Dr. Danielle Sweeney – Girlstart

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WOMEN IN STEM – Dr. Danielle Sweeney

Executive Director @ IVUmed

Dr. Danielle Sweeney tackles global health issues as the executive director of IVUMed.Her love for mentorship leaves an impact on local doctors in their respective communities around the world as she carries on the philosophy of teach one, reach many. We are so honored that she has chosen to speak with us today about her career and the ways in which she uses her skills to impact the world.

What sparked your interest and made you want to volunteer with Girlstart?

I’ve been in the Austin community for many years and have loved the impact that Girlstart is making in our community. Mentorship is so important, especially if pursuing a career that is new (among your family or friends) or where you might be the only girl (or one of few) in the room. (I know I benefited from mentorship in my own career.)

What would you like to tell girls who are interested in pursuing a STEM career? What words of encouragement would you share with them?

Go for it. There are so many rewarding vocations in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Girls can do hard things and thrive and achieve in worlds that aren’t always open to them.

Was there a specific person, program, or event in your life that led you to your STEM career?

I have dreamed of being a doctor since I was 13 years old and was driven since that time to achieve that goal. That I was the first female resident in over a decade at my six-year urologic surgery residency didn’t dissuade me. Medicine always has been my passion. After working in a private medical practice for many years, I found a new way to pursue the vocation I love as executive director of IVUmed. Our organization helps train doctors in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Asia that don’t have access to specialized medical training for urologic diseases. The work is very meaningful — we really are changing the lives of adults and children.

What are your favorite things about your career?

Parents came to us with their babies in their hands, having lost nearly all hope that their child’s condition would improve. We were able to successfully treat their children and teach local doctors how to continue these patients’ medical care. There are so many conditions that are easily treated or repaired in the U.S. but in medically underserved countries doctors don’t have the specialized training or resources to help people in their own communities. Our philosophy is to teach one, reach many – that is, train local doctors to treat and care for adults and children in their own communities. I love the mentorship. I love the camaraderie. I love helping changes adults’ and children’s lives in a meaningful and sustainable way.

What is your greatest accomplishment?

I was appointed Executive Director in August 2020, the point in the pandemic where we knew onsite training in partner countries in Africa, South America, and Asia would not be possible in the foreseeable future. But the pandemic did not put an end to global health issues. We had to find new ways to train local doctors that didn’t require traveling. Virtual surgical training was an idea that hadn’t yet gotten off the ground and, like most other industries, we knew we had to get online and try it. I’m so proud to report that in two years, IVUmed has provided 89 virtual lectures and trained 1740 health care providers in 40+ countries. Each trained clinician has the potential to continue providing medical care to thousands of children and adults in need. I’ve always felt that great leaders help others step up, that they inspire people to dream more and do more. In our own way, IVUmed is leading the way by giving skills and resources to local doctors to become the medical leaders that they want to be.

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