Contributions to STEMM
Dr. Perl is an infectious disease physician who specializes in general infectious diseases and is an internationally recognized expert in infections acquired in health care, antimicrobial-resistant infections, respiratory infections, and endocarditis. Most recently, “I participated in several outbreak investigations,” she said. “I also coordinated the response to the recent COVID-19 pandemic with many of my colleagues. I try and make sure that everything I do will change and improve the health of patients and those working in health care.”
As a researcher, “I study the epidemiology or patterns of infectious diseases. I am most interested in the epidemiology of respiratory virus infections (flu and coronavirus) and antimicrobial resistant organisms,” said Dr. Perl.
“I come from a family of scientists,” Dr. Perl explained. “My grandfather, aunt, father, and multiple uncles were either physicians or scientists. I was always encouraged to be curious and ask questions and was exposed to science all the time.” Despite these strong influences, “I rebelled and did not want to study science,” she said. “I majored in French literature in college. Then I realized that it was through science that I could impact lives. My father was my biggest supporter, and it was through the challenges that I had that I saw him try and influence the lives of women scientists.”
Advice to the Next Generation
Dr. Perl emphasizes to her students the importance of “following your passion and not being afraid of obstacles."
"Obstacles are challenges that test your will."
"Don't be afraid to make mistakes; mistakes are human, and we learn from them," she said. "If you do not succeed on the first try, try again. Be brave and do not be scared.”
Dr. Perl believes her recognition as a part of UT Southwestern’s Celebrating Breakthroughs Together project reflects changing attitudes in medicine. “This project celebrates individuals who have contributed to UT Southwestern and identifies the diversity required for success,” she said. “To me it is very exciting to see this step forward – this is how we can change the culture and the perceptions associated with it.”
Dr. Perl acknowledges that a STEMM career comes with many challenges. “Life is full of risks and going into science is part of that. I took many risks and still do,” she said.
“Even in 2021, women in science need to blaze their own trails to overcome not only the inevitable barriers that you encounter in science, but also those associated with trying to change a culture..."
"Working within a culture that is not always accepting of what you bring and how you bring it to the table and allowing that table to be better set with you at the table," she added.
Now, as an established clinician, educator, and researcher, Dr. Perl noted that great perseverance is required to pursue a career in medicine. “I always followed my passion. I picked myself up when I fell – I just did it. I persisted and tried to follow a path that interested and excited me.”