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Faculty Profile: Jefferson Doctor Moves from Board Room to Exam Room

03/12/18

Stephanie Moleski, MD '05, Chose Medicine over Marketing

Stephanie Moleski, MD '05

Medicine wasn’t Stephanie Moleski’s first career choice—but it was always her first love.

Moleski, a physician in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Jefferson, spent four years in advertising and marketing before deciding to follow her passion for healing.

Although she had a strong interest in medicine throughout her high school years, Moleski says she was wooed by the other fascinating subjects in college at Duke University.

“Growing up, I wanted to be a doctor. But when I got to Duke, my eyes were opened to many other interesting areas of study,” Moleski explains. “I majored in history and picked up marketing as a minor.

After four years of working for a small fashion advertising firm in New York City, she decided “it was a fun way to spend my 20s, but it wasn’t the best use of my life; I wanted to help people, to feel personal connections.”

That is when she decided to return to school to become a physician. After a year of prerequisite science courses at Temple University, she came to Jefferson Medical College (now Sidney Kimmel Medical College). She graduated in 2005 and stayed on for her residency and fellowship.

“It was all Jefferson all the way. I never had a reason to leave—Jefferson is the best med school and hospital in the city,” she says enthusiastically.

Although she entered a medical career a little later than most, she doesn’t feel her time in advertising and marketing was detrimental to her goals—in fact, she believes it has helped her become a better doctor.

“The marketing education gave me a lot of exposure to public speaking and presentations, which has been helpful in teaching and academic medicine … and having different work experience has helped me to relate to patients better—
I have had more exposure to people of different backgrounds.”

It also fed her interest in women’s issues and inspired her to steer her work in that direction.

“At the fashion-advertising firm, I did a lot of retouching of photographs. I was conflicted by creating an image of women that could never actually be achieved,” she said. She felt that women’s issues in general—and particularly in medicine—were important. Much of her work centers on how GI disorders, including celiac disease, affect women. In 2012, she received the ACG/Radhika Srinivasan Gender-Based Research Award for a study that showed women with celiac disease are more likely than other women to have difficulty with conception and pregnancy, including a greater chance of preterm birth.

Moleski works with the Jefferson Celiac Center, Philadelphia’s first adult center for the diagnosis and management of celiac disease, and is currently involved in a study on nonceliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). Patients with NCGS do not have a diagnosis of celiac disease or wheat allergy, but experience symptoms of celiac disease when they ingest gluten—such as abdominal pain, bone or joint pain, rash, etc.—and get relief from a gluten-free diet.

Aside from treating patients and conducting research, Moleski is an assistant professor of Medicine and associate GI fellowship program director at Jefferson. In 2014, she received the Teaching Attending Award – Internal Medicine Teaching Award. She says she enjoys her dual roles of physician and teacher because they give her the opportunity to help people throughout the day—“patients with their health concerns, and students with their medical practice.”

Moleski said she couldn’t do it all without the support of her husband, Charlie, who she describes as “an amazing husband and dad” to their two young sons. She also credits her parents, in-laws, and a very close neighbor who help with the children when her schedule is too crazy.

When she looks back on her life so far, Moleski says she is grateful.

“Medicine is a fabulous career; it is such a privilege to have people open up to me. I’m an idealist and always want to help others. I am so lucky to be able to do that every day.”

By Cindy Lefler