Molly McNairy, MD
The Bonnie Johnson Sacerdote Clinical
Scholar in Women’s Health and Assistant
Professor of Medicine
Global health was my first child. In college, I spent time working
in the favelas in Brazil. Bearing witness to solvable health disparities,
where the idea that clean water and antibiotics could change someone’s life, felt like the perfect place to dedicate my life and propelled
me to medical school. Today I spend about a week every month in
Haiti, working with adolescent girls who have the highest incidence
of HIV in that country and are at greatest risk of spreading the virus.
Our work aims to prevent HIV among these girls and their families and
provide medications to allow those who have the virus to stay healthy.
Global health is certainly not a desk job. I was pregnant with
Leighton during the Zika epidemic, and I couldn’t travel to Haiti for a
whole year. The Junior Faculty Fellowship grant enabled me to hire a
research assistant to be my boots on the ground to keep the projects
alive and thriving. That was really incredible.
It’s a lot trying to juggle being in this field. Add children and either
it all comes undone or you keep going forward. I have an incredible
support system that allows me the privilege to do the work I do. We
have a wonderful community—a nanny who is a part of our family,
my husband who changes his work schedule when I travel, and we
frequently fly our family in from North Carolina to help.
I think that it’s not possible to have it all at the same time. There
are phases of career, and when you can put your foot on the gas and
work and travel hard for a season, you take advantage of that. Then
when you have a baby, like I just had, you take your foot off the gas
and go at a slower speed for a season. It’s about recognizing when
you’re in each gear, or what chapter you are in in your life.
I used to think that when I had kids, I would be able to juggle the
work-life balance. There’s not one day where I feel balanced, but the
juggle is true. The attempt to try to balance things is a pleasure to
try to do.