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Meet the Born Seekers: Q&A with Dr. Hope Rugo

We recently sat down with Dr. Hope Rugo, Oncologist, as part of our Born Seekers campaign. Hope pushes boundaries in treatment and patient care, encouraging others to pursue a challenging career with a sense of confidence and determination.

Q: Thank you for joining us. Would you please tell us what area of medicine is your focus?

I'm an oncologist, focusing on breast cancer.

Q: What made you fall in love with science? Was there something that sparked your initial interest?

I fell in love with the idea of becoming a scientist when I was maybe 5 years old. Growing up in Boston, I once went to a hospital for a visit, and I was able to see a lot of the little kids there for various procedures. And I thought, "Well, this is really where it’s at." So I go home and I say, "I'm going to be a doctor," and my family's like, "Well, don't set your sights on this. You know, being a doctor, that's long, hard work. You won't be able to have a family. You won't be able to do a lot of the things you might want to do." But of course, I proved everybody wrong in the end. My mother played a big role in leading me to where I am today. Unfortunately, she had breast cancer and died of that disease. I was an oncologist and I spent a lot of time taking care of her – she was my best friend. Watching the course of her disease changed the whole way I thought about taking care of patients and changed the direction of my work. It has been an amazing journey.

Q: What does it take to become a successful scientist?

As I have taught my children, I think having passion at what you do keeps you going and keeps you able to manage challenges at every step of the way. When people doubt you, when you doubt yourself, when you have too much to do, keep in mind your passion.

Q: What challenges have you faced as a woman working in your field?

The challenges that we face in pursuing our careers as scientists and physicians has to do with balancing everything we want out of life and continuing to persevere even when the going can be very tough. And that can be issues at work; maybe not achieving your goals and really needing to reset them. But it can also be managing having a family, being a mother, being a daughter, or being a wife while you're still working and have lots of other people always wanting your attention. As a physician, your patients always come first, and then your research, but you've got to balance that with everything else in life.

Q: What advice would you give the next generation of female scientists?

If I had to give advice to the next generation of women pursuing careers in science, first it’s to believe in yourself, to know that what you want to pursue is the thing that you're pursuing with passion, and that it's really what you want to do.

You can have it all. Believe that. But also understand that what it “all” is may change over time, and you really need to be flexible with that. Having it all may mean something different to you today and next year and the year later.

Q: What do you think makes you a Born Seeker?

As a Born Seeker, the truth that I'm seeking, that gets me out of bed every morning, is to make treatment for cancer better so that we cure more women and help women live longer and, in the long run, help prevent breast cancer.

Read more about the rest of our Born Seekers here.