is an internal medicine physician who diagnoses and treats conditions that affect the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine (colon), and biliary system -- the liver, pancreas, gallbladder, and bile ducts -- to the Rocket Girls Podcast.  Dr. Rosenthal, though now semi-retired (she loves her work too much to be fully retired), has served as Chairman of Regional Gastroenterology Committee for Southern California Permanente, Chief Physician of Gastroenterology Section for Kaiser West Los Angeles, and past President of the Southern California Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, and is currently an Assistant Clinical Professor for UCLA’s Department of Medicine.

Favorite Segments from the Interview:

Dr. Rosenthal discussed the “old days” of gastroenterology, barium enemas, x-rays and rigid scopes as if this was at the turn of the century, rather than the 1970s.

She also talked about being one of the few women in medical school, a phenomenon that no longer applies today in medicine, though it still rings true for physics and engineering majors.  “Being a woman in medical school when there aren’t that many women you always felt that you did have to prove yourself. You had to do well you couldn’t sluff off in the class; you had to show that you belong.”

Advice to Girls Passionate about Science

“Having a mentor or being exposed to what the field would look like is very helpful and I know that at various times high school students or college students have come around and seen how medicine is practiced. I think if they went to a lab to see or worked in a lab during the summer or having those kinds of internships or that availability I think would really help. I mean me once they have some interest to nurture it and to have some sort of enriched programs for them.”

How to Get More Involved

Find what interests you and pursue it.

Interesting Perspective

Single gender classrooms tend to free girls to ask questions, express themselves and be more of who they are.




The Transcript


Melanie Fine: This is Melanie Fine of RocketGirls.com and today we’re interviewing Dr. Marian Rosenthal, a gastroenterologist, about her career and about her experiences in the field. Welcome Dr. Rosenthal.

Marian Rosenthal: It’s a pleasure to be with you Melanie.

Melanie Fine: Thank you. First of all tell us about what you do; tell us about your work.

Marian Rosenthal: Ok, gastroenterologist is a subset of internal medicine and it’s specializing in diseases of the gastroenterology track. So, starting from the mouth, you know the esophagus, the stomach, the small intestine, the colon, the rectum, the liver, the pancreas, and any diseases that pertain to that. And the training starts out in the internal medicine and then there is sub-specialty training to do the gastroenterology and as a gastroenterologist I get to do procedures that can visualize parts of the GI tract. I can look down from above or up from below and see what the lining of the esophagus, stomach, duodenum, part of the small intestine, and see what the colon looks like. And it's been a very good career; I’m very happy that I chose it.

Melanie Fine: So you look—I recently had a test done and so when you when you look from above how far down can you go?

Marian Rosenthal: Ok well you can-- there are two different instruments. The routine instrument looks at the esophagus, the stomach, and the first part of the small intestine called the duodenum or duodenum. It’s a small area but there are also instruments that are longer that you can look further down into the small intestine. And usually those procedures are done for people who are having abdominal pain or who may have had bleeding or who may not be able to eat. You’re looking to find a reason maybe an ulcer, maybe a growth, or inflammation that could be causing the problem. And what’s fascinating to me with these instruments because when I first started out there were very few instruments to use, but over time they've gotten really good and there's a channel through which you can pass various little catheters, so that you can pass a catheter with a wire inside it, and you can open up the wire and it opens up like a lasso. And if there’s a growth you can put the lasso around the growth, synch it down, and then attach cautery or burning current and take the thing off. You can also pass little biting instruments so that you can biopsy something; you can pass needles through it if you need to inject something. So there are a lot things that can be done where previously, when I first started out in the field, the only way to take care of these things was surgery.

Melanie Fine: So when you first started out they were doing colonoscopies but they couldn’t—

Marian Rosenthal: No.

Melanie Fine: Not even that.

Marian Rosenthal: No they weren’t. Not even that. When I first started out they had an instrument they called – I guess it was just an esophagus scope. It was short and you could look into the esophagus, which is the swallowing tube, and it was something called fiber optic which meant that you look directly into the eyepiece. Nowadays we have video instruments which are much more pleasant to use.

Melanie Fine: Right.

Marian Rosenthal: And in terms of the colon, we had rigid instruments to look at the rectum and the sigmoid colon. So they weren’t very long and the person would lie on a tilt table and it wasn't very comfortable, but that was all we had at the time. There was also a rigid esophagus scope, which sounds awful. The person had to be like a sword swallower, and everything had to be lined up perfectly in order to pass that instrument.

Melanie Fine: And were they asleep when they passed that instrument?

Marian Rosenthal: They had gotten some sedation. There was also, as I had started in my training, there was something called a gastric camera. I mean it all sounds so primitive now. Where I would pass an instrument down through the mouth, into the esophagus, into the stomach and then I would perform certain maneuvers, and take pictures, and then I would wait a week to get the pictures back to see what the camera saw.

Melanie Fine: The film.

Marian Rosenthal: The film yes. So it really was a very very different way of practicing, and of course, also gastroenterology involves seeing people in the office, and talking to them, and examining them, and trying to figure out why they're having the problems they are having; which might be diarrhea, constipation, bleeding, abdominal pain, jaundice which is yellowing of the skin and the eyes. So it’s both a thinking and a doing field of medicine.

Melanie Fine: Probably a large part of it is, you know, this this—I guess the art of it is the diagnosis. Having these symptoms and having to figure out using various tests what’s going on.

Marian Rosenthal: Right and again originally when I first started, things that are so common now, CAT scans, did not exist. The x-rays that existed were just plain x-rays and upper GI series, where someone swallowed barium, and you know you looked at -- Well I actually did that in my training where you’d watch them swallow it and you’d take pictures and follow it through and tried to get the barium in the places she needed to have it; or putting in barium from below in a barium enema, and trying to locate the entire colon.

Melanie Fine: Was the barium radioactive? How did they see--why, what was the---

Marian Rosenthal: It was dense.

Melanie Fine: It was dense. Oh.

Marian Rosenthal: Ok. So you could see it. It would turn up white.

Melanie Fine: In an x-ray?

Marian Rosenthal: In an x-ray yes.

Melanie Fine: So they would just have this x-ray going on all the time as you were doing this.

Marian Rosenthal: For fluoroscopy yeah you’d turn it on and off.

Melanie Fine: Right. Ok. So you’d be much more exposed to radiation. Even though we use probably more radiation now you were much more exposed earlier on.

Marian Rosenthal: Right. Yes and in my training I did a little bit of it. The ones who had more radiation exposure were the radiologists because they did all of the tests and they always had to, you know, wear the little badges and turn the badges in every month to see how much radiation exposure they have gotten; and if that they had gotten too much then they couldn't do it for a while.

Melanie Fine: Right.

Marian Rosenthal: So it was much more crude in those days.

Melanie Fine: Ok, I guess so we’re talking about the olden days. I’m assuming we’re talking about the 19th century.

Marian Rosenthal: Except it wasn’t. It was the 1970’s.

Melanie Fine: The 1970’s?

Marian Rosenthal: Yeah.

Melanie Fine: We’re talking about the old times, 1970’s, I was even alive then. That’s not so long ago.

Marian Rosenthal: Right. No, but that’s why it’s amazing to me that changes in medicine and especially in gastroenterology. Over fortysomething years I mean it has changed dramatically with what you can do, what you can see, how you can take care of things.

Melanie Fine: And do you see the change getting faster or is it changing at a steady pace?

Marian Rosenthal: I think it’s probably slowing down a bit but getting more intricate like the kind of accessories that you have to use with the instruments so that you can see so much more without doing any cutting.

Melanie Fine: Right.

Marian Rosenthal: And also the accessories—no. Another thing that gastroenterologists do they take care of people who may have stones in their gallbladder that pass into the bile duct and the bile duct goes into the intestine and the stones get block the bile duct. Then the person can have severe pain, fevers, and turn yellow. And there’s another kind of scope, which has gotten a lot of press, the ERCP scope because of problems cleaning it; but with that that you can pass a catheter into the duct and pass a basket and take stones out or widen the opening so stones will pass or put a plastic tube in so things can drain. So again all of these things have been happening over the last, let’s say, 20, 25 years and the kinds of things that you can do and the types of stents, stents like they have in the heart, are getting much much more refined. So there’s always just so much more that you can do which amazes me.

Melanie Fine: It is amazing. So when you graduated medical school you didn’t know any of this stuff?

Marian Rosenthal: No. None of this existed.

Melanie Fine: Right. So--

Marian Rosenthal: I mean there were x-rays.

Melanie Fine: So how do you know how to use all this new equipment? What is your process for learning it?

Marian Rosenthal: You learn it sometimes it’s on the job training. Someone from a group will take a course or you’ll take a course when this new stuff comes out and then the person then teaches the other people and it’s ongoing education. And throughout your medical career you're expected to do continuing medical education either with reading the journals or doing hands on courses or just going to meetings where you learn about new things in your field.

Melanie Fine: Is there a prescribed number of hours you need to do each year or does that depend on the field.

Marian Rosenthal: Yes. No, well I think in every field, in order to maintain a license or say your California Medical license, you have to do 50 hours in two years so 25 hours a year.

Melanie Fine: Ok. Got it. That is a lot of personal development.

Marian Rosenthal: Right and that, you know, that’s a small fraction because in your field you’re reading the journals that come out that pertain to what to do and you talk with people when you go to meetings, you exchange ideas. Hold on one second.

Melanie Fine: We have a phone call coming in. Do you have Satisfaction going on on your cellphone?

Marian Rosenthal: Sorry.

Melanie Fine: Do you have Satisfaction going on on your cellphone?

Marian Rosenthal: That’s right, can’t get no satisfaction right? And when my daughter calls it’s My Girl and when my son calls it’s Ballad of the Wayward Son.

Melanie Fine: So who is the Satisfaction ringtone?

Marian Rosenthal: Oh, everybody else everybody else.

Melanie Fine: Got it. Got it.

Marian Rosenthal: So we were talking about medical education, reading journals and whenever you have a puzzling case like within every hospital there are meetings where groups of physicians get together, sometimes at lunchtime, to discuss interesting cases or puzzling cases and you get input. Also, you call people you know in the field to ask their opinion.  So there’s usually a lot of give and take and you try to figure out the best way to manage your specific patient.

Melanie Fine: But there must be times when you’ve been stumped.

Marian Rosenthal: Oh yea. You know it’s frustrating, but you keep trying and then sometimes you'll read something six months later and  you’ll say “oh my gosh that what it was!” and then try to get the patient back and try to figure out, you know, how to make things better.

Melanie Fine: Right. Right.

Marian Rosenthal: And you know, you—in terms, you know since I’ve been doing this for so long I have a perspective because I've finished medical school 50 years ago so it’s been a long time and medical school in terms of women there's been a huge change. When I went to medical school my medical squawk school class had 120 students and there were 10 women; of the 10 women who started two left because they got married and went to other medical schools and one came in because she married someone in the medical school. So we started with 10; we graduated nine, but all of the women finished and that that was something that was always annoying. Because you were female they assumed that you wouldn’t finish. They assumed that you would get married and, you know, other things would happen and what I found fascinating was that when I applied to medical school I was very young I was 19 and—

Melanie Fine: Ok.

Marian Rosenthal: Yep when I started medical school I was 19 and no one mentioned my age, no one mentioned about being female at that point and then when I was finishing medical schools and applying for internships I had gotten married during medical school and all of a sudden every interviewer wanted to know how I was going to manage and how was I going to, you know,  reconcile marriage and medicine, and when I was going to have kids, and these are all questions that no one is allowed to ask now.

Melanie Fine: Right, it’s illegal to ask these questions, right.

Marian Rosenthal: Right, but – and it surprised me because I’d been in medical school I proved myself. I'd done a good job and now they're asking the questions and you know also being a woman in medical school when there aren’t that many women you always felt that you always felt that you did have to prove yourself. You had to do well you couldn’t sluff off in the class; you had to show that you belong.

Melanie Fine: Did you feel --

Marian Rosenthal: And—As I told you, I told you before that I had this sign that said a woman must do twice as well as the man to be thought half as good. Luckily, this isn't difficult.

Melanie Fine:  Did you feel

Marian Rosenthal: Which always amused me.

Melanie Fine: Yeah did you feel this on the outside or this an internal struggle?

Marian Rosenthal: Oh, no the outside because you know people would say things. Sometimes they’d say “you’re taking a man’s place. You shouldn’t be here you should be home.” And that was the prevailing feeling then. I think it has changed significantly because now in medical schools I think there are more women than men in the classes.

Melanie Fine: Interesting.

Marian Rosenthal: So then now there’s been a big change in the demographic.

Melanie Fine: Why do you think that is?

Marian Rosenthal: I think first of all, more women are realizing what they can do and being allowed to do it. And I think a lot of the men are going to look for the much higher paying job and medicine is not the highest paying job business, wall street, all of that--

Melanie Fine: Interesting.

Marian Rosenthal: Has the big bucks. And you can’t go into medicine for big bucks.


Melanie Fine: I, being a cantor and going to seminary there was ---, when women started being accepted to being clergy people were worried that the profession would be—that the profession would become all female or mostly female. Did people have those concerns about medicine?

Marian Rosenthal: I don't think so. Although, you know, there are some fields that have traditionally been the field for women things like pediatrics, dermatology, pathology.

Melanie Fine: I didn’t realize pathology. I’m sure OBGYN has a large share.

Marian Rosenthal: OBGYN has a lot yes. Yeah. So I think those have been the traditional fields and I tried very hard to like dermatology but I didn’t.

Melanie Fine: Oh, wow.

Marian Rosenthal: And it also was interesting to me that when I had to make a decision I made the decision to go into internal medicine. I had to decide, you know, did I want to be just a general internist or did I want to do sub-specialty work and I decided I wanted to do sub-specialty work.  And, you know, I thought about what was interesting to me and I really liked gastroenterology. I thought it has a good combination of analytical thinking about cases and the ability to do things even though it's fairly limited when I started them but I like being able to yield to procedures and do them well. I got great satisfaction out of that.

Melanie Fine: I guess those procedures were probably something that were somewhat repetitive and you could get really good at it.

Marian Rosenthal: Right, after you’ve done thousands. Yes.

Melanie Fine: I always wonder, not having gone to medical school myself, how people decide on their interests and their specialties.

Marian Rosenthal: Well, I think you’re exposed to them. You know, during medical school you rotate through various disciplines and a lot of it is very subjective in the same way, you know, like in-- when you're in college and you decide what to major and it may be a certain teacher—

Melanie Fine: Right.

Marian Rosenthal: --in the field and that just, you know, you enjoy it so much that you decide to go into that field; and the same thing in medicine you rotate on certain ward and you really like it.  You like who your attending physician is, and you feel like you learned a lot, this is something you could do and that’s part of how you make a decision. I really loved to surgery but at that time the prejudiced against women in surgery was much much greater; and I thought there’s enough prejudice in medicine. I don't need to go into a field where it's tremendous pressure, but I didn’t realize that there was almost no women in gastroenterology--


Melanie Fine: Really?

Marian Rosenthal: When I went to it. And when I was doing my training I think I was the second woman to complete the program in gastroenterology. And then when I went out to practice there was only one other practicing gastroenterologist in Los Angeles.

Melanie Fine: Really? Wow.

Marian Rosenthal: And now there are lots!

Melanie Fine: Fabulous. Is surgery still male dominated?

Marian Rosenthal: Not as much.

Melanie Fine: Not as much.

Marian Rosenthal: Definitely not. So the same way the surgical specialties also were not as male dominated as they were.

Melanie Fine: Right.

Marian Rosenthal: So I think there has been a very big change in medicine and I think part of it is believing that you can do it and I think we’ve talked about this before. Part of my believing that I could do it came from my mother. Who strongly believed that women can do just about anything men can do and if you want to do something do it.  And so, you know, I think being told that being told you are as bright as any of the men and you can do it.

Melanie Fine: Right.

Marian Rosenthal: And coming from a house household where intellectual activities were, you know, thought to be excellent and you strive to be the best you can, you read a lot, you thought a lot, discussed a lot, and I think that’s a very good breeding ground.

Melanie Fine: Right and you—so you’re taught that you can do anything but you also were modelled that. Your mother was also in science wasn’t she?

Marian Rosenthal: Yes. My mother was, well, she had wanted to be a doctor and she graduated from college in 1932 which was depression time, and it was unusual for women to go to college at that time, and then she got a master's degree in chemistry which was again unheard of; but there was no way that she could go to medical school. She had to go out to work and so she, you know, worked in a lab as a chemist and for lots of years she taught, but she had wanted to be a doctor and my dad had also wanted to be a doctor, again the same kind of scenario. My mother was the oldest of five and my father was in the middle of a family of eight kids so it was not really possible; and grandmother always encouraged us. And you’ve heard the story where we—there were four of us and my parents said we'll take care of college if you want to go to graduate school you’ll have to get fellowships and teach or do something ‘cause we really don't have the funds to support you there. But, if you want to go to medical school I’ll scrub floors. So when I decided I came home and I said mom get out the scrubbing brush.

Melanie Fine: That’s great.

Marian Rosenthal: And so, besides my mom, my other I think greatest influence is my husband. And we were college classmates who went to the same medical school. When we got married he said professionally you need to keep your main name. Your parents wanted a Dr. Rosenthal you should be Dr. Rosenthal and I truthfully hadn't thought of it. I mean now a days it’s very common, but it only-- I've always thought that that's been a good thing because I have two identities.

Melanie Fine: Right.

Marian Rosenthal: and he’s been my biggest supporter. Also telling me that yeah I can go into any field I want.

Melanie Fine: That’s Fabulous. So when you were—so I’m assuming you had childhood in the fifties, forties, fifties. Fifties?

Marian Rosenthal: Yeah. I was born in ’44. So, you know I--, most of it was growing up in the fifties and the idealist kind of thing where houses weren’t locked and you’d play out in the street and when it got dark your mom would call out the window and say come on in.

Melanie Fine: Right. Right.

Marian Rosenthal: And neighbors looked out for each other.

Melanie Fine: You didn’t have video games.

Marian Rosenthal: We had no video games. We had puzzles. We had some board games and we had books!

Melanie Fine: Right. Right.

Marian Rosenthal: And I think my grandmother had a TV and she lived downstairs from us. So sometimes we could watch that.

Melanie Fine: Right.

Marian Rosenthal: But it really was nice not to have all the other distractions. And since there were four of us I always had someone to play. I always had someone to fight with.

Melanie Fine: It kept you busy.

Marian Rosenthal: Kept, for sure.

Melanie Fine: And  growing up in the in the fifties going to school was there—did you—was there—I mean it’s interesting that you went into medicine. Obviously your mom, especially your parents, said that you could do anything you wanted to. Did you notice any bias when you went to school about girls in science and math?

Marian Rosenthal: Not not in high school and college I went to women's college.

Melanie Fine: Ok.

Marian Rosenthal: Which I think I went to Barnard College in New York. In high school, you know, there was-- my high school was a very strange high school. It had 5000 students in it.

Melanie Fine: Wow!

Marian Rosenthal: Which is a lot and it had three different tracks. It had academic. It had business. That was for people who were going to become secretaries or stenographers or whatever. And then they had just general which meant you stuck it out till you could leave and they had non-academic courses. So the academic group was pretty cohesive and there was not any prejudice against anyone with math and science, and you know women took all the classes and they had advanced placement classes and everything. And then when I went to college I think for me it was very good being in an all women school because you could be smart.

Melanie Fine: Right.

Marian Rosenthal: You could talk in class. It, you know, it wasn't—you weren’t looked on as someone who was strange and again in having the ability to speak in class, having the ability to take all the classes that I wanted I think helped. And I always knew I wanted to do math or science, but initially I thought I wanted to do math until I took all of the higher mathematics and realized I was not an ivory tower person, that I preferred to deal with people; and then I started thinking about medicine and while I was in high school I had worked in a dental office where there was an oral surgeon, who did all sorts of operations and I was his assistant and I loved that. So the more I thought about it--

Melanie Fine: You think you’re his assistant in high school.

Marian Rosenthal: Well I was in high school, yeah. And the more I thought about it I thought, yeah, I really prefer working with people. I think I'd like to go to medical school and once I made that decision I didn’t look back. It was, you know, a really wonderful decision because I love my career. I love what I could do and I think I made a contribution to society and I always like taking a challenge. So, in medical school there were some who would say “why are you here?” but not a lot and that was fine.  Internship, you know again, you prove yourself. You’re able to do the work than no one, you know, questions you.

Melanie Fine: Right.

Marian Rosenthal: And the same thing like in practice, you know some patients would say “I’ve never had a woman doctor” and I’d I look at them and say neither have I. Because I hadn’t got that point.

Melanie Fine: Right. Right.

Marian Rosenthal: And the patients who were the hardest to deal with were the ones who were usually lower socioeconomics, workmen, younger, whose—you know they were macho men and they didn’t like a woman telling them what to do.

Melanie Fine: Interesting.

Marian Rosenthal: But I think again a lot of that has changed because I would rare then. I’m not anymore.

Melanie Fine: Right. Right. Did you ever have trouble getting patients because are female?

Marian Rosenthal: No, just the opposite.

Melanie Fine: Really?

Marian Rosenthal: Really.

Melanie Fine: Fabulous.

Marian Rosenthal: The male doctors, well especially female patients –

Melanie Fine: Right.

Marian Rosenthal: realizing that they could see a female doctor were very happy. And then, you know, male patients came around.

Melanie Fine: Right. Right.

Marian Rosenthal: I think it no longer became a question of your sex. It became a question of your abilities.

Melanie Fine: Right.

Marian Rosenthal: And if he could prove that you did a job, that you cared about your patients, it didn’t matter that you were male or female.

Melanie Fine: Did--So did you know—so when you were choosing medical school did you know women who were doctors?

Marian Rosenthal: Actually none.

Melanie Fine: None.

Marian Rosenthal: None. I had a cousin of my father’s was a doctor and then there were some local doctors I had gone to but I really knew no one.

Melanie Fine: Interesting. Go ahead.

Marian Rosenthal: Yea I think I had just decided in my mind that since higher math was not going to be for me I needed something that was more down to earth and used science and decided how about medicine and the  more I thought about it the more I liked it.

Melanie Fine: And you knew that it was open to you because of the way you were raised.

Marian Rosenthal: Right.

Melanie Fine: Because I—often we don’t see possibilities in careers if we don’t, you know, see our gender in that career. We don’t realize its progress.

Marian Rosenthal: Right. Right, so you know, I had no mentors.

Melanie Fine: But your mother definitely wanted you to be a doctor and her statement well I’ll scrub floors.

Marian Rosenthal: Right. Right.

Melanie Fine: Wonderful. So, if someone were going into medicine today what do you think is one of the more fascinating areas to go into?

Marian Rosenthal: They’re all fascinating. It depends what you like, I mean, now there’s so many things in terms of drugs that they are developing with immunotherapy, there, you know, all the gene testing. I'm fascinated by all of this and how they can figure out who's the risk for certain things because they have a certain gene and how to advise them what to do. And then in all of the, you know, surgical type field there’s so many ways of doing procedures. I think if-- you have to figure out what interests you and what you think you'd be good at. If you don’t like listening don’t be a psychiatrist. If you don’t like listening really don’t be a doctor. But, you know, you have to decide do you want to deal directly with the patient? Do you want to look through a microscope? Do you want to do research? Do you want to --- is the heart the thing that fascinates you? Is the brain the thing that fascinates you?  And I think you have to make your decision based on that. And you make a decision in medical school-- doesn’t mean that you can’t go into another field and people do crossover. It used to be that people would take things called rotating internships where they would have a little bit of everything, but nowadays people tend to go into their fields right way.

Melanie Fine: Right away.

Marian Rosenthal: And sometimes it's good and sometimes it's bad.

Melanie Fine: Right because they might have chosen the wrong one?

Marian Rosenthal: Yeah or they might have chosen something that they then realize is not for them. But you can change.

Melanie Fine: Right. Now is that why, is that why there’s two different thing—because of that rotating internship? Is that why there’s internship and then residency?

Marian Rosenthal: Except now they don’t call—they don’t divide it up. They just call it postgraduate year and PG-Y1 is what used to be internship and then it goes up from there.

Melanie Fine: Ok, and then the number of years depends on the specialty you’re going into.

Marian Rosenthal: Right, specialty and then sub-specialty.

Melanie Fine: Got it. Got it.

Marian Rosenthal: And you know, yes it’s a lot of years but you know if it’s something you want it’s worth it.

Melanie Fine: And it seems like the way you’re talking there’s there’s really something for everyone. There’s so many different avenues to be a doctor.

Marian Rosenthal: Yeah there are and, you know, you can decide whether you want to be in the city, in the rural, you can work for drug companies, you can work for insurance companies, you know, depending on—and and you know not that that sounds interesting to me, but the other possibilities also and I think on you would always have security that you could have a job. You could always find a job and nowadays there aren’t many fields you can say that about.

Melanie Fine: Right.

Marian Rosenthal: And I think you can always find a fulfilling job.

Melanie Fine: So you used be a—is this, is this, is this—did I just interrupt you?

Marian Rosenthal: No that’s ok. Go ahead.

Melanie Fine: They used to be—Sorry I think I did it again. Like 20 or 30 years ago I think there was concern that there were too many people becoming doctors. Did that ever come to fruition? Is that something that--

Marian Rosenthal: No. No there were not too many. Well the thing is there can be an imbalance as to where the doctors are located.

Melanie Fine: Right.

Marian Rosenthal: But you know, I don't think there are too few doctors and, you know, there’s always been the talk of computers taking over and being able to take the place. There are also mid-level medical personnel, PAs and NPs.  A PA is someone who gets advanced courses after college and it’s call physician's assistant and they can do certain procedures and they can take care of certain kinds of patients. An NP is a nurse practitioner. So it’s someone who has an RN and then goes on to another couple of years and gets the RN-P degree and they also work and are called physician extenders.  So they can help physicians take care of certain problems and they keep getting on no more things that they can do.

Melanie Fine: Right.

Marian Rosenthal: So again, even if someone thinks for medical school is too long there are other programs such as, you know, the PA.

Melanie Fine: Right.

Marian Rosenthal: Which I think is two or three years after college and then you can go out and start working.

Melanie Fine: Right so it’s two, three years of school and work experience or is it just school?

Marian Rosenthal: I’m sure that you have some work experience as you go and usually rotate through different places.

Melanie Fine: Right, I mean I can even understand those—it’s not necessarily just time, you know, it’s the costs of medical school is just it’s outrageous.

Marian Rosenthal: And you know by agreeing to serve the underserved you can have some of your medical costs defrayed so there is all different ways. The military—

Melanie Fine: Right.

Marian Rosenthal: Will extract years from you but they will take care of your medical school.

Melanie Fine: In a time when we’re not at war it’s a good deal.

Marian Rosenthal: Yes. Yes.

Melanie Fine: They can never guarantee that.

Marian Rosenthal: No, these days in this world? Uh-uh.

Melanie Fine: I know. I know. So you’re saying, obviously, more women in medicine for sure. Do you—how—how do you think we could attract even more women into into science in general?

Marian Rosenthal: I think by making science more interesting by-- you would—some of the schools have done something very interesting. They've made the math and science classes unisex to encourage the girls to be in the class and learn and not be intimidated.

Melanie Fine: Interesting.

Marian Rosenthal: Have you read about that?

Melanie Fine: I—this is the first I’m hearing about it.

Marian Rosenthal: They've had that in certain high schools and they think that that helps the girls get a solid background in the science and not be afraid of it.

Melanie Fine: It’s so interesting. I was talking to an astronomer last week, Dr. Sandra Faber out of UC Santa Cruz, and you know I asked her the same question and she said she doesn’t really see a difference. She asked me well do you see in a difference in desire to study science? And I said well I don’t think—I’m not sure that I do but I think it’s a difference in in—what we’re talking about is in asking questions. And girls are---boys are just much more confident with what they know and you know girls don’t want to embarrass themselves.

Marian Rosenthal: Right.

Melanie Fine: And she was saying yes, in fact, she agreed that that the girls that she teaches or taught she’s now emeritus, but the girls that she taught wouldn’t ask as many questions. And she thinks that, you know, teachers are always dying for questions. They want to know that you’re engaged and and want to know what you’re thinking. And girls are just much more reluctant. So that I can understand the positive impacts of having, you know the single gender classrooms.

Marian Rosenthal: Yeah and I think again, I think going to an all women's college was beneficial to me. And when I looked at the women in my medical school class most of them had gone to all women's colleges. So, that obviously gave women at that time the feeling that they could do it.

Melanie Fine: Right there wasn’t messaging that they weren’t as good as---

Marian Rosenthal: Nope.

Melanie Fine: because there were no other—there were no boys there.

Marian Rosenthal: There were no boys there to say that, you know, you’re not as good as they are.

Melanie Fine: Right.

Marian Rosenthal: So I think, you know, that the world is mixed sex but it's nice to have a time when you can be yourself and not worry about making an impression on someone, dating someone and, you know, that’s gone from the classroom. And it may sound reactionary, but I think it may be something worth considering. To have some single sex math and science classes.

Melanie Fine: It’s very interesting it’s something to think about. In a world where everything is so pluralistic it might actually make sense. So what advice—go ahead.

Marian Rosenthal: And I think you’ve got to show that science and math have relevance  because I think that's something that's big now, with the world crazy as it is, I think you have to feel that you're going into a field will make a difference, you will learn something that will help something. And you know I think, I mean, there is always going to be the basic stuff but I think you have to feel like you're important and what you do is important. And so I think learning more about how the science pertains to everything that's going on be it climate change, pollution of the environment, I mean science plays a huge role in that and learning about it can help the world.

Melanie Fine: Definitely. Definitely. So, I have one more question to ask you--

Marian Rosenthal: Ok.

Melanie Fine: and that question is what advice would you give to girls considering a career science and medicine?

Marian Rosenthal: Well, now I think there are many more mentors and I think having a mentor or being exposed to what the field would look like is very helpful and I know that various times  high school students or college students have come around and seen how medicine is practiced. I think if they went to a lab to see or worked in a lab during the summer or having those kind of internships or that availability I think would really help. I mean me once they have some interest to nurture it and to have some sort of enriched programs for them.

Melanie Fine: Wow you’re feeding – I didn’t even give you a script. You’re feeding into my program that I’ve been off—that I started offering just a couple weeks ago, called the Rockets Girls Blast Off Coaching program. Where I encourage girls in that program to find mentors and to actually do real science and real science research while in high school. Those extra activities, you know--

Marian Rosenthal: Right.

Melanie Fine: If you’re interested in science get connected, do it!

Marian Rosenthal: Right, yes and find out, you know, find out or like if you could be a clearing house for finding programs.

Melanie Fine: Right. Right, Exactly. Finding those programs and getting girls connected to them.

Marian Rosenthal: Right.

Melanie Fine: Exactly. Because even if you don’t like the experience that’s as valuable knowledge as if you love it.

Marian Rosenthal: Right and even if you don’t like that experience you might meet someone, at the time, who knows something about something else.

Melanie Fine: Right.

Marian Rosenthal: And then find your place.

Melanie Fine: Right. Because so much of it is about the relationships you make.

Marian Rosenthal: Yes.

Melanie Fine: Well, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today.

Marian Rosenthal: It’s been a pleasure Melanie.

Melanie Fine: It’s been a pleasure and I will see you perhaps this weekend.

Marian Rosenthal: You will definitely see me this weekend.

Melanie Fine: Terrific. I don’t know if you’ll see me.

Marian Rosenthal: I could see.

Melanie Fine: Yes, exactly. You got it. You got it.

Marian Rosenthal: Ok. Ok. Ok.

Melanie Fine: Have a good day.

Marian Rosenthal: Bye- Bye.


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