Growing up in Portage, PA, Sarah Flora earned her undergraduate degree in medical imaging. As the lead technologist in Geisinger’s 3D Imaging/3D Printing Lab, she runs the day-to-day management of the lab and helped established its medical 3D printing program. Although Sarah’s job requires her to be very “techy,” when she’s off duty, she loves to camp – especially places that don’t have cell service. “It’s such a great recharge from my busy work life to just relax and enjoy nature.”
We asked Sarah a few questions about her career journey, obstacles she’s faced and what International Women’s Day means to her. Here’s what she said:
Why did you decide to pursue a career in healthcare?
I had a female family friend that started as an X-ray technologist to ultimately manage radiation oncology at a hospital where I’m from. She showed strength and adversity, and her background impressed me. She proved to me it was possible to work for what you want in life, and it made me follow in her footsteps and pursue radiography. I ultimately was hired at Geisinger as an MRI technologist and worked my way up to be the lead technologist in the Radiology 3D Imaging Lab, which later evolved into 3D Imaging and 3D Printing. I have such a neat job; being able to provide a 3D print of a patient’s specific anatomy to help plan a surgery or educate a learner or patient is invaluable and so rewarding! If it wasn’t for my family friend and my parents always reassuring me that I can do whatever I put my mind to, I would not be where I am today!
Tell us about a challenge you’ve faced along your journey?
Medical 3D printing heavily involves certain engineering aspects that I did not have any education on. Some of the hospitals that have 3D printing programs are run by biomedical engineers, not technologists. I have been constantly learning and evolving my knowledge base to prove that technologists are not only able to do what I’m doing, but can be a huge benefit for these programs as well. Technologists have such a wide background of anatomy and physiology along with a 3D lab technologist’s segmentation skillset. To excel in my career and help grow our program, I chose to grow my engineering background. I am currently enrolled in an Additive Manufacturing course through MIT, and I am hoping to pursue my Master’s Degree in Additive Manufacturing and Engineering at Penn State in the fall. I think this will be the biggest challenge I will be facing right now, but I noticed something that I could improve on and I want to evolve with the field. I feel like I am bringing more to the field by having a technologist background and then learning some engineering aspects than if I were just one or the other.
What do you think is the biggest issue women face today?
I think a huge issue women face today is the fact that not all women are building other women up. I have seen this throughout the years with successful women - there aren’t always many other women in their corner. It really bothers me that in today’s society we still feel threatened by successful, driven women. Coming from a small group of women that 3D print medical anatomy, we have found out the only way we all excel is if we build each other up and support each other. We can all have different problems that we can’t figure out alone, and you sit down together, talk it out and find solutions to a lot of them- it’s amazing how it works. There’s something great happening when you support each other - we all grow. I just hope more women notice that instead of holding others back, build them up.
What advice would you give to other women looking to get into the healthcare field?
Please join us! There are so many routes and so many options in the healthcare industry that you can become successful in. The world is really your oyster! Work hard for what you want, don’t give up, keep pushing to reach your goals and please don’t ever think you can’t do it! Ultimately in the end, make yourself proud!
The theme for this year’s International Women’s day is “Balance for Better,” focused on building a gender-balanced world. What does that mean to you? How can we make a positive difference for women everywhere?
I think the more we build women up to become successful, the more they become positive role models for young girls that need inspiration who, in turn, will grow up and also be a positive role model… and so on, and so on. Eventually, successful women and men should be equal, but that might take a while. In the short term, I think recognizing the actions that are being taken to not have a gender-balanced world would be the first priority. We all see it, but not many talk about it. The facts are out there, and they are indeed facts, that currently women are still not equal to men in the workforce. The more we can rectify the situations that we are currently in, the easier it will be to recognize and change the paths that we are going down.