A conversation with Tamara Wexler, MD, PhD
Tamara Wexler, MD, PhD, director of the pituitary center at NYU Langone Medical Center, spoke with Endocrine Today about the twists of her career, the excitement of working in developing countries, and her advice for women entering endocrinology.
Wexler received her medical degree and PhD in neuroscience from the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to her work at NYU Langone, she is an attending physician in medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.
For a 4-year span, Wexler worked with the management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, where she served as the U.S. lead for diabetes and obesity and global lead for other endocrinology projects and as an expert in reproductive health. She continues to consult on research and development.
What was the defining moment that led you to your field?
I had the good fortune to study endocrinology with Francis Sterling, MD, at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. I clearly remember him describing the feedback loops governing cortisol, delighting in posing questions regarding expected lab values. He brought to life the excitement of the neuroendocrine axes; 20 years later, I still love the elegance of endocrine feedback loops. A core set of tools that informs a broad mechanism of diagnostic analysis — that had resonance for me.
What advice would you offer to women entering endocrinology?
Stick to your guns. Advice that resonated with me was to pursue activities that I find energizing. There are many career possibilities within medicine, and not all will be popular. There have certainly been times when I was told that a particular path was not feasible — but I found that not to be at all true, given perseverance.
For me, combining a career in medicine with strategic analysis in biotechnology is energizing.
It was a difficult decision to accept an offer at McKinsey & Company after many years of medical and research training, but understanding other perspectives in the health care arena has proven invaluable and has allowed me to create a multi-path career that has been particularly fulfilling.
What area of endocrinology most interests you right now and why?
Neuroendocrine remains fascinating to me. Largely, it is because I get to meet such a wide range of people in my office, many of whom may have been long searching for answers, and for whom the visit itself can be somewhat therapeutic. The fact that simply listening to someone’s journey can make a difference is humbling, and that is a great reason to go to work each day. It’s an honor to have people share their stories with me, and that remains my favorite part of medicine.
What are some of the most exciting advances in endocrinology that you have been a part of?
I’ve had the opportunity to work on public health systems that will provide reproductive endocrine care in populations in developing countries. Determining how to bring needed care to a large group of people, understanding the system in which they must operate, and seeing the efforts that go into that type of work was exciting.
What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?
I enjoy bicycling, jazz (especially now that I can introduce it to my toddler!), learning new things outside of medicine, and travel. I’ve had the good fortune to be able to travel as a doctor, as part of my training and as an expedition doctor, allowing me to visit some far-flung places. I find that to be the best combination: Work provides a conduit to really interact with people as I travel.
Disclosure: Wexler reports no relevant financial disclosures.