Florencia Segal, a Senior Investigator in Translational Medicine in Novartis’ Cambridge, MA office, grew up in Venezuela. Early in her life through her community work in high school and practice in state hospitals during medical school, she was exposed to the vast income inequality that existed in her county. “As a medical doctor, very early on I noticed the vast medical need and the impact a physician can have on a person’s life. This was a big part of my early training and professional life,” Florencia says.
She loved caring for patients, but her curiosity and her desire for different and broader learning opportunities led her to leave Venezuela. She moved to the U.S. for her residency and specialty training. It was during her clinical training as an infectious diseases fellow at Brigham and Women’s and Massachusetts General Hospital, working among physician scientists, where she had the opportunity to learn firsthand of the basic science that was ubiquitous at Harvard. But becoming a scientist wasn’t an easy transition. After her clinical training during her fellowship, at age 32, she had to choose the focus of the research she would pursue. Although she had minimal basic science training during medical school, she found herself drawn to understanding the basic mechanisms underlying her patient’s diseases and wanted to learn and experience research in a basic science lab. During a meeting with her assigned mentors and Division Chief, she encountered resistance to her choice and was told that given her background she was unlikely to be successful and should follow a traditional clinical path.
It is at this point, early in her career that Florencia chose to write to her younger self: