Modern Muse, our series celebrating accomplished, stylish, real women. In other words, women just like you.
Dr. Sung Poblete is changing the world. Literally. Through various lines of work (nursing, education, and science to name a few) her passion to serve others has never wavered. She was determined to make an impact. Now she’s leading a team of empowered, intelligent women as the President & CEO of Stand Up To Cancer, and doing it in a killer shoe collection. Meet our Modern Muse, Dr. Sung Poblete, and her muse, niece Annie.
[Bailey44:] You have decades of nursing experience under your belt. What drew you to the profession?
[Sung:] My aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 10 years old. I visited her in the hospital every day during her radical mastectomy, chemotherapy, and then radiation therapy. The nurses had so much compassion for my aunt. Seeing these nurses, all women, put their knowledge and dedication to work every day was great exposure to a wonderful profession. It was hard but left an impact on how to show up and make a difference.
What drove you to follow your dreams as a young woman?
I knew early on that I wanted to pursue a profession where I had the ability to make an impact, which for me meant being of service to others. Looking back, I’d say that my professional paths as a nurse, educator, researcher, and now advocate and CEO were ones that my family and the women I saw on the hospital wards helped me pursue.
Tell us about your professional journey in healthcare.
After completing my bachelors and masters in nursing I was invited to join the teaching faculty at Rutgers University College of Nursing. This was a spring board for me in so many ways because it gave me opportunities to work in a world that prioritized innovation, creativity and mentorship and has helped me to become a better leader. There’s no substitute for showing up, day after day, but when you take a minute and look back you can see things changing as a result of your work. To me, that makes a profession worthwhile.
How did you get involved with Stand Up To Cancer?
My professional journey has taken me a couple steps away from where I started, but always centered around healthcare. This work became a passion for me because of how many loved ones I’d lost to cancer in such a short period of time. 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime–I was shocked when I learned those statistics. I wanted to do something to stem the tide of cancer instead of watching from the sidelines. It’s important for everyone to realize the role they have in this work. When SU2C receives donations, we’re able to continually fund effective research about new treatments for cancers.
You have the luxury of heading an all-female leadership team. What’s most rewarding about that role?
The women I work with, the co-founders of SU2C and the people we’ve hired to join the fight against cancer, are absolutely rewarding to work with. They’re a group that’s used to looking for different ways to accomplish their goals. The fact that our leadership is almost all women means we are an example of changing the culture of how an organization can be run.
What advice would you give a young woman on the rise?
It’s important to have a mentor and surround yourself with people who want to see you succeed. There are plenty of challenges as you rise through the ranks and you need people on your side who can give you honest, constructive criticism along the way. Being a good mentee can be difficult too. You need to be emotionally ready to hear things about yourself that may be hard to accept. Most of all, make sure to own your strengths.
Were there any strong, wise women guiding your path to success?
Absolutely. I met Dr. Dorothy DeMaio when I was 16-years-old at a Rutgers open house. I decided that day I would apply to the College of Nursing and begin what’s now been a 30-year journey. I’ve carried her lesson of mentorship along with me ever since.
The legendary Hollywood producer, the late Laura Ziskin, and other SU2C co-founders have taught me to use our bully pulpit to make cancer a first-tier issue in this country and change the culture of cancer research.
Reflecting on all that SU2C has accomplished, what are you most proud of?
In addition to our Dream Teams and Innovative Research Gants, we’ve recently built new mechanisms that bring scientists, clinicians and drug testing together in new ways. Then there’s our Convergence initiative, which brings researchers from different areas of science to work together. With these teams we can imagine new ways of delivering drugs or radiation directly to cancerous cells.
How has your style evolved throughout the years?
My style is classic and comfortable, which is why I fell in love with Bailey44! Often times I’m on a plane across the country and have to go directly to meetings. It’s super easy transitioning from the plane to the office with a classic Bailey44 jacket and fun jewelry. And (of course) fabulous shoes.
My 16-year-old niece, Annie, loves to raid my Bailey44 stash. Fashion has to be approachable and relatable. Annie sees the same needs for herself, even though she’s in school and not the workplace. To me that’s a mark of a brand’s versatility. Being able to share my Bailey44 pieces with her is awesome.
Who are your style icons?
Sherry Lansing, one of SU2C’s co-founders, has amazing style! It’s classic, yet effortless. When you’re with her you know you’re in the presence of someone who cares about what you have to offer, but is also focused on the important issues and moving forward. Her style communicates that too.
Who is your Modern Muse?
My Modern Muse is my niece, Annie. At 16 years old she’s ready to change the world. She sees the best in people and is never afraid to try new things. We need more young women to bring that attitude to their workplaces and schools. Here’s a picture of Annie when she was three, styled in her own outfit and accessories. She’s always had her own sense of style!
Any words of wisdom for our readers?
Today’s world is all about connectivity and cooperation. To get where you want to go and improve the world, start with your own network and stay connected with your colleagues, teachers and professors. Take advantage of the communities and networks you have, or build the supports you need. And not just by connecting online. Stay in touch in the physical as well as the digital world.