Mentoring Profile: Sheila Dugan, MD, Rush Medical College

Dec. 4, 2017

The Rush Women Mentoring Program fosters professional development and a sense of community and collaboration among women faculty at Rush University. In this series, we highlight program mentors and mentees and learn more about how mentoring has impacted them.

Sheila Dugan, MD, associate professor, in the departments of Neurosurgery and Preventive Medicine, Rush Medical College, and acting chief of the Section of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in the Department of Neurosurgery, joined Rush in 2002.

Tell us about your background.

I am an associate professor the in the departments of Neurosurgery and Preventive Medicine, Rush Medical College, and acting chief of the Section of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in the Department of Neurosurgery, where I see patients with pain and functional problems related to neurological and musculoskeletal disorders. I also direct the Rush Program for Abdominal and Pelvic Health and chair the Rush Women’s Leadership Council, while serving on the ADA Committee and Diversity Leadership Committee.

I have published numerous scientific manuscripts, book chapters and articles, and I lecture locally and nationally. My research interests include pelvic wellness, health equity, the health benefits of physical activity — in particular in underserved populations — and pain, function and visceral fat in women at menopause. I received my bachelor’s degrees in biology from the University of Chicago and physical therapy from Northwestern University and my medical degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago. I did my internship at the University of Chicago in internal medicine and my residency at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago in PM&R. Prior to coming to Rush, I was on the faculty at the Harvard Medical School and worked at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Massachusetts General Hospital.

What inspired you to get into your field?

Growing up with my brother, Terry, who has cerebral palsy opened my eyes to the different ways people can be in the world and turned me into a very inclusive person. I was fascinated with the biomechanical issues that Terry had to deal with to make his way in the world. I was an athlete and participated in college sports, which made me a very team-oriented person. I have experienced the joy of pregnancy and delivering and the changes related to menopause, experiences which have deepened my strong interest in women’s health and fuel my research on the benefits of physical activity.

What excited you about your work at Rush?

My clinical work brings me in contact with other patient-centered providers who understand that collaborating leads to better patient care. My research work broadens my understanding of the need to get community input to solve the ongoing struggles we have locally and nationally that perpetuate health disparities.

What is your opinion of mentoring and sponsorship?

Mentoring and sponsorship have been a constant, positive force that has guided my career and the various paths I have taken, such as my transition from being a physical therapist to a doctor.

Do you have tips or advice you would recommend for someone looking to enter your field of work?

Follow your heart. Be sure to pass on your knowledge, your energy and your passion for what you love best and others will pick up on it and open up new opportunities to you. Taking care of others and using research to solve health problems is an immense privilege that will continue to fuel you.

What are your hobbies? How do you like to spend your free time?

Family time is key to me. I try to keep myself fueled with regular physical activity, including yoga. Music also soothes my soul.