Women & Business February 2016: Jeannette E. South-Paul, MD
Dr. South-Paul is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Jeannette E. South-Paul, MD
Andrew W. Mathieson
Professor and Chair
Department of Family Medicine
University of Pittsburgh
School of Medicine
Dr. Jeannette South-Paul’s commitment to help the underserved is a passion that was ingrained in her and her five siblings by their hard-working immigrant parents.
“You can’t assume that everyone has what they need,” says South-Paul, who grew up in Philadelphia as the daughter of Jamaican-born parents working in the
children’s evangelical ministry. “My background experiences gave me a commitment to education to service and to faith that have stayed with me for the last 60 years.”
Growing up, she volunteered as an adolescent in the rescue mission her family ran in inner city Philadelphia, before heading to the University of Pennsylvania to earn her undergraduate degree in medical technology. She then attended the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine on an army scholarship, which spawned a 22-year career as a family physician in the U.S. Army.
Upon her retirement from the army, she was recruited in 2001 to be chair of family medicine at the University of Pittsburgh at UPMC. She serves as a leader and manager for a department that reaches both Allegheny and Westmoreland counties. The mission of the department is to provide high-quality patient care, support research initiatives and to equip future physicians with the tools needed for family-oriented patient care.
South-Paul is enthusiastic about all of the department’s programs, including the obesity awareness program called Fitwit, but her real passion project is the one she created seven years ago, the Maikuru program. South-Paul works with teen mothers to develop the education and training they need to have careers that allow them to be productive and independent. She partners them with mentors and organizes classes on self-esteem, spirituality, contraception and more.
“An obstacle is what you see when you take your eyes off the goal. If you can’t see that goal, all you see are the obstacles,” says South-Paul, who treats mostly low-income minority patients twice a week at the UPMC Matilda Theiss Health Center. “My strategy is to give them those goals, so it allows them to lift their horizon enough so they can navigate around their obstacles.”