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9 What Role (Positive and/or Negative) Did Being a Woman Play in Your Career?

9 What Role (Positive and/or Negative) Did Being a Woman Play in Your Career?

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Lynn E. DeLisi


specific to women and have fought hard for others if I thought they were being

discriminated against because they were female. I have had, on the other hand,

mentioned above, many obstacles that did have a negative effect on me because

I am a woman. These are just facts that I live with. Currently being an “older

woman” is no fun. Postmenopausal women are seen as “over-the-hill,” whereas

similar aged men give the appearance of being more distinguished and endowed

with leadership qualities that people often do not think of women as having.


How Did You Deal With the Issue

of Work–Family Balance?

Much of this question is answered above when I wrote of the obstacles and other

personal challenges in my life. However, while achieving a successful work–family

balance was a challenge, I did manage it by obtaining special permission to take

longer to graduate medical school, to do residency 3/4 time (yet finishing on time

by sacrificing lunch and working twice as hard as the others in the time I had), by

accepting positions in my career that were convenient for my family, by having

homes in two different states or halfway between my husband’s office and my own,

but most of all, by spending my money on full-time housekeepers, and by analyzing

data in hours way after all others in my household had gone to sleep. I am a

grandmother now and see these same issues being dealt with by my daughter and

daughter-in-law, each very differently. The latter sacrificed her own career for my

son’s and so she stays home and manages the children and all their activities. My

daughter struggles with a full-time career, but manages because her husband

changed diapers, drives kids to endless activities, and has done his share of the

family chores. How one balances career and family is the essence and challenge of

life and it differs by stage of life for sure.


What Would You do Differently If You Were

to Start Your Career Now?

This is a question that can only have a theoretical answer, as times have changed

and the challenges and obstacles in my 40-year career would not be the same if

I now had the opportunity for another 40. However, there are things I could have

done differently: (1) I could have devoted myself more to raising my children in

those crucial years when they needed me and were growing up. Those years did not

last very long, but those were the years that I was climbing the academic ladder and

because of that always so stressed by the need to succeed. (2) I would have had

more confidence in myself so that I would have been able to develop a strategy for

negotiating for what I deserved as I advanced. Perhaps formal training in leadership

and negotiation skills would be something I should have pursued. (3) I never would


L.E. DeLisi

have taken a job that was a parallel or even worse, a step-down move. And

(4) despite my focus on a full-time research career in my early and middle years,

I should have foreseen the power of being board certified in my specialty and

pursued “Boards” despite my feeling that they were a waste of time. At the moment

when I finally realized this, it was too late, as all my close colleagues were board

examiners and they had too much difficulty finding anyone to interview me for the

orals who did not know me.


What Advice Would You Give to a Young Woman

Starting Her Career Now?

Always strive for excellence, be persistent, work hard, and be the best you can.

Never take advantage of your status as a woman to expect special favors or privileges. Know that you are equal to men, but also different in many ways. These

differences can either help or hinder you, depending on how you use them. Most of

all, remember to be compromising and sharing with both your male and female

colleagues, negotiating with kindness and respect for them, as you would like them

to do with you.


Judith M. Ford

Judith M. Ford


Dr. Judith M. Ford

Dr. Judith M. Ford is a Professor of Psychiatry and Co-director of the Brain

Imaging and EEG Laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco, USA.

She is at the forefront of efforts to bridge the gap between neuroscience and

J.M. Ford (&)

Department of Psychiatry, San Francisco VA Medical Center, University of California San

Francisco, 4150 Clement Street, 116D, San Francisco, CA 94121, USA

e-mail: Judith.ford@ucsf.edu

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

S. Frangou (ed.), Women in Academic Psychiatry,

DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-32177-6_2



J.M. Ford

psychiatry. Her research focuses on integrating data across imaging modalities and

EEG to characterize the neural correlates of symptom expression in psychosis. Dr.

Ford is committed to promoting mentoring in her field and in particular to fostering

the next generation of translational psychiatrists through her role as Director of the

VA Schizophrenia Research Fellowship Program.


What Was Your Earliest Ambition?

I had a series of early ambitions. As a tall 4 year old, I dreamed of being the tall

lady in the circus. Several years later, I dreamed of being a movie star—not an

actress—just a star. In high school, I was the first girl ever to run for student council

president and dismissed questions of whether it was “against the rules” for a girl to

run. I failed at all three dreams. When I got to college, there were not many women

role models on the faculty, and instead of dreaming of being a college professor, I

dreamed of marrying one. I succeeded at that, but only after I became a professor



What Attracted You to Psychiatry?

During my first (and only) year in the PhD program in cognitive psychology at UC

Berkeley in 1970, I studied human memory. Historical scholars may remember that

UC Berkeley closed its doors in the spring of 1970 following the invasion of

Cambodia. This was a time of great political and social upheaval and, for many, a

time of personal introspection. I decided to “take a break” from memory research to

find a socially responsible job. My quest led me to the laboratory of Dr. Bert Kopell

of the Department of Psychiatry at Stanford Medical School, located at the VA

hospital. Dr. Kopell was studying schizophrenia, using methods at the “interface of

psychology and physiology.” Not only did the prospect of learning about psychiatric illnesses seem ecologically valid, but I was also intrigued by the possibility of

learning how to record evoked potentials—a “window on the brain.” Although I

was surrounded by veterans with schizophrenia, initially I was not particularly

interested in their symptoms or illness and focused instead on basic human neuroscience. A product of the sixties, I believed schizophrenia was a “choice,” not a

brain disease, and wondered why my colleagues were wasting their time. In spite of

my biases, in the mid-1980s, I worked on a schizophrenia brain imaging project

with Dolf Pfefferbaum and quickly realized what others already knew: People with

schizophrenia have a serious brain disease, manifested in abnormalities in brain

function and structure. I came to appreciate the power of clinical neuroscience

research in promoting our understanding of the mechanisms of psychopathology

and giving patients and families a biological explanation for the symptoms of the



Judith M. Ford



What Do You Enjoy Most in Your Job Now?

I enjoy interacting with patients in our studies and listening to them talk about their

lives and experiences. This is personally rewarding, and it also informs my efforts

to understand the neural mechanisms responsible for the hallucinations and delusions they describe. I enjoy interacting with my colleagues locally, nationally, and

internationally. This happens in the course of running a laboratory full of young

scholars, in serving on and chairing committees and in presenting research data at

conferences around the world.


Who Do You Consider Your Mentor(s)

During Your Career?

I was an “early adopter” of the EEG-based evoked potential method. Its utility in

human neuroscience led me to pursue a PhD in Neuroscience at Stanford. Although

there was local expertise, there was only one other neuroscience student interested in

human neuroscience, making it a lonely enterprise. Steve Hillyard, at UC San Diego,

was an even earlier adopter of the method, and I was lucky enough to spend a

summer in San Diego working closely with him and all the other graduate students in

his laboratory. It was a rich educational experience that I could not have had at

Stanford. Steve agreed to remotely guide my PhD dissertation on human attention

and evoked potentials. After getting my PhD, I continued to work closely with Tom

Roth and Dolf Pfefferbaum, psychiatrists and human electrophysiologists at Stanford. They were important scientific and career mentors and worked hard to get me

appointed to the psychiatry faculty at a time when PhDs were not exactly welcomed.


What Was Your Best Career Move?

The best move I ever made was my move to Yale. The Yale Psychiatry Department

valued PhDs and welcomed me. About a month after I arrived, I got a call from the

chair’s office inviting me to the “tenured faculty” meeting. I gasped, “I have tenure?”

Tenure was something I had never dreamed of having nor thought to ask about.


What Were The Key Obstacles You Had to Overcome?

Before moving to Yale, where the culture welcomed PhDs, the biggest obstacle I

faced was being a PhD in a department full of MDs. PhDs could not get a faculty

appointment without grant support and could not get grant support without a faculty

appointment—an impossible situation. To work around this and stay in the research


J.M. Ford

game, I had to find colleagues willing to serve as principle investigator on grant

applications I wrote. I did this for decades, until the culture softened and I joined the

faculty. However, even after I was on the faculty and had risen to the rank of full

professor, I continued to face obstacles in the workplace. One Sunday afternoon

before a Monday morning MRI scan of a research participant, an MD in my

department questioned whether I was qualified to do MR scanning because I was

not an MD. He tried hard to shut me down. My department chair came to my rescue

in the nick of time, and I scanned early Monday morning.


What Kept You Going During Difficult Times?

Occasionally, over my long career, I have wondered whether it is all worth it—

feelings of inadequacy fueled by negative reviews of papers, difficulty balancing

work and family, and internecine warfare in the department. At those times when I

got close to quitting, I realized I would miss all the friends and colleagues I had

gotten to know over the years. Although I only saw them once or twice a year, I had

developed strong attachments to them, because we had “grown up together” in the

field. If I quit, I’d never see them again.


What Role (Positive and/or Negative) Did Being

a Woman Play in Your Career?

As an older woman, I recently realized that I am “invisible.” My equally old friends

from high school agree—it does not matter what we do, what we wear, what we

say—we go unnoticed. We are all OK with it, and it is strangely liberating.

However, in thinking about when this “invisibility” started, I realize that even

young women are often unheard, or if heard, they are not given credit for what they

have contributed. The universality of this was apparent when I saw a New Yorker

cartoon, depicting a board meeting with the chairman saying, “That’s an excellent

suggestion, Miss Triggs. Perhaps one of the men here would like to make it.”


How Did You Deal with the Issue

of Work–Family Balance?

I balanced work and family by working part-time and raising my daughters

full-time—a 150 % FTE. I worked part-time for 22 years, from the birth of my

older daughter until my younger daughter left for college. I worked whenever they

were occupied with friends, lessons, sports, music, school, or asleep. When they

were little, struggles at work could not bring me down because of their pervasive

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