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Vital Signs

Investigator Insight

In this section, we highlight the human side of biomedical investigation, putting a few questions to a researcher at DMS-DHMC.

Juliette Madan, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics

Madan studies perinatal nutrition, specifically the probiotic effects of breast milk and the potential use of probiotics in vulnerable infant populations to prevent or treat disease. She joined the faculty in 2008.

How did you decide to become a scientist?
I was one of those children who felt inspired to go into medicine at about 12 (after wanting to be an archaeologist). My physician at the time told me I'd have 17 more years of school, which didn't deter me—and it turned out I actually had 20 more years of training.

What's hot in your field right now?
I love neonatology and neonatal research because it's such a new field it's never not hot. Everything we do is new and innovative and changes frequently. I think our microbiome research is particularly exciting because we are studying this at the beginning of life when our patients are a blank slate.

Are there any misconceptions people have about your field?
People tend to get very sad when they ask about working with sick newborns. I try to reassure them that one of the reasons I chose neonatology is because we can save lives and most of our patients do well.

What's your favorite nonwork activity?
Being a farmer with my children, playing with our chickens, rabbits, and horses.

What do friends give you a hard time about?
Having too many kids. My husband and I now have five beautiful children and a very full life!

What's the last book you read?
Ten Apples Up on Top by Dr. Seuss. My favorite recent books were Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides and The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. I love reading Pulitzer Prize-winning novels like Middlesex; I'm trying to read all of them. Middlesex is a beautiful story about a boy with 21 alpha-hydroxylase deficiency who grew up as a girl. The story about Henrietta Lacks is a nonfiction work, about how her life affected science and how a cell line called HeLa came to be.

What three people would you like to have over for dinner?
My husband's grandparents. I did not get to meet them before they died. They lived through the partition in India and raised their six children in New Delhi. He was an internist and she was the center of their family. I would also like to have dinner with Gloria Steinem or Betty Friedan or any of the other mothers of the feminist movement. I so admire people who are brave enough to be the spearhead for movements that change history. I'm quite sure I wouldn't have the opportunities I do without women like them having led the way.

What is stressful for you?
Flying on airplanes to go to conferences and managing my carpool. It is also hard sometimes to juggle clinical work with research responsibilities, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

What is a talent you wish you had?
I wish I were a marathon runner.

What was your first paying job?
I was a camp counselor, and in my next life I want to be a camp director.

What's the best piece of advice you were ever given, and who gave it to you?
My godmother told me that actions speak louder than words. This has been hugely important in my role as a physician, working with the families I serve, as well as in my research and teaching roles, and it's been very, very important in my role as a mother.

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