Feeling imbalanced? Learn how to integrate your life and work using the Balance T Concept

On November 1st, Women in Radiology, co-chaired by Dr. Sandra Rincon and Dr. Dania Daye, hosted the fourth annual Dr. Lucy F. Squire Lecture, in honor of a female pioneer in the field of radiology education. This year’s lecture was presented by Dr. Hedvig Hricak, the Chairman of Radiology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Who is Dr. Lucy Squire?

Lucy F. Squire (1915 – 1996) was one of the first women going to medical school. She first completed her pre-medicine studies at George Washington University, and then, obtained her medical degree from Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (now Medical College of Pennsylvania) in 1940. Initially she wasn’t certain if she wanted to be a radiologist or pathologist. She decided to complete her first year of residency at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) as it provided six months of radiology and six months of pathology training. However, the pathology department was not open to having a female resident, and thus, she became the first woman radiology resident at MGH in 1940. She ended up taking some time off for the birth of her son, and then, completed her residency at Tufts University in 1944. She became a permanent faculty member at Downstate Medical Center (now State University of New York Science Center) in 1966 and remained a professor of radiology there until retirement in 1972. She served as a visiting lecturer in radiology at Harvard Medical School between 1968 and 1972, and fortunately for MGH that included visiting the radiology department and developing the radiology clerkship for medical students. Lucy loved teaching. Her lectures were interactive and made medical students enthusiastic about radiology. She is known for authoring several medical student textbooks including the radiology textbook “Fundamentals of Radiology.” It was first published in 1964 and is currently on its seventh edition, having been translated into multiple languages.  Lucy was a woman of many firsts – she also won the first Marie Curie Award from the American Association of Women Radiologists in 1987. In “inside out” fashion, Lucy also cultivated a rich life for herself outside of work. She was a gourmet chef, a gardener, a patron of the arts, a lover of literature, an attendee of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and a generous host of friends to her summer home in the Berkshires.

Who is Dr. Hedvig Hricak?            

Hedvig Hricak was born in 1946 in Zagreb, Croatia. She earned her medical degree from the University of Zagreb School of Medicine. She is board certified in diagnostic radiology, and currently serves as chair of the department of Radiology at Memorial Sloan Kettering. She is a professor of radiology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. She is known for developing and validating clinical applications of novel imaging technologies. For instance, she helped to develop the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) for prostate cancer and computed tomography (CT) and MRI for gynecological malignances. She has many international collaborative efforts and is known for working to improve access to cancer imaging across the globe through publications, presentations, teaching, and advocacy effort. She serves on several boards, including the Scientific Advisory Board of the National Cancer Institute and the Advisory Council of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging, and has held leadership positions in several academic societies, including being president of the Radiological Society of North America. At this year’s Dr. Lucy F. Squire Lecture,  Dr. Hricak’s talked about “The Balance T Concept for Integrating Life and Work.” Let’s see what she means by it.

What is the Balance T Concept for Integrating Life and Work?

The balance T concept is a well-known concept in leadership. Dr. Hricak applied it to the challenge of achieving work/life integration. As you can see in the figure below, the vertical bar represents our goals in life—things that we cannot do without. It is essential to be true and honest with ourselves about what we want out of life when we define our vertical bar. The horizontal bar represents the other elements in our life that make us whole.

Dr. Hricak reminded us that time is finite. Recall, whenever we say “yes” to something, we are saying “no” to something else. For this reason, she believes it is an impossible task to achieve work/life balance, and it is more realistic to talk about work/life compromise.

When we have good work/life compromise or in gentler terms work/life integration, we have a balanced T as shown in the figure. When we have poor work/life integration, we have an imbalanced T. When our T “looks funny,” we often recognize it in ourselves. We feel “off” at home or work. We don’t feel fulfilled or feel torn about where to direct our energy. This imbalance can occur if we work too much on building either our vertical or horizontal bar. For example, as many of us our career-focused, we may identify our work as our vertical bar. If we focus too much on our careers though, we will have to cut back on time with our friends and family and end up with an imbalanced T (i.e., long vertical bar, short horizontal bar). If we focus too much on friends and family, we will have to cut back on time with our careers and end up with a differently imbalanced T (i.e., short vertical bar, long horizontal bar). We won’t feel fulfilled with either arrangement.


How can we achieve a good work/life integration?

Dr. Hricak shared with us ten tips for a balanced T:

  • Decide what you want out of life. This decision needs to apply to today, tomorrow, and years from now. The best way to make a solid decision is to know ourselves and be honest with ourselves about our dreams and desires. We can ask others, but at the end of the day, the decision is up to us. There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution.
  • Have passion for what you choose to do in life. We must have passion for what we choose to do in our lives to persevere and be resilient in the face of adversity. It can be challenging to maintain our “vertical bar,” especially when individuals do not agree with us. We must be persistent in those instances, and it is easier to do that when we love what we do.
  • Stop and think before you speak and act. Per Dr. Hricak, for women, there is a narrow path between appearing assertive and being perceived as aggressive or arrogant. Learning to pause and think before doing is an important skill that will support us to be more successful in our careers and at home.
  • Have courage and confidence in yourself. Self-confidence starts with our posture. Stand straight and walk tall to communicate that we believe in ourselves.
  • Embrace imperfection. It is okay to make a mistake, but it is not okay not to try. We need to step out of our comfort zones because that is how we grow. We must take risks and learn to dominate our fears.
  • Don’t take things personally. The world is not perfect. People are going to say things that offend us. In these situations, we should appreciate that these people are ill-informed, and not let them get in our way of achieving what we want.
  • Nurture your networks. Women should lift other women up – within and outside our specialties. We should avoid being jealous or competitive with one another, but rather, focus on how we can promote one another.
  • Empathy is not a weakness; it’s a strength. Based on role congruity theory (i.e., a group will be evaluated favorably when its characteristics agree with that group’s societal roles), women leaders may be perceived less favorably than men, and leadership behavior may be perceived less favorably when demonstrated by women than by men. This prejudice toward female leaders means it can be hard for women to become leaders and be successful in their leadership roles. Dr. Hricak encourages women to be themselves and to not intentionally take on “masculine” leadership characteristics to be successful.
  • Learn to negotiate. All interactions in life are essentially negotiations. Successful negotiations rely 10% on facts, 35% on common goals, and 55% on trust. Stuart Diamond’s “Getting More” is a great book to read to learn more about how to be a successful negotiator.
  • Build a diverse group of mentors. Mentors can help us in different ways, with different aspects and at different times of our lives. We want find mentors with whom we have good chemistry, someone who will promote our work, and someone who understands our values. Mentors should not always smile and say everything is fine, but they also shouldn’t always frown and say that everything is wrong. We are looking for balance in a mentor— someone who will encourage us and promote us, but also, be honest with us and provide us constructive criticism.

Dr. Hricak’s tips were geared toward women in academia and medicine, but much of the advice can be extended more broadly. We hope that you were able to take away something from this piece that will support you to succeed both inside and outside of work. If you were inspired by something in this piece or feel that there was something missing that you apply in your career to achieve good work/life integration, drop us a line through the contact form on our webpage. We would love to learn from you!

We will close with inspiring advice Dr. Squire would give her graduating medical school class that perhaps you can share with others you teach or mentor in the future:

 “You must choose to do something with your life that you absolutely love, something that you would do for free if given the chance. Never choose for lifestyle or money. Choose something because you love doing it.

That’s your latest dose of InsideOut. Until next time, be well!

Contributed by: Natalie Gilmore