Happy February and Happy Black History Month, Moms! This month we are introducing you to Shola Akinshemoyin Vaughn, mom of 2, Harvard graduate and Section Chief of Dermatology! Read all about this amazing, local mom in our exclusive interview below.
Favorite thing about the month of February?
Black History Month and Valentine’s Day. I also love Groundhog Day - mostly because it makes me remember that old movie, which is so nostalgic and brilliant. February is always hard in Milwaukee because it starts to feel like winter has been going on forever - and there’s probably another few weeks left at least. Somehow I’m still not used to it, and I grew up here.
Where do you work and what do you do?
I am a dermatologist at the Medical College of Wisconsin. I divide my time between Froedtert Hospital and the Zablocki Veteran’s Hospital, where I am the Section Chief of Dermatology. I also am a parent of 2 - I think that counts as another full-time job!
Tell us about your family.
My husband, Jason, is a photographer and also works as a full-time parent to our two children: Suru (our 10-year-old son) and Ara (our almost 6-year-old daughter). Jason and I are about to celebrate our 20-year anniversary. We met when we were young, starry-eyed, and living in Los Angeles. I sincerely think I am the luckiest woman in the world - he complements me, supports me, inspires me, and makes me laugh. We crafted our life together to prioritize world travel. We’ve been to 16 countries together and the list keeps growing. Most recently we were snorkeling and seeing Mayan ruins in Belize, and upcoming we are going to see Petra, Jordan. We take our kids with us on every trip.
Where do you network?
I have never wholeheartedly adopted social media networking, though I understand it is important. I think social media is causing a great deal of distress to young adults - women especially - and I don’t love being complicit in that. So I have Facebook and Instagram accounts but rarely use them. I went to college at Harvard and I try to nurture that network - via reunions, Zoom calls with friends, and being on the board of a women’s empowerment organization called The Seneca. I also “network” the good old-fashioned way - by keeping in touch with friends and being sincerely excited and curious about new people I meet.
Favorite Milwaukee spot to go with your family?
The McKinley Pier. In the summer it’s a beautiful walk along Lake Michigan, and you can climb out on the boulders. In the winter the lake water freezes onto the fences and creates beautiful shapes and structures. Milwaukee is truly an underrated gem, and Lake Michigan is just one of our many treasures.
What’s your top timesaver during the week?
Well, my husband to be honest! But I also have the Blinkist app, which condenses non-fiction books into key ideas so that users can get the important parts in under 15 minutes. The free version has a daily book, so I read that every morning. It makes me feel like I’m staying well-read but also being efficient.
What knowledge would you share with a new working mom?
Give yourself the same forgiveness that you would give a friend. We women are so hard on ourselves - expecting to do everything, gracefully, without mistakes or complaints. Our internal monologues can be very deprecating, and we criticize ourselves in a way we would never do to another person. Also, know that your kids will be ok. I had Suru the very week I started medical school - via a c-section and was watching lectures from the hospital room. A month later, Jason was diagnosed with leukemia (he’s absolutely fine now) and we didn’t know if he would survive the chemo. I was so anxious about my ability to be a good mother with everything that was going on - and Suru turned out great. Kids are resilient, and they know whether they are loved. They don’t care how much time you spend with them - it’s the quality of the time that matters.
Favorite quote or personal mantra?
Every year on Ara’s birthday (which is coming up!) I read "Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions" by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie. It reminds me of how I want to raise both my son and my daughter - to be feminists! It’s packed with my favorite quotes, and it probably takes about 1 hour to read the entire book. Every mother who believes in any version of feminism should read it.
How do you decompress?
I take a long bath and work on a TV pilot that I’m writing. It is based in Milwaukee, about women scientists raising children against an increasingly anti-science political backdrop. It may never see the light of day, but it allows me to leave my world for a bit. Any filmmakers who want to partner with me, drop me a line.