By Contributing Writer - April 29, 2022
SPECIAL SERIES: WOMEN IN ONCOLOGY
Women faculty at Moffitt Cancer Center come from different backgrounds and cultures around the globe. Their areas of research and clinical care span the entire cancer continuum, including clinical science and trials, basic science, epidemiology, health outcomes, integrated mathematical oncology, biostatistics and more. Community involvement, mentorship and inclusion among faculty are foundational, and we celebrate the essential roles women play in making a difference at the cancer center and in society.
Meet Dr. Olga Klinkova
Olga Klinkova, M.D., M.S., is an assistant member in the Department of Internal and Hospital Medicine at Moffitt. She is board-certified in infectious disease and internal medicine. Klinkova earned her medical degree at Omsk State Medical Academy in Russia. At the age of 24, she moved to the United States to join her husband and completed a master’s degree in molecular biology. She soon realized her passion is medicine and patient care, so while working on her master’s degree she completed the necessary medical certifications in the U.S. and finished a residency, then worked as a hospitalist for a few years before moving to Tampa, where she completed an infectious disease fellowship and joined Moffitt. She and her husband, also a medical doctor, are the proud parents of three girls.
You came to the U.S. from Russia. Have you ever experienced culture shock?
Yes, moving from one country to another at the age of 24 was a bold move, which looking back was the right decision. If you experience one culture for the first 24 years of your life, jumping into a different country, different language, is a unique experience. Even though a lot of things might seem exciting and amazing, there are a lot of sad and kind of insecure experiences that come with it as well. And it goes to simple things like missing your family, missing the food that you used to eat for most of your life. But I think the most important part was missing my family. And of course, life here is very different compared to my life in Russia. In general, I can say that the pace is much faster.
During the process of moving here and getting adjusted, have you ever felt misunderstood because of cultural differences?
Definitely. The first couple of years after moving to the United States were not easy. A lot of times I had to repeat things several times, so people would understand me. Also, the routines are so much different here than in Russia. Eventually, I got used to it and at this point I feel that I’m very well adjusted to this culture.
What is one of your biggest challenges in your profession?
I treat patients post-bone marrow transplant, as well as patients with hematologic malignancies. They are at increased risk for the infectious disease conditions that you see everywhere. In addition to that, they are at risk for very unique conditions, such as viral and fungal infections, which can make them very sick.
My biggest challenge in the field of medicine is that I always feel like I do not have enough time. I always run out of time because there’s just so much to do. And I am dedicated to doing my best when I take care of my patients and work with my trainees, which include medical students, infectious disease fellows and bone marrow transplant trainees rotating through our service.
Were you required to do any of your work remotely during the recent pandemic?
Because my position is mostly clinical, I continued to work in the hospital throughout the pandemic. The only major change we experienced is that many more telehealth visits and Zoom visits occurred.
What comes to mind when you hear the term “imposter syndrome”?
Most of the time what comes to my mind is a professional woman who is performing very well, and from the outside, it seems like she’s very competent and definitely knows what she’s doing, but on the inside that there is a disconnect, and that person might feel like she’s not good enough.
Have you ever experienced a feeling of imposter syndrome?
How do you overcome it to move your career and life forward?
A lot of times, I feel like we’re very hard on ourselves and strive for perfection. However, most days perfection is not achievable. So, we all have to realize that just doing the best we can is enough. I also think that talking to my colleagues, my women friends here at work that also are in my situation, is helpful, realizing that we’re all going through many of the same issues at work. Many of us are young moms trying to handle this very demanding career and with little children at home.
What influenced you to go into the field of medicine?
It goes back to the roots of my family. I am from a physicians’ family. Both my parents, my sister, my brother-in-law, and a few other family members are physicians. I spent numerous hours during my childhood in my parents’ hospital office, waiting for them to finish their work. So, I was used to and loved the environment of being in a hospital. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to be anything else.
Who is the person who encouraged you the most and why?
It’s probably my mom and dad. They’ve been the best examples, and they clearly influenced how my career evolved and how I make decisions in my life. When my sister and I were growing up, we saw how extremely busy they were. And at the same time, they still managed to give us all the love we needed and the time. So, a lot of times when I have bad days or something is happening at work, I think of them and how they overcame very difficult times, and even without all of these resources that I have in my hands right now, because they grew up and lived in much more difficult times.
What does self-care mean to you?
Self-care to me is very important because I feel like it’s about being the best version of myself. If I’m able to take good care of myself, being well-rested, staying positive, it affects how I manage at work. It allows me to be a best version of myself at work with my patients and with my coworkers and trainees, as well.
What do you do to unwind or to recharge?
I’m a very avid reader. I enjoy all sorts of books from mysteries to self-help and improvement. And we’re also quite busy and we love to do projects and crafts with my three children.
What advice would you give a colleague about the importance of self-care?
I would say hard work is very important. However, it’s as important to find this little piece during your day to take care of yourself, to pay attention to how you’re feeling and those things that make you feel better. A lot of times this is all about setting a priority. So, what you do is make self-care one of your priorities. And if you practice it and allow yourself to practice it every day, you will definitely see positive results in your attitude, and it just makes you happier.