It was a new beginning for Caroline Cox-Signore, MD ’92, MPH.
While the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, where she had worked since 2003, was undergoing a major reorganization, a division of extramural research was created, and Signore was tapped to be its deputy director.
Signore, who completed her OB-GYN residency at UF, has served in that role since January, assisting the division’s director in overseeing the institute’s extramural research program.
“Everything I learned from UF prepared me for that day I took the plunge,” Signore said. “It prepared me for the day I said, ‘I’m back in the game. Here’s what I can do.’”
Soon after completing her OB-GYN residency in 1996, Signore moved to Denver with her husband and joined a private practice in general obstetrics and gynecology.
But four months into her new life, plans stopped.
Signore was in a car accident that severed her C-6 vertebrae, leaving her paralyzed with limited upper body movement.
It took four months to complete inpatient rehabilitation and “wrap (my) head around what happened,” Signore said.
When her husband received a job offer in Washington, D.C., they relocated. Again, Signore struggled to find a career path.
That’s when she began to take interest in government, public service and policy. Although she couldn’t practice, Signore became a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist and applied for an American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists-sponsored fellowship that allowed her to enroll in the master’s of public health program at George Washington University in 2002.
With a specialization in maternal and child health and health policy, Signore became a summer intern at the NICHD and continued as a postdoctoral fellow in the division of epidemiology, statistics and prevention research, studying the identification of genetic, nutritional and biochemical risk factors for birth defects.
When a full-time medical officer position opened in the pregnancy and perinatology branch in 2006, she was selected. It’s what led Signore to her current position today.
“Even though I wasn’t physically capable of being the doctor I imagined I’d be, I discovered that there’s more than one way to be a doctor,” she said.
“From an upside-down, total car wreck in ‘96, I now have a title for the first time in my life.”