Making Waves in Science: Nancy Sicotte, MD

Nancy-Sicotte

Nancy Sicotte, MD

In honor of National Women's History Month in March, we are celebrating Cedars-Sinai's talented female leaders with a Q&A series, "Making Waves in Science." This week's interview is with Nancy Sicotte, MD, professor and interim chair of the Department of Neurology. She also directs the Multiple Sclerosis Program and the Neurology Residency Program.

How are you making an impact on science?

I am researching multiple sclerosis and the mechanisms driving this disease's progression. I use advanced imaging techniques to better understand the symptoms, cognitive changes and depression related to multiple sclerosis. I also am testing new imaging biomarkers that may provide additional diagnostic and prognostic accuracy. This is important because instituting effective, individualized treatments early in the course of multiple sclerosis will lead to the best outcomes for the nearly 1 million people nationwide living with this debilitating neurological condition. Building the future workforce in neurology in general, and in neuroimmunology in particular, is my other passion. My aim is to spark interest in the field among the medical students and residents who rotate through our clinic. While we now have many more effective multiple sclerosis therapies, there is a need for expertise in using them appropriately. I also am impacting science by providing young women trainees with living proof that women can hold leadership positions in academic institutions.

What leadership advice would you give to your younger self?

I would have told her to relax and realize there are many different leadership styles and that over time you will develop a style that suits you. When you're young, you often feel as if you're standing still and not accomplishing enough; in reality, though, you're learning important lessons. I also would have told myself to expect both difficulties and accomplishments. It is these experiences—good and bad—that fuel your future growth. In fact, all of your experiences as a young person will inform the future leader you'll become.

Who is your favorite science heroine from history and why?

My science heroines aren't from history. They're my contemporaries—my colleagues and role models. Sarah Kilpatrick, MD, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, certainly comes to mind. She is not only an exceptional clinician who has conducted groundbreaking research, but also a trailblazing role model for many, myself included. When I first came to Cedars-Sinai, she reached out to me and was very supportive. She has raised awareness institution-wide about the importance of diversity and equality. Role models can have a powerful impact. My three daughters grew up knowing women can be doctors and scientists. The oldest is now in medical school, surrounded by female students who may well be the science heroines of the future.