Juliana Sanchez Gebb, MD, is an Attending High-Risk Obstetrician in the Richard D. Wood Jr. Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She specializes in maternal-fetal medicine, caring for mothers carrying babies with prenatally diagnosed birth defects in the Garbose Family Special Delivery Unit, and providing surgical interventions to improve outcomes for both mothers and babies.
Here, she shares her thoughts on race, gender and how these factors have impacted her career choices.
Q: When did you know you wanted to become a doctor?
A: I decided that I wanted to be a doctor in college. In all honesty, I ended up at Columbia University for undergrad and felt a bit out of place. I met with a guidance counselor who told me that most students at Columbia choose to go into medicine, business or law. I had no interest in the other two, so I ended up in medicine! I feel very lucky that I did.
Q: What barriers did you face?
A: I was the first woman on my father’s side of the family to go to college. My father worked at a major university that offered some tuition support that could be used for Columbia. Initially, my father wanted to save that support for my 5-year-old brother. I had to work hard to get him to see the importance of letting me use it and he was very happy in the end that he did.
Q: Is CHOP a welcoming place for surgeons from under-represented categories? How?
A: CHOP strives to be a welcoming place for physicians from under-represented groups. There is a sense of history and tradition here that often focuses on the accomplishments of white men. But CHOP appears to be making an effort to promote diversity, which will allow us to build a new history based on inclusion by embracing the differences that make us stronger as a whole.
Q: Why is it important to see more diversity in the ranks of surgery and maternal-fetal medicine?
A: It is important to see more diversity because we want our surgeons to reflect our patient population and the general population. Patients feel more comfortable when doctors and hospital staff applaud diversity and try to understand cultural and social differences.
Q: What can leaders do to make the surgical field more welcoming and representative?
A: I think it all starts with encouraging medical students to go into surgery. When I was a student, there was an expectation that most women would not go into surgery and so the encouragement and teaching was focused mostly on men. I liked surgery a lot but felt intimidated with the field and ended up entering my current position through Obstetrics & Gynecology, which felt more welcoming.
Q: What is your top piece of advice to female and minority medical students who are interested in surgery?
A: Go for it, don’t be intimidated! Make it clear to the teams that you work with that you find the surgical fields fascinating and that you like to work with your hands. Look for mentors who prize diversity and get advice on how to get involved in research.
Q: What’s one myth or misunderstanding about your field you’d want others to know?
A: There is a myth in surgical fields that OBGYN surgeons are not as good as surgeons in other fields. I think this is left over misogynism. OBGYN is just like other fields in which there are phenomenal surgeons and more average ones.
Q: What is your favorite part about practicing medicine?
A: Forming close relationships with patients and experiencing some of the most important moments of their life with them.
Q: What is your favorite part about working at CHOP?
A: Working at CHOP has enabled me to work with experts in multiple fields. The multidisciplinary care that we offer here is the best of the best. I love working in a place where I know that I am offering my patient the best possible care for themselves and their families.
To learn more about Dr. Gebb, her education and training or research interests, please see her staff biography.