We had the good fortune of connecting with Sarah Rowan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sarah, what role has risk played in your life or career?
We all view risk so differently depending on our personalities, skills, circumstances, and experiences. I didn’t feel like I was taking a big risk seeing patients when COVID-19 started because I’m in good health and knew I had good, reliable PPE. When I had the thought of reaching out to a group of physician moms to see if any women of color were interested in sharing their photos for a portrait project, that felt like a big risk. It was such a personal request – for people who have directly experienced racism to let me help tell their stories as medical professionals, through the eyes of artists – that seemed bold and risky. I’m so glad I took that risk because my intentions were well received and now over 200 women have portraits of themselves on the frontlines, memorializing this intense time.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I chose to go into the field of Infectious Diseases because I was interested in conditions that affect the whole body and the interaction between microbes and their human hosts. It’s been a fascinating career. I get to take care of individuals living with HIV which is a unique illness given not only the characteristics of the virus but also the social implications of a stigmatized condition. There is so much work to be done to address HIV on all fronts. I also am an expert in hepatitis C which affects people who are often marginalized but is now easily curable with medicines that are very well tolerated. Curing Hep C is a blast!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
We would go to the mountains – the Rockies are incredible. Considering that we’re in the midst of the fall surge, we probably wouldn’t go too many places in Denver right now, but we do have lots of lovely parks here that we could enjoy!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My sibling-in-law, Dave Thatcher, got behind the project immediately, Dave is a talented videographer, photographer, and storyteller. When I asked for help putting all the photos I’d received into a collage, Dave suggested a website. The project never would have been so widely shared without a website. It’s beautifully done and I owe it all to Dave! My friend Holly McClelland took the lead in creating a photo collage with all the submitted photos which has been a mainstay of the project’s imagery. She also created the logo and did several portraits. I am amazed at her artistic skills – both in fine art and graphic design. Brailyn Dudley came into our lives like a breath of fresh air when we were struggling with how to work and support our then first graders with remote school. Brailyn was our nanny during the spring and summer and also offered to help with the management of all the digital content and correspondence that was flowing in. She was a lifesaver! My husband has been a big supporter of the project and I’m really grateful to Nancy Prendergast, Yana Greenstein, and all the other brilliant artists who submitted so many portraits, including my mom, Sherry Rowan! Finally, big shout out to my women physician colleagues on the front lines, showing up day in and day out to take care of our fellow humans.
Holly McClelland did the portrait of me and created the photo collage poster. I drew the portrait of the two healthcare providers.