CHATHAM, NJ – The Library of The Chathams celebrated Women’s History Month by holding its fourth Notable Women of New Jersey Event. Among those invited to speak at the event was Dr. Bonni Guerin, the director of the Breast Cancer Treatment and Prevention at the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Overlook Medical Center in Summit.
Other panel members included former professor, author and race car driving instructor Ingrid Steffensen; Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of New Jersey Monthly Kate Tomlinson, and State Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, D-27, Morris/Essex, from South Orange. The panel was moderated by Myriam Alvarez, a journalist, writer and author of “Flowers in the Dust,” a
Alvarez invited the panelists to speak on how they discovered their passion. Dr. Guerin said she was raised in “a lower-middle class family” and even the idea of going to college “was never even on my radar.” She did go to a community college, but as a music major. While in college she developed a love of science and discovered she had a gift for talking and listening. A professor noticed her, took on the role of mentor and, under his guidance, Guerin moved from the community college to a private college and eventually completed her residency at Vanderbilt.
Sign Up for E-News
She described herself as “a genetic go-getter and overachiever,” who realized if she wanted to be a mother, she needed to do something about it soon, so she went to Russia and adopted a little girl. She then returned to Russia and adopted a son. “Life was wonderful,” she said, so she went to Bulgaria and adopted an older girl with special needs. She was 11-years-old and had never been to school, Dr. Guerin said. If that wasn’t enough to deal with, she also met the man who would become her husband.
Where at one point in time she had her plate full with her medical responsibilities, now she has three children, a husband, and is also president and an active member of the Special Education Parent Advisory Group (SEPAG).
“It was so important for me to be a really good doctor, to be a caregiver” which led to her adopting her children. The question now is, “How am I going to continue to be a really good mommy and then be a really good doctor?” She said she struggles to find a balance, but feels like, “We created our own impossible scenario.”
Others on the panel agreed that everyone has these types of conflicts – whether with children, aging parents, or some other situation.
Alvarez said, “The first step is to accept that not every day will be a perfect day” and learn “to exercise forgiveness.”
Later Dr. Guerin said her job with Atlantic Health System allows her to “find this work-family balance” because they are invested in her and give her the space so “I can do the things that need to be done.”