Andrea Schecter is an an OB/Gyn resident at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City. She’s lived and worked on women’s health issues and advocacy all over the world, most recently in Africa, South America, and Haiti. She spent the last year in rural Uganda, providing patient care and managing community health programs to address issues like access to birth control and maternal mortality. She is a primary author of a forthcoming report on violence and human rights among refugees from the Congo and a co-founder of an advocacy and reporting project that aims to make a portal for documentation of human rights abuses accessible to health professionals around the world.
How do you define success?
I obviously love trying new (and sometimes crazy) things. I think if you can look back at an experience and decide that you don’t regret it, or, even if you do, that you learned something important from it, that’s a major success. I’ve also been thinking about success a lot lately in terms of happiness. Being successful is so much more than doing well at one thing – because if it doesn’t make you happy what’s the point? I think successful people I admire most are the ones who have real balance in their lives – fulfilling careers, meaningful relationships and support from those around them, and even some time to have fun and enjoy life.
How do you measure your own success?
Growing up the only girl between two brothers, I am extremely competitive (the words my brothers would use might be a little bit harsher… glad they don’t get to contribute). Add that to the high-pressure environment of medical school, and I’ve often found myself seeing where I measure up against my colleagues and peers – which can be a good motivator sometimes but just as often can be a destructive habit and make me feel like I’m never good enough. It’s a fine line to walk, and I’m not very good at it yet – but still working on it.
How does success feel?
The times when I’ve felt most successful have been when I’ve had a direct impact on the care and life of someone else (usually one of my patients, or members of communities I’ve worked in). For me, it’s a sort of intangible feeling of doing the right thing and doing what really needs to be done, regardless of how tough it might be. One of the most challenging things about practicing medicine, especially in under-resourced places, is that you can work so hard and for so long and still not get the outcome you want. So it’s easy to feel like a failure, and much harder to focus on the positive – what you learned from the experience, or simply how much people appreciate the effort, regardless of the outcome.
When was the last time you felt successful? What happened?
I was recently selected to receive an award for my clinical field work in global health. Honestly, I guess I thought it was cool, but oh man, were my family and friends excited! My grandmother actually asked me today to fax her a copy of the award letter (I had to break it to her I don’t have a printer, let alone a fax machine). And my friends are insisting on coming to my medical school graduation ceremony. So everyone’s excitement and their pride have definitely rubbed off on me, and I really feel like a success and that all my hard work is being acknowledged as important.
How do you celebrate your success?
With good wine, good food, and good people. Not to brag, but I have pretty much the most awesome friends and family, and I love that they are always up for celebrating my success.
What advice would you offer to someone who wants to be successful?
Surround yourself with good people – you get to choose who you spend time with, so do it wisely. So much of what we do and feel is determined by those around us – so choose people who make you feel like you’re already a success, while still challenging you to do better by their own example. And most importantly, choose people whose company you genuinely enjoy!