Women in medicine: ‘The demographic is definitely changing’
By Karen Dandurant
Fosters Daily Democrat
Read the full article in Foster’s Daily Democrat
Women play many roles in the medical world, and National Women in Medicine month is a great time to highlight some of our local best.
Today, women can be found in all areas of the medical field, on a mostly equal footing with their male counterparts.
Janet Laatsch (left) is the CEO of Greater Seacoast Community Health, which includes Families First, Goodwin Health and Lilac City Pediatrics. She has a thorough understanding of the needs of a health care community having risen through the ranks of nursing.
“I worked in many places, including North Shore Medical Center and Boston VNA,” said Laatsch. “I decided along the way that I wanted to get into management.”
When Laatsch was sent out to a community outreach center in Massachusetts she found her true calling.
“I loved it,” she said. “I learned so much. I applied for the executive director position there but I didn’t get it. I quit and took some time. I had been traveling for work from Somersworth, with two kids. I found from the community center job that finances, grant writing fascinated me. So, two weeks later, I applied to Goodwin Health, as a nurse and was hired.”
Laatsch said that was before 9/11 happened and she has been at Goodwin ever since, for more than 20 years.
“It helped me to go through the ranks like that,” she said. “It allowed me to keep a hand in the clinical side. New Hampshire is a population of diverse background. There are underserved populations. There is poverty. I love nursing and I feel like I fell into this role and I truly love it. I think you need to love what you do, or why are you doing it?”
With more than 20 years experience, Laatsch said she has seen women take on bigger roles.
“There are a lot more women CEOs,” she said. “There are more women in medicine in general. I still think hospitals lack women in senior leadership roles, except in nursing. There have been major changes in the use of technology, including the overall adoption of telehealth, a direct result of the pandemic.”
Everyone knows nurses are what make any hospital or medical center function smoothly.
With more than 15 years experience, Sarah Crowley (left) is a critical float nurse at Portsmouth Regional Hospital. That means she is trained to go wherever she is needed. She said she is devoted to her patients.
“I do anything that requires critical care,” said Crowley. “I did a lot of work in the COVID units in the beginning of the pandemic. I work in the emergency room. I might be caring for patients waiting for a bed, sometimes in the hallway. I wear an earpiece, to hear what’s coming in.”
At age 14, Crowley, who grew up in rural Winchester, New Hampshire, was forced to become self-reliant, caring for two parents with substance use issues.
“It made me who I am today,” said Crowley. “I took care of my sisters. I stayed on the streets. I became a caregiver.”
At that time, Winchester was a very small community. Crowley said her graduating class was seven students.
“I was one of the only kids who took the SATs,” she said. “I loved learning. I went to a community college and became a phlebotomist. I worked as an LNA, and as an emergency room tech. I didn’t sleep much, working at night and going to school during the day. I finally completed nursing school.”
Crowley said her favorite part of her job is the patients.
“I love that things change all the time,” she said. “I love that I can bring calm to people. They come in here with a level of anxiety and I can help with that. Even when people are angry, I know that it is not directed at me, but at the situation they find themselves in.”
After 15 years, Crowley still loves her job and can’t imagine doing anything else.
“I might not like one day here and there,” she said. “But I still love being a nurse. If I can find one thing, help one person, I know I did something that day.”
For Whitney Coppolino, (left) a cardiologist specializing in women’s heart health at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital, medicine was not her first choice.
“Initially, I was a classical piano major in college, at NYU,” she said. “I have played since I was 5 years old. I decided doing what I loved and calling it work was not fun. I graduated with a psychology major and moved to California.”
Not really interested in pursuing a career in psychology, Coppolino dabbled in real estate.
“I volunteered in a hospital, and it just clicked for me,” she said. “I loved being with the patients. I wanted to help people. I enrolled in medical school, and began pre-med courses. It was a complete 180 for me. I loved it then, and I love it today.”
When she went to medical school and took classes in cardiovascular disease, her fate was sealed, in 2000. She did a year at Mass General Hospital and chose women’s heart health as her specialty.
“There were not a lot of women in cardio,” said Coppolino. “It was kind of a boys’ club. Luckily I found a female cardiologist at USC and she became my mentor. When I got frustrated she was the one who said – you are doing this.”
Coppolino said there are many more women in her field now.
“The demographic is definitely changing,” she said. “I was more intimidated when I was doing this; now it’s just normal. It’s a wonderful thing. I still love what I do. I love my patients the best. I believe people are wonderful deep down and I see this every day.”