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Powerful Women: Let's Talk – 92: Dr. Lisa Lowery

Lisa Lowrey
Lisa Lowrey

Dr. Lisa Lowery of Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine joins WGVU's Jennifer Moss

Dr. Lisa Lowery is the Section Chief of Adolescent Medicine and Assistant Dean for Diversity and Cultural Initiatives at Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine.

She has a servant and democratic leadership style and a passion for clinical education. She also has a passion for diversity and inclusion, which has led her to work on improving the learning and work environment for medical students and residents.

Dr. Lowery is also developing faculty projects to enhance the skills and knowledge of faculty to have conversations around microaggression, unconscious bias, and allyship.

Powerful Women: Let’s Talk is created by WGVU NPR and made possible by WGVU NPR sustaining monthly donors. Become a sustaining monthly donor now at wgvu.org/donate to support WGVU NPR’s local programs, including Powerful Women: Let’s Talk.

Full Transcript:


Intro: produced by women about women Powerful women Let's talk is a series of interviews with women who are trailblazers and have helped shape our world transforming who we are and how we live.


Jennifer Moss: Hello, everyone. Time for powerful women. Let's talk. Thanks so much for joining us today. I'm Jennifer Moss. It is a pleasure to bring you today's powerful woman, Dr. Lisa Lowery. Dr. Lowery is the section chief of adolescent medicine and assistant Dean for diversity and cultural initiatives at Michigan State University's College of human medicine. She's an associate program director for the combined internal medicine pediatrics residency program and she's an associate professor at Michigan State University's College of human medicine, Department of pediatrics and human development. That's just the beginning. It's got powerful woman written all over it. Thanks so much for joining us today.

Lisa Lowery: Thank you for having me.

Jennifer Moss: So, let's share a little bit more about Dr. Lowery before we start our conversation. She’s also a Grand Rapids native. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology with honors from Michigan State University doctor Lowery received her medical degree from the University of Michigan medical school and she completed a combined internal medicine and pediatric residency program at Spectrum Health Butterworth, Michigan State University in Grand Rapids. Doctor Lowery also completed a subspecialty fellowship in adolescent medicine at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. And while there she obtained a Master of Public Health in the Department of population and family health Sciences. Very busy woman powerful indeed. Also, I have to let you know that she is also the president of the West Michigan medical society, a national Medical Association. I've got to say she serves on the Urban League of West Michigan's board of directors. But I just found out she is now the president of the Urban League it that's not enough to add to the list. Doctor Lisa Lowery again, thank you so much for joining us today.

Lisa Lowery: thank you again.

Jennifer Moss: It's a pleasure to have you. So, you know, as we talk about things letting people know about your work. You are indeed very busy as we can tell by your bio, you work in adolescent medicine. And you also have a servant and Democratic leadership style I read that in there with a passion for clinical education. So, you're dealing with issues like eating disorders, gender affirming care and reproductive health. Right. Tell me about your work and what you are responsible for and what you do.

Lisa Lowery: So, we have an adolescent and young adult medicine practice at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital. We've been around for a little over 25 years and I've actually had the pleasure being at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in a few weeks. It will be 18 years. It doesn't feel like it.

Jennifer Moss: Congratulations.

Lisa Lowery: Thank you. And so, we actually are a primary and subspecialty care practice for teenagers and young adults. And so, we provide everything from care around ADHD, physicals, or acne, gender affirming, care eating disorders. A lot of reproductive health care. A lot of psychological mental health issues. And so, I have a practice and a team of about 3 other clinicians, and we have a social worker. So very small, but dynamic team. And I think a lot of people sometimes say you take care of teenagers and I actually love taking care of teenagers. There's never a dull moment.

Jennifer Moss: I bet that there's not. And so you’re also the assistant Dean for diversity and cultural initiatives at MSU’s, College of Human Medicine. That's another passion diversity and inclusion. What's at the heart of your work there would imagine improving learning in the work environment for medical students. And that's part of your hearts treasure.

Lisa Lowery: Yes. So I've always had a passion for Diversity Equity Inclusion and social justice issues and had always been very involved in resident education and involved with the medical students at the College of human medicine and in 2020 I started the new newly created role for the assistant dean of for diversity and cultural initiatives and Dean Bullshamp and Dean Lipscomb and Dean Suza found the need for us to actually have because there's a lot of work to be done and have a person in Grand Rapids that's very accessible to the medical students. And so, part of my role has been just first giving you the lay of the land. And I will say nothing is like starting a new position in the middle of a pandemic and all the social justice issues that were going on in 2020. But really, I've had the opportunity to engage with faculty and students and do everything from faculty development. Sessions on microaggression and unconscious bias. We also have a simulated patient center here in Grand Rapids and so working with our students and our community. How do we actually recruit more diverse simulated patients to our medical school because that's really how lot of our students learn actually bringing those patients in or those actor patients in and being able to engage. and then also being a voice in support and support to the students and so been very active. Actually, one of my mentors said now you have the time to do some of the things that you been passionate about for years.

Jennifer Moss: Absolutely and so Again, you mentioned that developing the faculty projects to enhance skills and knowledge about that conversation about microaggression and unconscious bias and allyship. How important it is that type of work in the field of medicine. Yet today, 2022.

Lisa Lowery: It's very, very important. I mean, we know that if our patients do not feel welcome. They do not seek health care. And so, it really is it's no longer just Be a good doctor, good health care provider. It is actually understanding our patients being able to. And again, it doesn't mean that, you know all it, but it is where you can develop a sense of, you know what, I'm going to learn. I'm going to be comfortable with asking some of those uncomfortable questions. But I'm also going to learn how to ask questions and develop relationships with my patients in a culturally competent way. And we know when our patients experience microaggressions and things like unconscious bias, they don't come and seek health care or when they come, they're not truthful. And so, for me, as a clinician, we really need to know. You know how patients feel, all of those things. But I think it's also very important when we talk about these were also really underscoring the social determinants of health. And so, we know that when by the time a patient comes to my office or even comes to the health care system. We really impact. Only about 20% of their overall health but really its other social determinants of health and the systemic issues that impact the 80%. So, your zip code and all those things and so again as a provider can be very overwhelming because you're like, well, how do I address this. But I think sometimes at the most basic level. It's just been an understanding health care provider.

Jennifer Moss: And it also is important to address this with other faculty and staff as well so that they have the same mindset and openness to avoiding or eliminate microaggressions and those types of things.

Lisa Lowery: Yes, it is very important, because I think what I've been able to have conversations with people this I don't want to say the wrong thing. So, but I also see have to say something because your silence is no longer excepted. And so, I think really being able to have those meaningful conversations with people in a safe way. So, they have been faculty who have reached out to me and say Lisa, how I say this, how to address this and that's OK,

Jennifer Moss: you would rather them do that than not.

Lisa Lowery: I'd rather do that than not, yes and then being able how can we learn together. So, the other thing is I don't come from this place of on. High, I'm maybe along this journey. Little further than you I'm continuing to learn and then saying I'm continuing to make mistakes. So how do you do that.

Jennifer Moss: Absolutely. And then you're also you work closely with your students as well. And you don't just speak to them or talk to them but to actually get involved in issues with your students to kind of set a role model example, In various things of especially with what's been happening from social justice issues as well.

Lisa Lowery: Yes, so our students are very Impactful into their young minds even with what happened in Grand Rapids of a few months ago with Patrick Loyola death. There's a national organization called white coats for black lives. And we do have an affiliation and a chapter here. Well, the students actually organized the March, and we were able to take about a mile walk downtown. And so, I think that was a way for our students to say, you know, a lot of our students aren’t from Grand Rapids. And what people don’t realize actually how the college human medicine Michigan State's College of human medicine. Grand Rapids is actually its largest campus. People don't really realize that I was hanging out on the SECCHIA Center. But our students said, you know, we're part of this community. So was a pleasure of mine so I take no credit. I was just actually there walking with them. But what resonated with me, I think from that day is I'm standing there with some students, and I see the tears running them their eyes and how do we as another generation support them. So, there was it was just very impactful for me. And I was very proud of our students that day.

Jennifer Moss: And so again, as we look at all that you're you know, I listed a long list of things you’re your involved in positions that you hold boards that are on very involved in the community as well. The big question is, as we look at powerful women, the scope of this and encouraging others. Are you enjoying your journey?

Lisa Lowery: I love what I do. I will say that, as I said, I've been practicing medicine almost 2 decades now. But I love taking care of teenagers. I love working with medical students and residents when they come on in the rotation and they hang out with me and learn and they're like adolescents aren’t too scary. And so, I love that. I've been doing it long enough now that some of my former teenage patients are now bringing their teens to me so that I call that rewarding So I love that. I love being a part of my community. I mean, I think that's just I was raised, that's what you're supposed to do on my community has supported me us all many ways. I love being part of the Grand Rapids community. then like I said, the new position with Michigan State has really afforded me some time to really do some deeper dive and work and has fueled and kind of reenergized me in this part of my career. And so, I will say I love what I do

Jennifer Moss: and it's been rewarding I would imagine

Lisa Lowery: very rewarding.

Jennifer Moss: So, as we talk about powerful women, have there been any barriers that you've encountered, you know, as you traveled along your careers path.

Lisa Lowery: Oh, yes, I think I don't say it every step, but there's always some people. I remember one, counselor when I was at Michigan State said I don't think you'll ever get into University of Michigan, like really told me that until that I don't even need to apply. Yes

Jennifer Moss: Good thing you didn't listen.

Lisa Lowery: I didn't listen, well I’m going to apply. What else, ha-ha, there are times where you have to be. You're uncomfortable cause lot of times you're the only person of color in the room, there have been times when I have felt less than supported by my colleagues And I think you what that I've also said. I've had some great mentors in my life. And so, I think what we have to know that as you're going to come across these obstacles in your life and I’m also a woman of faith and I have good family and friend support in. And so being able to lean on those people in times like that. This is also very important.

Jennifer Moss: You know, as we travel along that that road, this journey and our lives. You try to move forward. We face those obstacles. We face such challenges. How did you come to find and be comfortable in your own skin because that's a process for everyone and for women in particular to become comfortable in your own skin? How was that journey?

Lisa Lowery: That's a dynamic question I'm not going to here and lie to you. It has taken me a good 40 years to become comfortable in my own skin. realizing your own value and I’ve

Jennifer Moss: that’s key

Lisa Lowery: That is key and realizing your path so many times. I even find myself, comparing myself with others. And I know you like what you've done this and this and I'm like, why, why? But, why don’t I have that title.? Why am I here and what I've really realized is I'm where I supposed to be. And finding the value in your work and the past couple of years and I will say honestly the past year and half have really reveal that to me. You're here. You know, you support, you’re a connector and finding value in that and not really under estimating that.

Jennifer Moss: Especially if you're a woman of faith and you know your purpose your sense of purpose.

Lisa Lowery: Yes, yes, yes.

Jennifer Moss: So, you work with a lot of people. What are the leadership styles that you tend to like or lean toward I know you talked about you have a servant leadership and a Democratic leadership style yourself? But what do you look for other people that you work for, especially those you mentor and those you’re guiding along in your role?

Lisa Lowery: I like to help people find their own passion. And that's really what I thrive on. I really like to say, OK, what are you passionate about. Would you like to do what, what values are important to you? And when I sit there and talk to people. I say, OK, would where do you see, you know, we always do the where do you see yourself in 5 years. Right. And I tried to do that. But I also I think, honestly, I probably lean towards people who have a very similar leadership style then I do. I really like for I know it's kind of corny, but I really like for all the voices to be heard in the room. I really like to empower people. And so that's where I'm value. And that's what I look for. And I also like for somebody like be teachable

Jennifer Moss: Receive it

Lisa Lowery: Receive it and then what I found valuable and those connections you also learn from other people. And that's what I what I most enjoy.

Jennifer Moss: Very true So you probably get asked this a lot. But what inspired you to become a doctor.

Lisa Lowery: Well, I do not come from a family of physicians. My father was in business. My mother, she worked for Consumers Power for the light company. My aunts for teachers in the community. The story goes that even as a child, I would say I want to be a pediatrician I want to take care of kids. And you know, in was my family, even my grandmother valued education and she would say get a good education. They can never take that away from you. And I think I grew up with those values and so did they didn't play. So, education was important. And so, I continue to be a pretty good student. And that's where the whole journey to medicine I think actually started and I would say oh you want to be a doctor so I can give back to my community and take care of kids. And I'm actually now blessed to do that

Jennifer Moss: and you haven't looked back at me because you surely have the education. Okay. Easy. Breezy question. What makes you laugh?

Lisa Lowery: I love good comedy. I love just whether it's kind of the silly comedy, mindless comedy Those are the things that make me laugh. So, if you saw my streaming list, you know, like what is she? What kind of? But you know, just those things. I love it's OK and I love to laugh at myself. So those who know me really was at least Lisa she's a nut. So. But I think, you know, those are the things that's what really makes me laugh.

Jennifer Moss: Well, you are a doctor. I always say it's when I interview people for powerful women And I say, you know, I just believe laughter is good for the soul. doctor is it good for you?

Lisa Lowery: It is. You have to laugh

Jennifer Moss: From a doctor’s perspective.

Lisa Lowery: You have to laugh I think a laugh a day keeps the doctor away me what you know, there's things But, you know, just think about when you laugh and when those real good hearty laughs--how you feel afterwards! so yeah.

Jennifer Moss: Absolutely. So, you know, so much happening as we know, we talked about some of the in our world today. People are often looking for just that little bit that a little piece of Courage, that word of encouragement. Do you have a quote or a verse or anything that you look to that you might use for yourself or for others to encourage them along the way?

Lisa Lowery: Yeah. So, if you ever come to my office in my home. I have all these little quotes up. But one that I always kind of resonates with me is and I'm going to get it wrong. But really, if we truly did everything that we were capable of. We would astonish people. And I know that's I'm getting it wrong. But really if we truly did things, everything that we were capable above. We would just astonish--everyone, including ourselves.

Jennifer Moss: Even ourselves because we sometimes stop short and second guess ourselves. You mentioned earlier just about like I can do this or when that kind of thing. So, it has been such a pleasure talking with you. We really, I enjoyed this conversation so much. Thanks so much for taking time out to talk to us today and I want to thank you for joining us for another edition of powerful women. Let's talk. I'm Jennifer Moss. We'll see you next time.


Outro: Produced by women about in these powerful podcast focus on powerful women in how their strength transforms who we are and how we live.

Want to hear more powerful women Let’s talk get additional interviews at WGVU dot org or wherever you get your podcast, please rate and subscribe powerful women. Let's talk is produced by WGVU at the Myer public broadcast Center at Grand Valley State University, the views and opinions expressed in this program do not necessarily reflect those of WGVU. Its underwriters or Grand Valley State University.


Jennifer is an award winning broadcast news journalist with more than two decades of professional television news experience including the nation's fifth largest news market. She's worked as both news reporter and news anchor for television and radio in markets from Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo all the way to San Francisco, California.
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