Emergency room physician Valerie Dobiesz, M.D., urged Worcester State University students to find their passion, seek help from colleagues, and be resilient in the face of failure as they make their way in the world.
“All things are possible when you have an idea,” said Dobiesz, director of external programs at the STRATUS Center for Medical Simulation at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and the director of the hospital’s Women’s Leadership Initiative.
The recent talk was the final Bridge to Excellence lecture of the semester. Sponsored by the Imoigele P. Aisiku, M.D., ’92 STEM Center , the series brings experts from Brigham & Women’s Hospital to campus to offer guidance to students interested in pursuing careers in medicine.
Dobiesz detailed her career journey, which began when the Kentucky native entered Vanderbilt as a first-generation college student majoring in biology and French literature. Through medical school and residency training, she uncovered a passion for emergency medicine, global health, and women’s issues.
She detailed the trials and tribulation of creating a medical device that has the potential of addressing the leading cause of maternal death in the developing world—blood loss during child birth. Using personal connections, she has recruited a team of experts from the Chicago and Boston areas who are working on an infusion pump that collects, filters, and then reuses a woman’s own blood lost during delivery, potentially saving lives in areas without access to medication and blood banks.
The team is working through many issues, such as how to create a cost-effective filter that eliminates bacteria and amniotic fluid from the blood, and how to move the prototype through animal models to human testing. Many times team members encountered problems that appeared to be insurmountable, but so far they have always found a way to push forward.
“If I can save one woman who might otherwise die, this journey would have been worth it,” she said, adding that it may take two years before the device can be used for real. Once perfected, the pump might also be a life-saving tool for severely injured soldiers in combat.
An essential skill that Dobiesz returned to frequently was resilience. Despite her obvious career and personal success, she said she is most proud of her ability to overcome failures.
“I’ve had so many failures in my life, and was so down. But in the end, they opened doors that I didn’t even know were possible,” she said. “Back in the day, I would get upset for a week or longer depending on the significance. Now, I get one day and I’m done.
For one day, I can be bummed and be discouraged, but then I’m going to move on.”
Dobiesz offered this final bit of advice to students: “Life is a wild ride and just live it fully. Don’t let people get you down and discourage you.”