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The Inimitable Women of Pediatrics: Jean Molleston, MD

Indiana School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics is no stranger to employing successful women. The department’s faculty is currently 51% women and, of those women, they make up 54% of clinical track faculty. With this week marking the final week of Women’s History Month, this is a great opportunity to highlight some of these women and the incredible work they do for our organization, community, and for the field of medicine with their innovative research.

Jean Molleston, MD, a native Hoosier growing up in Merrillville, IN, knew she wanted to pursue medicine early on in high school. She completed her undergraduate and medical school education at Washington University, then continued her residency and fellowship at the nearby St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Molleston was drawn to the field of medicine because she saw it as a wonderful combination of scientific research to resolve problems, building relationships with people she worked with and her patients, and using her knowledge of medicine to help those in need. Most of Molleston’s mentors at St. Louis Children’s Hospital were focused in gastroenterology, which helped steer her towards that same specialty. There was an opening for a liver specialist at Washington University and Molleston made sure to not miss the opportunity to take this position.

This will be Molleston’s 22nd year with Indiana University School of Medicine and her 16th year as the Division Chief of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. Molleston was also associate director of pediatric residency and was the course director of the new gastroenterology and nutrition curriculum for second year medical students. Her position and experience allow her to mentor 2nd, 3rd, and 4th year medical students, residents, fellows, and her faculty members within her division with research projects, career advice, searching for jobs, teaching or educational opportunities and clinical expertise depending on where they are in their career.

Being the Chair of Clinical Track Promotions Committee for the Pediatrics Department also allows Molleston to evaluate her faculty’s collection of work when they are eligible to be promoted. Her faculty members must show clinical and teaching excellence, their collection of scholarly work, and an established regional or national reputation in order to be considered for promotion. Molleston gives an annual workshop on how those that are being considered for promotion can prepare after the faculty members have been at rank for typically five to seven years.

On top of that, she has also done a lot of work in faculty development, which includes hosting workshops where faculty share ideas on teaching or clinical matters. Molleston commended her students that she mentors and her colleagues in her department on how they help to create such a great work environment. “I get to work with incredible people,” said Molleston, “all of the partners, leadership, nurses, office people, and patients themselves. It is what makes the job so wonderful.”

She continues to conduct clinical research on cystic fibrosis and fatty liver disease, which is one of the most common liver diseases. Recently, Molleston published a paper on the complications of liver disease disparities and its mortality rate amongst young children, which allowed her to collaborate with IU School of Medicine’s William Bennett, MD. The study showed mortality of black children was higher than that of white children with the same cirrhosis. She also received the Richard J. Grand and John B. Watkins Prize for her NASPHGHAN abstract titled “Characteristics and Clinical Liver Disease in Children with Sonographic Nodular Liver (SONIC) in Cystic Fibrosis” in September of 2020, which evaluated children with unsuspected cystic fibrosis-related cirrhosis and how they progressed over the course of a study conducted by several locations that are a part of a multicenter research network. Indiana University School of Medicine has presented Dr. Molleston with several Trustee Teaching Awards and she is currently the Committee Chair for the Pediatric Clinical Promotion Committee.

Outside of work Dr. Molleston likes to cook different ethnic foods and experiment in the kitchen. She also serves Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church and Wheeler Mission through volunteer opportunities that support the organizations and their communities. She is able to visit her mother and two brothers that live in Indy, along with her daughter. Dr. Molleston’s son followed in her footsteps and attended her alma mater, Washington University. He is now a Pediatric Gastroenterology Fellow. During this time of quarantine, Molleston also shared that she enjoys hiking and said that Hocking Hills in Ohio is one of her favorite hiking locations.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.

Reilly Wilson

Reilly Wilson is an administrative assistant for the Department of Pediatrics. He primarily works with Pediatric Hospitalist Medicine, but his role allows him to help with special projects throughout the department.