2023 WIM Anca Pasca

Anca M. Pasca, MD
Division of Neonatal and Developmental Medicine

Why did you pursue a career in medicine?

Growing up in Romania, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents during vacations. My grandfather used to tell my sister and me stories about helping as a nurse on the battlefield during World War II. I found it fascinating and very brave. I wanted to do that. The first medical instruments I got my hands on were some glass+metal syringes and metal needles that I found in an old metal box in a high drawer I was not allowed to open...dont't judge...I was a kid. I loved the idea of helping people and I loved the idea of medical procedures with syringes.

What is a challenge you experience in pursuing a career in medicine?

Fully accepting that, as an immigrant, I belong and I have earned my place within the fantastic Stanford community of physicians and scientists. This was definitely the greatest and longest-lived challenge of my career. Flexibility in thinking, stubborn resilience (if I can say it like that) and support from my leadership and mentors helped me get through challenges. Moreover, caring for extremely sick infants and their families, are a constant reminder of how lucky and privileged I really am to have a fantastic career, a healthy family and comfortable financial situation.

What is the most fulfilling part of your work? 

Making strong connections and being able to support families in the Neonatal Intensive Care during the most stressful and traumatic times of their lives; receiving unexpected text messages and emails from NICU graduates even years after discharge from the hospital; remembering babies who died by connecting with their families every year...all of these are rewarding and inspiring, even if some of the memories are filled with sadness. Mentoring is also extremely rewarding in the clinical and in the lab-based research areas. I am a very hands-on individual and always thought I will deeply miss doing things by myself after graduation from clinical training and my postdoc (e.g. clinical procedures, lab experiments). It was really surprising to me to realize I got the exact same feeling of excitement and fulfillment when trainees I guided were successful at doing the different things I was teaching them. Watching them succeed is extremely and unexpectedly rewarding!

What strategies do you use to maintain your own well-being?

'Our family are explorers'…like my oldest son likes to say. We enjoy spending time outdoors. When indoors, we like to bake, build legos and play chess...and Nintendo.

What advice would you give someone starting in the field? 

‘Accept and value honest feedback, even if it makes you uncomfortable.’ This is advice I received and I still have a hard time with this sometimes; however, it always improves the outcome.