A successful woman in science must remain teachable – Dr. Raedeen Russell
As the world takes the time out to celebrate the wonderful work of women in the field of science; I’d like to take a minute to celebrate my friend and former school mate, Dr. Raedeen Russell, Ph.D.
A graduate of the Morehouse School of Medicine with a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences where her research focused on the Role of Exosomes in Chlamydial Immunity. Raedeen has 2 Master’s degrees, one in Biology with a concentration in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, and the other in Clinical Research. She also has a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology.
Raedeen was recognised in 2018 as one of the 30 Under 30 Caribbean American Emerging Leaders & Change Makers by Ignite Caribbean for her leadership and outstanding track record of academic success in science.
I have known Raedeen for almost two decades and I must admit, she has always had the drive to succeed and passion for the field of medicine. I’ve always admired her strength and courage. Like most of us, she has had her fair share of obstacles, pitfalls, and disappointments. As a devoted Christian, I must say I’ve witnessed firsthand someone with faith that has no bounds. Whatever it is, she’s always fixed on the premise that God will make a way and work it all out.
Today, I’d like to share some insights she gave when we spoke about the place of women in the field of science and medicine.
2040 Exchange: Women are underrepresented in the field of science. What are your thoughts on women in science?
Dr. Raedeen Russell: In science, women are still trailing behind men, in numbers and accomplishments. It can, therefore, become very intimidating. I have learned that many of us as women have self-doubt but to succeed in any field, we must first believe in our abilities to achieve our goals. We are innovative beings with lots of stick-to-itiveness.
2040 Exchange: What are some strategies you’ve learned that can help women succeed in the field of science?
Dr. Raedeen Russell: To succeed in science, a woman must show up and speak up. As a Black woman in science and working at a major institution, I am like a unicorn and it can also be intimidating. Nevertheless, I intentionally show up and speak up. I am less concerned about whether I have what it takes to survive or not, and more consumed with thoughts of how to use this experience as a stepping stone for my next!
Since we are judged by our productivity in science, I encourage others to do the experiment and write the manuscript. It may be challenging but time is of the essence. We must work hard and make the necessary sacrifices as quickly as possible to ensure our work remains novel and impactful.
Success also means seeking out help as soon as you realize you need it. Many scientists are nicer than they look. Once you pass the awkward introductory stages, many people in science are willing to help a novice but do not stay a novice too long. And, do not be afraid to seek help from multiple people.
Many women opt to take positions in industry versus staying in academia. Therefore, to succeed in academic science, a woman should find other women in science who can be her mentor and accountability partner. She must trust that person as she must be open about her struggles and insecurities, and be open to receive feedback, even distasteful ones.
Science is a field that takes and seldomly gives. A successful scientist is therefore acquainted with lots of failures laced in with a few successes. It is not a discipline for those who enjoy immediate gratification. Academic science is an arduous journey. It is your passion that will motivate you when all your experiments have failed. As an independent scientist, you must master dependence on other experts in order to one day be classified as an expert yourself. Therefore, a successful woman in science must remain teachable.
2040 Exchange: What inspires you?
Dr. Raedeen Russell: I find inspiration in many things and from many people. As an optimist, I tend to be inspired by the little things in everyday situations that end up fueling hope, igniting passion, and driving innovation, and hence success. My mother was intolerable of the words “I can’t”, so giving up was never an option for me. In times of doubt, I repeat from time to time words from a recitation I learned as a young child, “Don’t say you can’t before you try and see what you can do”.
My main source of inspiration is the Word of God. My two favorite scriptures are Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not too hard you, to give you hope and a future.”
I am sure women in all fields have found these words inspiring and comforting. I am truly honoured to have a friend like Dr. Raedeen Russell and I am extremely proud to see her strive and succeed. I’ve implored her to bask in the glory of her hard work and she knows I am saying this because she can be very humble and reserved.
Congratulations again Dr. Russell, continue to inspire and make us proud!