After a decade of work, my team at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is preparing to perform a human trial of a new gene therapy that could potentially cure sickle cell anemia. This achievement was made possible for us by following four principles for success that I recommend to anyone who aspires to a leadership role.
Get a good education. Growing up in India, I wanted to help the many kids with blood cell disorders. I was fortunate to live in a country that values education so highly. A good education enables you to achieve your full potential. Coming to the United States for medical training introduced me to resources that would allow me to help many needy people. The decision to stay was difficult because I wanted to improve the lives of sick children at home, but my Indian education had prepared me for this rare, American opportunity.
Work hard. A mentor told me: “You will face hurdles; keep going strong and stay focused on long-term goals. Little hurdles may slow you down, but they won’t stop you, and will make you better.” The culture shock I experienced when I came to America was a daunting hurdle that I overcame through perseverance. I didn’t feel different from others, and I knew English well, but following American accents and fully understanding the complex culture was difficult. Overcoming this challenge was hard work, but I learned by listening to my patients and watching their interactions with loved ones.
Speak your mind. At first, the directness with which people spoke in New York and Baltimore caught me off guard, but I grew to appreciate its value. Boldly, truthfully, and respectfully speaking your mind helps others understand your purpose and vision, enables you to forge lasting connections with colleagues, and positions you to be the advocate for your own success.
Help others. At Cincinnati Children’s my team and I have the resources to translate laboratory science to clinical applications, help develop new standards of care, and change the way blood cell diseases are treated around the world. A genetic cure is my ultimate goal, and it all started with the desire to help people that I first felt as a child in India. I want to make a difference in people’s lives, and I believe that desire can be the driving force for success in any field.