Kansas City's STEM Women: Madison Iskierka

Compared to previous decades, our current society is more accepting of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields. However, women do still face implicit biases and are stereotyped when it comes to working in STEM fields. I believe it is time we normalize Women in STEM fields and encourage women out there that they are able to pursue a career in a STEM field if they want to. Madison Iskierka is one such person who has a similar perspective, which led her and some of her friends to create @womeninmedicinekc, which is a page that allows women to share their goals and accomplishments in the medical field.

Name: Madison Iskierka

Age: 20

Hometown: Blaine, Minnesota

1. What track are you currently pursuing? (BA/MD, 4 years, etc.)

I am currently a 6-year BA/MD student.

2. What year are you currently in?

I am in my 3rd year.

3. Has your current medical school experience met your expectations?

Coming into medical school I didn’t really know what to expect, actually. Going into this program right from high school, I really had no prior experiences that would shape my expectations.

However, one experience that I never really expected was the prevalence of mental health issues. In my high school, mental health wasn’t ever a real issue in my immediate circle of friends so I had no experience with it. Coming to college, especially into a program that has such high demands right from the start, it became more prevalent. The concept of “mental health being an issue among college students” no longer felt like a statistic, but a reality.

Mental health is something that no one really “expects” to experience at any point in their life. Prioritize your health and make a conscious effort to take breaks from the stress of school. You may go through tough times as a student, but remember, you will also have really great times too!. There is not a day that goes by where I’m not thankful for being here.

4. Do you have an idea of what you are going to specialize in?

I love this question because my answer is never the same. I always tell people that I like to keep my options open right now since I am still young and inexperienced, which is very true. However, recently I have realized that I would like to go into a more procedural based specialty. For example, my top interest right now is surgery, but I’m also interested in emergency medicine, otolaryngology, neurology, pediatrics – the list goes on.

5. Why Medicine?

It’s crazy how if you step back and think about one of the most important things we value as human beings, it’s the sense of health and wellness. I mean, look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs – physiological needs are the base of the pyramid. The theory is that the needs lower on the pyramid need to be met before we can attend to the needs higher up like relationships, self-esteem, and creativity. That means, when we fail to meet our health needs, we are unable to focus on those higher up needs. Medicine goes so much deeper than physical rehabilitation; it can heal someone emotionally and spiritually. Without health, people are forced to spend their energy on that instead of bettering themselves as an individual and living their best life. That’s why I chose medicine – to help people not just physically, but as a whole person.



6. With a heavy course load, how do you prioritize your time to ensure that you are able to enjoy leisure activities?

A lot of trial and error. Prioritizing time is so different for everyone. It really depends on what type of person you are and how you study best. It’s even fair to say that the way you prioritize your time might change throughout your time in college.

Whether you feel like you have the time or not, you need to make time. Sometimes you might need to physically schedule “non-school related” things into your daily routine. Studies have shown that you are more productive when you give yourself intermittent breaks. So use those breaks wisely by exercising, meal prepping, watching an episode of The Office, or hanging out with friends.

7. What inspired you to create @womeninmedicinekc?

WomeninmedicineKC was started as a way to create an environment of support, love, empowerment, and individuality for women in health care in Kansas City. The amazing thing about this Instagram page is that it is everyone’s creation. Without the courageous women standing up and sharing their stories of adversity or inspiration, the page would have no content. One of the best things that have come from this page is the number of women who have said that they feel empowered by hearing other people’s stories. That is exactly what our hopes were in making this. As individuals, I feel like we often times doubt our own credibility or fail to validate our own stories as being amazing, beautiful, and inspirational. We have all gone on such unique journeys that have made us the multidimensional women that we are today.

Sharing those stories with our peers is not only validating for ourselves, but for others who might need motivation for the day. Not to mention, it is a great way for us to get to know our peers better, and encourage our female colleagues to be the best and most amazing versions of themselves!

Another exciting thing to be on the lookout for is the start-up of our YouTube channel. In making the Instagram page, we simultaneously have been working on a YouTube channel to expand on the posts made on Instagram. That will be starting shortly, so keep an eye out on the Instagram page for more information on that!

8. Do you have any advice for women who are thinking about pursuing a healthcare profession?

· The journey is long and tough; I’m not going to lie to you. But girl, it is so worth it!

· Take care of yourself first. The most important thing you can do in life is to love yourself first. No other relationship can flourish unless you have a flourishing relationship with yourself. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of your patients because you will have become a patient yourself.

· Speak up! Use your voice. If you don’t like something or you feel like you have been treated poorly… say something! Your voice matters. Your story matters. You matter!

With Madison's advice, I hope women out there feel more confident in pursuing STEM fields. You are so much more than your gender and you are able to accomplish anything you set your mind to.