Explore UAB

mmarquesMarisa Marques, MD, is Professor and Interim Division Director of Laboratory Medicine and co-chair of the Department of Pathology's Diversity Task Force. This group meets monthly and includes representatives from around the department, including faculty, staff, and trainees. Here, Dr. Marques shares her personal story of diversity. 

Are you a graduate of an international medical school (IMG)? Are you a parent? A significant other? A resident? Embarking on an academic career? Many years ago, I also identified with those labels (and some of them, still do). I still remember vividly how it felt to be at those milestones, and I would love to share with you some heartfelt advice.

If you think you are limited by your circumstances, you are not.  Have you ever heard people say, “Residency is not for you,” or “You have come a long way,” or “Your priority is your family,” and have any of them made you feel less able than your peers? Don’t! Of course, your family comes first.  What kind of human being would you be if that were not the case? But why is that even relevant in terms of your career? It is not up to anyone but us to know who we are, what we want, and what we can do.

When I began this journey, as a Pathology resident at UAB in 1994, I was the only female resident with children.  I remember thinking that nobody else had to take the kids to school, wait for the baby sitter, or arrange something at the last minute when my baby had a fever overnight.  Each day was a challenge, but one day I decided that it would not keep me from doing my best while at work.  These experiences make us who we are and strengthen us.  They don’t diminish us or give anyone a reason to think less of us as professionals. I heard my share of comments or hints that I could not handle the work for which I had signed up, because of my personal life, or “personality”.  Don’t let anything or anyone make you feel you have to give up your aspirations.  It is your choice to pursue whatever you wish to  pursue, and it is your choice to decide not to, if that is what is best for you and your family.  Work hard and do not waste your energy worrying about what you can or cannot be/do because you are “different” from others around you.  Everyone has something to contribute and it is together that we accomplish more.

When my oldest son was 12, I told him about a colleague who often verbalized the burden of their (desired) position, to which he remarked as we drove home: “With great power comes great responsibility,” quoting the great Stan Lee.  To this day, this resonates with me.  Make sure you are willing to take the responsibility that comes with the “power” you desire.  My suggestion is that if you want something that will put a burden on you or your family, consider the balance of power and responsibility.  If you still want to do it, do not complain.

Many years later, my youngest son showed me the famous quote from American Olympic runner Steve Prefontaine: “To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift.”  I could not say it any better than that. This is my final advice to you – do not sacrifice your talent because of your “circumstances” and do not allow anybody to tell you of your limitations.  Our department is much richer because all of us bring our diverse backgrounds, culture, personalities, skills, weaknesses and gifts to work with us every day. 

Marisa B. Marques, MD
UAB Resident/Chief Resident/Fellow – 1994-1998
UAB faculty member – 1998 - present