Treat everyone regardless of who they love, what they look like, where they live, as equal. To understand that regardless of gender identity or expression or sexual orientation, we are equal. Teaching ourselves to appreciate that we’re all human, and to embrace our sameness more than our differences.
As a part of our series about ‘5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society’ I had the pleasure to interview Mark Leondires.
Dr. Mark Leondires is the Founder, Medical Director and Partner in reproductive endocrinology at RMACT and Gay Parents To Be (GPTB). He is board-certified in both Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
Igrew up in a big, Greek, blue-collar family on the north shore of Massachusetts (my staff knows that my “Bahston” accent stilI makes an appearance from time to time). I often struggled to fit in, and as a child I never really knew why. I did always love animals and had a huge curiosity for science, which I carry with me to this day!
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I’d say number one is The Discoverers, A History of Man’s Search to Know His World and Himself by Daniel J. Borstein, it’s about the history of human discovery. Another book I really liked was Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies about how Europeans took over North and South America, and the interplay between societies and cultures. I guess my love for science also translates to non-fiction books!
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
When it comes to “life lessons” or quotes that I carry with me every day, there are a few that come to mind. Respect is a big one to me — I strive to respect everyone from all walks of life, patients and staff alike. Respect is something that is earned, so it’s important to work hard for that. Actions speak louder than words and walk the talk!. Another one is that your reputation is built on trust (this is especially important as a medical provider). You have to fight fiercely to protect and nurture your reputation — it’s important!
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
When I think about leadership, I think about the fact that everyone, and I mean everyone, brings value to the table. This is especially important to remember as a leader of a practice or an organization. Conflicts will inevitably arise, and only by listening to all sides and viewpoints will you be able to make equitable decisions. Unfortunately, sometimes the best decisions actually are the ones where no one is happy, where everyone had to compromise. I think a big part of being a leader is understanding, sadly, that you can’t strive to be everyone’s friend.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
I wear many hats, but my livelihood is being a reproductive endocrinologist, helping people build the families of their dreams, so many parts of my day are high stress. I think I’m lucky to be able to say that most of my days do involve important decisions. I work really hard to be fully present in each meeting, procedure, or consultation. Reviewing relevant materials beforehand is essential, and I think completing one task before I move on to the next allows me to change focus easily. I work hard to have a routine before work and to eat well during the day. I also am able to compartmentalize my work, which allows me to be present with my family when I’m having family time! What happens outside the office is just as important as what happens inside of it.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This is of course a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis inexorably evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?
I think for thousands of years, cultural norms have served to protect the interests of one class, and one type of person, these same people held the reigns of knowledge. Thanks to the internet there is much greater access to information and knowledge, the rest of our society are more empowered, enlightened, and can find the tools and technology to exercise their voice — because their numbers are actually greater than just that one “chosen” class! One of the benefits of our current technological age has allowed those disenfranchised people to not only access information, but also share their frustration and connect with others who are similarly frustrated. There are so many more places to get and share information, and knowledge is power! The great melting pot known as the USA is bubbling over and I believe that is for the greater good in the long term. We are all people.
Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience working with initiatives to promote Diversity and Inclusion? Can you share a story with us?
One of the things that I’m proud to do is to be an advocate for LGBTQ inclusivity, whether that’s in family-building, insurance and benefits, or in the workplace and society in general. We’re lucky enough to live in a society that is becoming more and more accepting of LGBTQ individuals and families, but the work is not done yet. I’ve worked with organizations all over the country to try and promote greater inclusivity for our community, including NASDAQ, Societe Generale, PepsiFritoLay, Family Equality, and more. From the way staff treat other staff members, to having inclusive language on forms, to having family-building benefits coverage for LGBTQ couples — these are all important ways that we can move the needle towards equity.
This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
Perspective matters. Without diversity you will all come to the same conclusion. Your team must be empowered to have a voice and use it. In my office we serve a diverse population and the management team needs to reflect that.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society”. Kindly share a story or example for each.
- Provide similar education opportunities for everyone.
- Work on our economic inequality — that’s huge.
- The people who are in power need to recognize that they can choose to change or be changed.
- Focus on our listening skills — I would love to see more of an ear to the ground and an understanding of the needs of those disenfranchised, frustrated, groups of people.
- Treat everyone regardless of who they love, what they look like, where they live, as equal. To understand that regardless of gender identity or expression or sexual orientation, we are equal. Teaching ourselves to appreciate that we’re all human, and to embrace our sameness more than our differences.
We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?
I think we are going through a real rough patch right now, in terms of the pandemic, and politics, and social unrest, and so many other factors that are creating “disorder,” but I think that this could have a huge impact for the future. A lot of things are challenging our current world order, but that could also give us the opportunity to affect real change through science, shared knowledge, and empowering more people. There is a growing voice, an awakening of sorts, that could push our country into a completely different direction and a better place.
Personally, I’m really hoping that people understand science a little bit better, and take things a little more seriously. I’m even hopeful for this coming flu season, just with a heightened awareness of distancing and hand washing we are able to keep influenza and COVID to a minimum! Hopefully, people see that changing old habits or ingrained beliefs could have long-standing benefits for their local community, and for humanity in general.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I really would like to have breakfast with President Barack Obama, and better understand his aspirations for the future of our country and society, and what he’s doing now. That’s a real question, I know Michelle is doing her podcast and wrote a book, but I want to hear what he’s doing now, day to day.
How can our readers follow you online?
On instagram and twitter, I’m @docmpleon (Doctor Mark P. Leondires). But you can also follow my practice and our LGBTQ family-building program, @fertility_rmact and @gayparentstobe.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!