Words to Live By, Part III

Nearly 200 men and women gathered for the final panel of our notable Women’s Empowerment Series. Four SJ women at the top of their game shared their personal stories and hard-earned insight on the evening’s topic, “Success Stories: Taking charge without wearing a suit and tie.” It was a night full of laughter, advice and intimate revelations – and proof that conversation can be a powerful thing.



Terry Ricca, RN
SVP/Chief Experience Officer,
Cooper University Health Care

Jennifer Caudle, DO
Health Expert, The Dr. Oz Show,
CNN, PBS, FOX News Family Physician, Rowan SOM

Mary Ann Boccolini
President/CEO, Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice

Helaina Semmler, MD
Section Chief of General Radiology,
South Jersey Radiology Associates

Marianne Aleardi
Publisher & Editor-in-Chief, SJ Magazine


When I went into orthopedic surgery 25 years ago, sexism was rampant. When I would stay for call at night, the other surgeons had a blow-up doll in a bikini hanging from the ceiling. I would have to sleep in the call room with the blow-up doll. They never had a woman in that room before, so to them it didn’t matter.
Helaina Semmler

When I was a young nurse working in an office setting, the physician I worked with said, “The next time we work together, I’ll bring some champagne.” I thought to myself, “Did I just hear that? Note to self: always have other people around, and get out before he gets in the room.” When you’re young, it’s a dilemma on how you should handle that so you’re not taken advantage of, but you can still survive in your career.
Terry Ricca

When I worked in a hospital as a manager of staff nurses, there was a physician who would pull one of the nurse’s scrub pants every time she walked by. She came to me about that, so I had to tell him, “That’s inappropriate. You cannot be doing that.” He said, “I’m just fooling around.” But he was making someone uncomfortable, and it was inappropriate.
Mary Ann Boccolini


When I’m thinking about a decision, it’s important for me to analyze whether fear is playing a role. If it’s fear that’s keeping me from doing something, that’s not a good enough reason. If I’m going to die or something, then I don’t do it. But if it’s just fear, that’s not good enough. I’ve got to come up with a better reason for myself to not try something, not ask for something or not go for it.
Jennifer Caudle


I think there is a pendulum swinging, and if that sends a message to men, great. But I also think think that the men who engage in harassment are still going to find ways to do it, because it’s more of a psychological power issue.
Terry Ricca

My heart’s been broken. I think we have all been feeling this way, right? But we’re not surprised.
Mary Ann Boccolini

I haven’t heard any men say they’re surprised either. The men I’ve talked to have been like, “Yeah, well, you know. It was bound to happen.” I haven’t heard anyone say, “What? Where did this come from?”
Jennifer Caudle

I don’t think we’re surprised by the actions, because we all know women who have been harassed at some time or it’s even happened to ourselves. But I think we’re surprised at the people. I think that’s the more shocking aspect. We aren’t surprised by the actions anymore.
Helaina Semmler


Early in my career, I would always react to things very quickly or send a nasty email very quickly. Now that I’m older, I sit there and say, “OK, I’ll write the email, but then I’m going to wait.” And then a few hours later or maybe the next day once I’ve cooled down a little, I go back and reword the whole thing. I think taking that time and patience before reacting is something I had to learn. It wasn’t something I just knew – I really had to work at it.
Helaina Semmler

I like to process things. Unless something is so important that I need to speak up right away, I like to listen and assess what’s going on before making a decision.
Mary Ann Boccolini

There’s so much power in waiting. It takes a lot of will.
Terry Ricca

What’s been important to me is not making snap judgments about something I’ve seen or heard. You have to communicate and ask, “I’m feeling this way, is this what you intended? Did I understand this correctly?” I had to learn to not misjudge because I simply didn’t have enough information.
Jennifer Caudle



I take vacations. I have learned that once I separate, I come back charged and ready. It’s been the best thing for me, because I’m more productive when I come back.
Terry Ricca

I don’t make time for vacations, so I end up going to my parents’ house and sitting on the couch watching TV for two weeks. Maybe that should be on my list of things to work on.
Jennifer Caudle


It’s only in the last couple of years that I started reading fiction again. When I was in training for years, I only read about medicine. For me, one of the biggest releases has been going back to reading fiction and freeing my mind. Reading something outside of what we normally read can be a good thing.
Jennifer Caudle

When I was a girl, I had a book called “What Little Girls Can Be.” This was 1970. It said I could be a stewardess, a secretary, a mom, a teacher or a nurse. Those were the only things. I use that book to motivate me now. That may be what I read growing up, but I can be whatever I want to be – anyone can be whatever they want to be.
Helaina Semmler


Sometimes I think external praise is what really makes you feel like you’re a success. I’ll never forget the first time my name was listed along with my mentor’s as a Top Doc. I thought that was amazing. Just that external praise can sometimes make you feel more successful than what you feel inside.
Helaina Semmler

I’ve spent a lot of my life looking at what I hadn’t done, what I hadn’t accomplished, what I still needed to do, what I still needed to apply for, where I still needed to go. It wasn’t until recently that it finally came to me that it’s OK to stop and say, “That was pretty good.” I think it’s important to give ourselves permission to recognize the things we do well, no matter how small or large.
Jennifer Caudle

I don’t think success is an end point. It sounds cliché, but success is a journey. It’s asking myself every day, “How can I do my best today in whatever comes to me?”
Mary Ann Boccolini

I’m successful in my life, but I wouldn’t say I’m a successful as a business person. Maybe it’s a generational thing of feeling humble, where young women in my position might feel differently.
Terry Ricca


Mistakes really suck, and they are hard and sometimes they’re not fixable. But I have come to accept the fact that it couldn’t happen any other way. The mistakes I’ve made were not supposed to be any other way. They were what was supposed to happen, whether I like it or not. Knowing that helps me deal with them.
Jennifer Caudle

February 2018
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