We recently sat down with Dr. Sophia Yen, CEO & Co-founder of Pandia Health, as part of our Born Seekers campaign. Sophia encourages young people interested in medicine to break through the glass ceiling with persistence and questioning the status quo.
Q: Thank you for joining us. Would you please tell us what your specific area of research is?
My area of research is adolescent medicine, specifically women’s health and contraception.
Q: What made you fall in love with science? Was there something that sparked your initial interest?
I fell in love with becoming a doctor when I was thinking, "What do I want to be when I grow up?" I was a fourth grader, I loved science, and I loved people. And if I loved science only, I would have just done bench work with labs, and Petri dishes, and mice, and flies. But I didn't like mice and flies. I love people. Each person has a unique story to tell.
Q: Tell us about what you’re working on now.
Currently I'm CEO and Founder of Pandia Health.
Q: What does it take to become a successful scientist?
I think what is required to be successful in medicine, as well as a startup, as well as somebody who's advocating for change in this world, is persistence. There are going to be ups and downs. And what we say in medicine is "suck it up". You will do whatever it takes to get into med school. You will do whatever it takes to get into residency. Persistence. I also think it's important to realize that you're doing good, and see there's light at the end of the tunnel.
Q: Can you describe your experience as a woman in science? What is it like being a woman in your field?
As a woman in medicine, as well as in a startup, when I'm pitching, I am held to a different standard. When they see a 23-year-old guy, they see his potential. When they see a 45-year-old woman with children, and a doctor, they look at what you have accomplished. But my potential is huge. My Rolodex is much better than the 23-year-olds. And it's just unfair that they have these different standards for men and women.
Q: What challenges have you faced as a woman working in your field?
I've looked around and I've noticed that the chair of pediatrics and gynecology is often a guy. The head of the Division of Adolescent Medicine is a guy, but yet pediatrics is 95% women, OB/GYN is 95% women. And we're slowly breaking through those cracks, but it's slow. But without being able to see it, it's sometimes hard to achieve it. Even with me, I had always thought I was going to be a doctor when I grew up. But not until I saw a female doctor was I able to say, "Ah, it can be done," because all the doctors I had seen were guys. And so, to actually see a woman doctor made it so much more doable.
Q: What advice would you give the next generation of female scientists?
My advice is to persist and ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask questions. There's never a stupid question. The stupid question is the one that wasn't asked.