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“I’d like to inspire a movement focused on lifestyle modification” with Dr. Anika Lucas

I would inspire a movement focused on lifestyle modification. Although there are many changes that need to take place in our world, it is not possible to truly transform our world without health. Through lifestyle modification, I would encourage people to focus on cutting down their stress, incorporating more fruits and vegetables in their diet […]

I would inspire a movement focused on lifestyle modification. Although there are many changes that need to take place in our world, it is not possible to truly transform our world without health. Through lifestyle modification, I would encourage people to focus on cutting down their stress, incorporating more fruits and vegetables in their diet as well as exercise. These changes may seem small but can limit disease progression and prevention. If a movement like this were to take place it could impact the number of people affectedby obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease.


As a part of my series about “Lessons From Inspirational Women in STEM and Tech”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anika Lucas, MD, a nephrology fellow at Duke University in North Carolina, who was recently named an American Kidney Fund Clinical Scientist in Nephrology fellow. Dr. Lucas received her medical degree from Temple University after receiving a master’s degree in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School. She completed clinical training in Internal Medicine at the University of Connecticut before starting fellowship at Duke University. She is currently a research fellow with a keen interest in reducing kidney disease in women.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I was 10 years old, I was struck by an automobile. Immediately after the crash, I had two post-traumatic seizures. I was taken to the hospital for further evaluation and was started on antiepileptics (anti-seizure medication). Over the next year I regularly visited a pediatric neurologist due to my seizure history. My neurologist was patient and thoughtful. She answered all of my questions and explained everything clearly. This experience inspired me to pursue a career in medicine. I was attracted to the unique relationship between patients and doctors. I ultimately chose to become a nephrologist due to high kidney disease burden in my community — African Americans are more at risk for kidney failure than any other race. As a young child I observed the adverse effects of chronic kidney disease. I decided to pursue a career in research to aid in the prevention of kidney disease.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?

Since working at Duke, I had the opportunity to care for very sick patients. I once cared for a man who visited many physicians over the course of three months. During this time, he developed worsening kidney function and was admitted to the hospital several times. He was prescribed different medications that initially improved his symptoms, but over time his symptoms returned. After listening to this man share his story, I had some ideas of what could be happening. I was concerned that he had ANCA vasculitis. Many patients initially present with sinus and respiratory complaints. We performed several blood tests and a kidney biopsy, which confirmed my suspicion. We were able to treat the patient. This experience has made me grateful for the opportunity to positively impact the lives of others through my work in medicine.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I first started at my job, I would often get lost. One day while walking with my supervisor, it was apparent that I had no idea where I was going. My supervisor laughed as we passed the same room twice. He was able to share some tips to help me easily navigate through the hospital. This experience taught me that no question or concern is too small. It is always ok to ask for advice.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I am fortunate to work at the Duke University hospital that has established itself as an international leader for clinical care and research. Our institution stands out due to its emphasis on innovation and collaboration. There is a strong sense of community, and I think this sets our institution apart. Currently, several doctors at Duke University are leading clinical trials aimed to treat and prevent COVID-19.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am currently working on several projects that focus on predicting adverse pregnancy outcomes, including kidney disease, in pregnant women with lupus. This particular research is being funded by the by American Kidney Fund Clinical Scientist in Nephrology program. Lupus is a multi-organ autoimmune disease that disproportionately affects young women. The goal of this work is to aid in the early identification of women who are at risk for both adverse pregnancy outcomes and kidney disease. These findings will inform further studies focused on sustainable interventions in pregnancy to reduce adverse pregnancy outcomes and prevent chronic kidney disease development and progression.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in STEM? What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?

I think there is much room for improvement for women in STEM. We still need to recruit more women into careers in STEM, particularly women of color. I also think we need to have more women in leadership positions in STEM.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women in STEM or Tech that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts? What would you suggest to address this?

Some of the biggest challenges faced by women in STEM are limited opportunities for promotion and leadership. In academia, women are not attaining tenure as quicklyas men. At major universities and corporations, there are still more men in leadership positions than women. I think establishing mentorship programs in which female leadersare paired with promising young women in their fields can help. I also think a cultural shift needs to take place to embrace women in leadership roles. This is starting to happen and must continue.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a woman in STEM or Tech. Can you explain what you mean?

I would like to dispel the myth that women in STEM have to choose between career or family. Although there are many years of training involved, it is still possible to have a life outside of work. During my residency training, I got married and gave birth to my daughter. Many of my female colleagues shared my experience. It is possible to flourish in both your professional and personal lives. Interestingly, my experiences as a woman and mother have informed some of my research. I also think there is a still a myth that women are more interested in careers outside of STEM and/or tech. As an alumna of Wellesley College, one of the leading institutions dedicated to the education of women, I witnessed hundreds of women pursuing advanced degrees in STEM and/or choose jobs in STEM.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience as a Woman in STEM or Tech” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Here are 5 Leadership Lessons I learned from My Experience (in no particular order):

  1. Believe in yourself — To be successful in STEM you need to believe in yourself. Women must have confidence in their abilities. Throughout my training this has helped me to persevere when encountering obstacles.
  2. Find a mentor — It is vital to your success to establish mentors early in your career. Mentors provide advice, support, and can challenge you to go beyond your comfort zone. This might lead to seeking new opportunities that can be life changing. I am so grateful for the many mentors I have, who have supported me through my career thus far.
  3. Take time for reflection — Life gets busy, but it is important to take time to assess what you have accomplished and for future goal setting.
  4. Maintain your relationships — It is a great idea to stay in contact with family and friends. This might mean sending a quick email, having a long conversation over the telephone, or visiting. Taking the time to maintain relationships is beneficial for everyone’s well-being.
  5. Have fun — It’s important to have fun and enjoy your work. It is also important to take time off to pursue other activities that you enjoy.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Strong communication is key to the success of any team. Female leaders should communicate effectively with team members, conveying their concerns and practice active listening. Leaders should also create an environment in which team members are comfortable to express their opinions.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

I would recommend female leaders carefully outline their expectations for each team member. It is also important to get to know each team member on a personal level to gain her respect and trust. This will ensure buy-in by each team member and promote success.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have been privileged to have many wonderful mentors throughout my life. After graduating from medical school, I was introduced to Dr. Scherly Leon by mutual acquaintances. Dr. Leon is a nephrologist and children’s book author. She encouraged me to pursue a career in nephrology and invited me to conferences to network with other nephrologists. I am grateful for Dr. Leon who continues to impart her wisdom. She is an exemplary physician, extending compassion and commitment to service.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I try to inspire other people to pursue their dreams. I recently returned from Kenya, where I had the opportunity to teach health workshops in a rural community outside of Nairobi. While there I spoke with young women who were survivors of female genital mutilation and child marriage. Many of these adolescents had some interest in STEM but did not know many women who were pursuing careers in this area. I helped to organize a career fair and introduced women to different career options in STEM.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would inspire a movement focused on lifestyle modification. Although there are many changes that need to take place in our world, it is not possible to truly transform our world without health. Through lifestyle modification, I would encourage people to focus on cutting down their stress, incorporating more fruits and vegetables in their diet as well as exercise. These changes may seem small but can limit disease progression and prevention. If a movement like this were to take place it could impact the number of people affectedby obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Success isn’t about how much money you make. It’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.”~ Michelle Obama This quotation expresses my life goal: helping to improve the lives of others. I also really like this Bible verse, Philippians 4:13 states “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” I often reflect on this verse to remind myself that I can accomplish anything that I set my mind to, without limits.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I would love to have lunch with Michelle Obama. I read her memoir, Becoming, which details her childhood, growing up in Chicago and life in The White House. She has been very successful despite many of the obstacles.

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