Women In Medicine Month: Dr. Ellen Thompson

Women In Medicine Month: Dr. Ellen Thompson


September is Women in Medicine Month. We pleased to share the stories of some of our female physicians.

Ellen A. Thompson, MD ('96)
Professor of Cardiovascular Services
Director, Cardiology Fellowship Program

What made you want to go into medicine?
I know it seems ridiculous, but I actually went into medicine at my mother's insistence. I kind of wanted to be teacher. So working in academic medicine turned out to be the best of both worlds. Initially, I wanted to go into family practice, as it's the only kind of physician I had ever seen. But with exposure, I realized cardiology was definitely where I wanted to be.

How has medicine changed for women since you started? 
So, I was not one of the initial pioneers. There were several women in my medical school class. I didn't face as many problems as women did before me. I think one of the things that has changed has been the attitude of women helping each other.

Were there any women in your life that you looked up to and helped shape who you are today? 
When I was an internal medicine resident, Dr. Sarah McCarty was a terrific role model. She was very bright and was confident in who she was and what she knew. There are few women in cardiology, but when I was a fellow, there were women in the fellowship and the director. Dr. Paulette Wehner was doing well, and it showed me that it’s possible. But, my most important role model is my mom, an original “bra burner” in '60s. She would never let me settle.

What advice do you have for women just starting out?
The secret to confidence is competence. If you put in the work and know what you are doing, you can more easily work from a place of confidence, which is difficult for some women. It was for me.

Date Posted: Wednesday, September 16, 2020