Laura Mosqueda, MD

Remarks for Women of Impact
May 23, 2018

Gracias por esta amable introducion. Estoy muy agradecida estar aqui con ustedes.

Thank you for the kind introduction. I am so happy and honored to be here with you today even though this is way out of my comfort zone. (I’m used to talking about physiology of aging or forensic markers of elder abuse or the neurochemistry of AD).

Twenty-three years ago, Hillary Rodham Clinton gave a speech to the United Nations 4th World Conference on Women Plenary Session in Beijing, China. She said something simple, yet profound: “If women are healthy and educated, their families will florish. If women are free from violence, their families will flourish. If women have a chance to work and earn as full and equal partners in society, their families will flourish. And when families flourish, communities and nations do as well.”

These sentiments make sense to me. Perhaps because I’m a primary care physician who has spent many hours in the community, doing house calls, working at homeless shelters, seeing abused and neglected elders in partnership with social services and police. And now, as the Dean of this medical school in trying times, it is more important than ever to be a person who demonstrates the special gift we have as women leaders: to be less competitive and more collaborative, to be less cynical and more empathetic, to be less judgmental and more open hearted.

But don’t let people make the common mistake of thinking these quality means we are not tough: we are. And we make tough choices and have tough conversations in a way that is compassionate and ethical. Leading is not about beating people into submission, bending people to our will, imposing our ideas on others. Rather it is about listening carefully (really hearing what people have to say) and doing our best to understand others’ thought processes and motivations so that our decisions are well-informed and thoughtful.

I’m pretty lucky: I come from a long line of strong women. My maternal grandmother lost many siblings and her parents in the Holocust. She escaped her homeland in Austria, married an American and moved to Chicago but her husband died when her son (my father) was a young boy. She moved to Los Angeles to be with her only surviving brother and they started a business together which allowed them to live a comfortable lower-middle class life. Imagine the grit and determination it took for a widowed Jewish mother to start and run a store in the late 1930s when anti-semitism was rampant and women in business were almost unheard of.

My mother was also a pioneer. She graduated from medical school in 1954 at a time there was a quota on women. She was one of six women in her class and eventually went to work for Kaiser Permanente in the early 1960s. She did so because she believed in the model of caring for people who did not have to pay her directly and of being able to provide the care she wanted while on salary. Other physicians considered this communistic activity and she was not allowed to join the local medical society. She eventually developed a new approach to mammography and published some seminal papers on the topic. Meanwhile, the x-ray technicians who worked with her knew that if there was a suspicious lesion they were to find her immediately so that she could go and talk to the patient, gently explaining that there may be a concern, talking about next steps, and personally calling surgeons and oncologists when needed. It was quite unusual for a radiologist to go out of their office or dark reading room and actually meet patients, and I think that it took a woman to do this. I still remember the many gifts from grateful patients that graced our home.

All of this is a long way to say how lucky I am. While we had more than our share of family tragedy I was lucky to have had role models, to have had a loving family, and to have grown up with a belief that my chromosomes did not limit my options.

Return for a minute to Mrs. Clinton: “If women are healthy and educated, their families will florish. If women are free from violence, their families will flourish. If women have a chance to work and earn as full and equal partners in society, their families will flourish. And when families flourish, communities and nations do as well”.

Let’s think about how this applies to this medical school. Our school cannot be successful if our students, faculty, and staff are not prospering. In turn, our school must be a contributor to a prosperous and thriving community. One builds on the other, and one cannot exist without the other. I encourage the students, faculty and staff at the Keck School to embrace our role in the larger community – whether this be in the university, the local community or even through one of our global health programs. And let’s remember that at the most basic and essential level, prosperity is not just about money. It involves health and having access to services to keep you healthy; the availability of meaningful and engaging jobs; and living in a community that is safe and welcoming. As your neighbor and your partner, I firmly believe that the school has a responsibility to participate, support and engage.

I have been fortunate as a family physician who focuses on care of older adults and their families. I am in a fortunate position where the people who I serve are not just patients with whom I have minimal and infrequent contact. Rather, I typically get to know my patients and often their families over many years. I still make house calls. Being in someone’s home, surrounded by their family members during critical moments, sometimes the last moments of their lives, is truly a privilege. Over the years, those interactions have taught me about what is important in life: family, friends, a sense of contentment about what we’ve done and why we’ve done it, and a sense of purpose as we look to the future.

It is with this heart that I look at leadership and how we can better work together as a community. I look at this audience and our panel and see remarkable women who have worked and continue to work on issues to improve the lives of those who live within this beautiful and complex community. To affect change in a community is to be engaged and tethered to it in meaningful ways. I am honored to stand among you, as a partner and an advocate.

No matter what your position is or what your role is in your respective organizations, we are all leaders. We should take the initiative to cultivate a successful atmosphere where we can prosper along with those around us. Organizations truly benefit from women in leadership positions. We bring a diversity of experiences, perspective and values that give a team a competitive advantage and special creativity. As women we are so often asked to wear many different hats – whether this be in the workplace or at home. This ability to switch and maneuver through difficult situations are some of the things that make women leaders so effective.

I think one key is to be a leader through what comes naturally (“you may as well be yourself: everyone else is taken”). A friend sent me a quote from a book that she thought described me: “The most effective people in the world are introverts who have taught themselves to be extroverts.” She’s absolutely right. I’ve discovered my own style and I’ve made the most of it. I find those things that mean the most to me, even those that scare me, and make those the areas where I will take a gulp and put myself out there. I truly believe that to be a successful leader and an effective person in general, one has to remain loyal to the things that matter most to them. The thrill or power of leadership should never eclipse the beating heart of why we do the things that we love to do, the things we belive in.

I thank you for this wonderful honor. I truly hope that during my tenure I will make an impact in our community by successfully practicing my mantra: Do the right things for the right reasons. Do my best and stay focused on what’s important. I think that by living our authentic selves each one of us has the opportunity to become a leader in whatever path we choose. “If women are healthy and educated, their families will florish. If women are free from violence, their families will flourish. If women have a chance to work and earn as full and equal partners in society, their families will flourish. And when families flourish, communities and nations do as well.”