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Spring 2014
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Running With the Boys
How Shelley Cyr stays at the head of the pack.
If you ask Michele Cyr how she’s successfully navigated the “old boys’ club” of medicine, she’ll tell you it’s a
skill she learned back in high school: she was the only girl on the boys’ track team.

A Rhode Island native, Cyr (known as Shelley to friends and colleagues) went to Bowdoin College as a member of what was only the second class to include women at the formerly all-male school. There, too, she and the other women in her class were greatly outnumbered by the men.

It was a male mentor at Bowdoin who encouraged Cyr to apply to medical school. A double major in  biochemistry and art, she was thinking about graduate school, or maybe finding a way to blend her love of drawing with her passion for science after college graduation. Though she came to the decision “sort of late compared to other students,” Cyr did apply to medical schools and chose to go to Dartmouth. “It felt like it wasn’t such a drastic transition coming from a small, northern New England liberal arts college,” she says.

She completed residency at Maine Medical Center, nurturing what has become a lifelong love of Maine. Her husband, Assistant Professor of Surgery (Clinical) Gregory Towne, did his residency at Rhode Island  Hospital and had a three-year commitment to the public health service. He took a placement in East  Providence, and Cyr says she came somewhat reluctantly. “I did not want to fulfill the cliché of Rhode  Islanders never leaving.” The deal was they’d stay for the three years of his commitment and then move to Maine.

“That was 28 years ago,” she says.

Today Cyr is an associate dean at Alpert Medical School, overseeing academic affairs, which includes faculty
affairs, graduate medical education, and women in medicine. Cyr became involved in clinical teaching and resident education during her first full-time job at Rhode Island Hospital. She was hired to be a “teaching attending” in general internal medicine. “Three of us were hired to be the attending doctors of record for
patients who had been admitted to the medical service and had no primary care physicians,” she explains.
That work led to an opportunity to go to Stanford to study with the guru of clinical teaching, Dr. Kelly Skeff, who
led a month-long faculty development program.
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