Archive for June, 2009

Influential, Encouragable, and Genuine Man in Science: Dr. Jim Maher

Posted on June 24th, 2009 by Admin

Jim MaherName:  Jim Maher
Hometown:  Madison, Wisconsin
Education: BS Molecular Biology 1983, UW- Madison
PhD Molecular Biology 1988, UW- Madison
Postdoc 1988-1991, Caltech
 Current Status: Professor and Vice-Chair, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology: Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Mayo Graduate School: Director, NIH IMSD and PREP programs at Mayo: Married (Laura, BS Social Work) in 1983.  Daughters Elizabeth (19, rising Junior in Journalism, University of Minnesota- Twin Cities) and Christina (15, rising Junior, Mayo High School)

 When did you start work/school at Mayo Clinic? Summer, 1995

 How did you become interested in or hear about Mayo Clinic? I was working as an Assistant Professor at the Eppley Cancer Institute at the University of Nebraska medical Center in Omaha.  A friend from Caltech visited Mayo in Rochester on a job interview.  He was impressed and sent me a note that I might be interested.  I responded to a position announcement in molecular medicine, came for a visit, and then found that a basic science faculty opening in biochemistry and molecular biology was even more attractive.  I had a fine position at Nebraska, but Mayo’s generous offer included some very unusual features that attracted me here.  The chance to continue to recruit and mentor PhD students (one of my favorite roles) was very important.

 What do you do here at Mayo Clinic? What is your area of specialty? My primary responsibility at Mayo is to act as a basic scientist in biochemistry and molecular biology and serve as principal investigator on competitive national grants from NIH and other funding organizations.  I spend more than half of my time in this role.  My laboratory (GU16) studies three general areas: 1) the origin of DNA stiffness and the proteins that enhance DNA flexibility, 2) artificial control of gene expression using small RNA molecules, 3) unusual cancers caused by defects in metabolic genes.  Through this work I serve as mentor for a variety of undergraduate and graduate students.  I have mentored 14 students to the PhD degree, with two more in process.  Part of being a basic scientist at Mayo is teaching.  I co-direct the fall Biochemistry core course for all graduate students, and teach a bi-annual course on DNA/protein interactions.  I also consult with Mayo staff interested in other scientific and medical problems.  This has led to our projects on aptamers applications in multiple sclerosis and our work on cancers involving metabolic defects.

 In addition, because of my interest in graduate education, I share responsibilities for serving the leadership of Mayo Graduate School as one of the Associate Deans.  This role involves overseeing strategic planning and management of the school and its ~150 PhD and MD/PhD students, along with SURF and MS students.  I chair the PhD admissions committee and very much enjoy this role.

 Since 2004 I have been fortunate to serve as director for two NIH grants that support diversity in future PhD scientists training at Mayo.  The PREP grant (postbaccalaureate research education) serves B.S. and B.A. graduates for 1-2 years of additional research training and education prior to acceptance into PhD or MD/PhD programs.  The IMSD grant (Initiative to Maximize Student Development) serves URM PhD and MD/PhD trainees in Mayo Graduate School.  Together, the two grants provide more than $500,000 in annual funds for student stipends and partial support of a management team including myself, and Drs. Karen Hedin and Dennis Mays. 

Do you participate in any organizations, societies, clubs, memberships, professions at Mayo Clinic and/or Rochester community?  I am a committed Christian and enjoy the opportunity to share how a personal relationship with Jesus Christ continues to affect every area of my life.  I serve the congregation of Autumn Ridge Church in a variety of ways, including as a musician (bass), lay teacher on the relationship between science, scripture and spirituality, and as the leader of various special projects including an original music CD in 2000 that raised $15K for Rochester Area Habitat for Humanity, the committee that oversaw design and construction of the church’s $14M campus in 2005, and management of the church’s annual Arts Series hosting national artists.

How does working at Mayo Clinic Rochester location differ from your hometown or where you attended school? Rochester is the smallest place we’ve ever lived (compared to Madison, Los Angeles, and Omaha).   This took some getting used to.  I tell the story of being stunned when we moved here in 1995 and there were only two bike stores in the phone book when I went to find a part for my daughter’s bike.  I calmed down when I realized that I probably only really needed one bike store.  I dearly miss Madison, which is both a state capital and home of a huge university.  I miss undergrads and the vitality and challenge to authority that they bring (these would both be good for Mayo Clinic).  I don’t miss the traffic of LA or Omaha.  I look forward to the day what a strong University of Minnesota- Rochester will attract thousands of undergrads to Rochester.  Although I enjoyed the lovely Southern CA weather, I love the seasons of the Midwest.  Omaha and LA were both more diverse places than Rochester.  However, that is changing and I am proud to be part of that change even as a white male.  I enjoy hearing from some of our students that Rochester is a national destination for Somali and Hmong people because these communities are better established here than in most large US cities.

Do you consider yourself diverse? My ethnicity and genetic heritages are not diverse for the Midwest.  I tend to think quite differently from the corporate side of Mayo Clinic (likely due to my training as a skeptic at the University of Wisconsin).    I am committed to enhancing the diversity of U.S. science my enriching the training of excellent URM students.  This will help American research to be effective and creative.

Do you feel that diversity plays a role in the education you are receiving (grad/med school, IMSD) or as a professional at Mayo Clinic?  Learning from the perspectives of other cultures and races is a tremendous experience.  It is one of my favorite aspects of directing our IMSD and PREP programs.  Getting beyond scientific training (job #1) to hear about student perspectives and insights in politics, public policy, spirituality, family relationships, and public service is a great experience.

Do you think Mayo Clinic and/or Rochester, MN and/or your program is diverse?  Despite excellent efforts, only certain training programs at Mayo reflect the degree of diversity seen nationally in America.  Our medical school and graduate school and SURF undergrad program are doing quite well in this regard.  There is room for improvement in our allied health staff and particularly our physician and scientist staff.  We believe that creating a diverse “campus” academic atmosphere at Mayo is a key step to recruitment and retention of students and workforce that reflect our national diversity.

Final reflections::::: My colleagues sometimes think it is weird that I tell my Mayo students that my goal as a faculty member is not to try to convince them (URM or majority) to continue on for a career at Mayo, but to leave the institution after training and thrive wherever their career leads them- telling the story of their remarkable experience as a trainee at Mayo.  This may be the best way to share with the world the great opportunities to enhance diversity while training in the very unusual and stimulating Mayo research environment.

Interview taken by Brittany Alexander and Jessica Silva

Inspiring African American Woman in Education: Barbara Porter

Posted on June 23rd, 2009 by Admin

Porter_Barbara_L_Name: Barbara Porter
Hometown: San Antonio, TX
Education: BA - English, Southern Methodist University; MA - Organizational Management, Concordia University
Current Status: Assistant Dean for Student and Academic Affairs, Mayo Medical School

 When did you start work/school at Mayo Clinic? July 1992

How did you become interested in or hear about Mayo Clinic? My family moved to Rochester in 1991.  I had a good friend who asked if I wanted to work at Mayo and encouraged me to apply.  

What do you do here at Mayo Clinic? What is your area of specialty?  I am an Administrator at Mayo Clinic and currently serve in the role of Assistant Dean for Student and Academic Affairs at Mayo Medical School. 

Do you participate in any organizations, societies, clubs, memberships, professions at Mayo Clinic and/or Rochester community?  I serve as Secretary of the Physician/Scientist Diversity Committee, I am also past Secretary of the staff of Mayo Clinic Rochester; in the community I am on the boards of the Boys & Girls Club of Rochester, the Rochester Symphony Orchestra, the Rochester Area Foundation and the Women's Foundation of Minnesota.  I am active in my church, the Rochester Community Baptist Church.  

How does working at Mayo Clinic Rochester location differ from your hometown or where you attended school? Well, of course we must start with weather!  South Texas has a very, very warm and humid climate.   One of my family traditions is to attend midnight mass is our family church--there have been many times that we have gone to mass without coats on and in the morning the kids ride new bicycles outside on Christmas Day!  San Antonio is a very diverse community!  Hispanics make up over half (about 60%) of the population of the city; African Americans are about 7% of the community with whites being about 30+%.  The Mexican culture permeates the community and provides the basis for a wonderful and thriving tourist economy.  I love visiting my "hometown" as there is always a fiesta going on somewhere J  The city has grown to over 1.2 million people and I am amazed at the expansion of the city every time I travel home.

Do you consider yourself diverse?  I do consider myself from a diverse background on several fronts--one, I am an African American.  I am very proud of my culture and the rich history and legacy of African Americans in this country and around the globe.  I consider it my mission to help young people know and understand our history and why it is an imperative for them to strive to achieve and to be successful!  We all stand on the shoulders of so many outstanding individuals and it is unacceptable to be less than excellent in our own pursuits.  I am also a woman and I value and appreciate all of the wisdom and accomplishments of women in my family and whom I have encountered throughout my life.  I need not look too far for tremendous role models.  

What types of hardships or hurdles did you have to overcome to get your education or profession at Mayo Clinic? Did your diverse background have a role in these hardships?I graduated high school in center city San Antonio.  Neither my mom nor dad had attended college so there was no push for me to do so.  During my junior and senior year in high school, there was a woman who I now realize likely worked for one of the federally funded programs that were designed to assist minority kids in obtaining a higher education.  This woman worked with me and several others to help us understand the college application process, the process for seeking and applying for scholarships and financial aid, and all of the other things that my folks really had no clue about.  She was wonderful and her hounding us, and chasing us down to take SATs, and fill out this form and that form helped to insure that I had offers to go to college.  Because of a very generous benefactor (G.W. Brackenridge), I was able to attend Southern Methodist University on a full scholarship.  I often think about what might have been, if the advisor had not worked so hard to see to my educational success.  

How has being from a diverse background helped you succeed in getting your education or profession at Mayo Clinic? I don't know that my being from a diverse background has been the key to any success here at Mayo, but it is certainly what drives me to achieve.  I am used to being "the only" yet I don't want others to have to continually be pioneers here at Mayo Clinic.  I work hard to be the best that I can be, so that I am able to open doors for others from diverse backgrounds.  I think one of the most important things that minority staff, students and trainees can do is be successful--that makes it that much easier for those who control the gates to open them for others who look like us! Coming from a diverse background, do you feel that people treat you different at Mayo Clinic or Rochester, MN?  There are times when I feel a bit overwhelmed by being the only African American in the group, at the meeting, on the committee, on the floor, in the building, etc. but, I try to think about my ancestors who made so many sacrifices, to include giving their lives so that we could progress as a people, and then my own challenges seem small.  I know that there are times when people in the corridors or in meetings don't speak to me or fail to acknowledge my presence.  I always write their behaviors off and tell myself that their behaviors are their problems, not mine!!!  I refuse to own their unfounded behavior. 

Do you feel that diversity plays a role in the education you are receiving (grad/med school, IMSD) or as a professional at Mayo Clinic?   In the medical school, diversity is a priority for us.  We work hard to insure that our classrooms are full of diversity because we know it enriches the experience that all of our students receive.  We are proud of the fact that our school is consistently among the most diverse medical schools in the country and that is exactly what we want.  Achieving this kind of diversity does not come from a passive stance; the Dean is a champion for diversity and that impacts all of us as we each do our part to support the diversity goals of Mayo Medical School.  It is a great environment in which to work.

Do you think Mayo Clinic and/or Rochester, MN and/or your program is diverse? Does this affect you? Would you change it or leave it the same? If you would make changes, what would they be?    As indicated above, our school is diverse.  We are always seeking ways to enhance the diversity of student body and expose all of our students to diverse faculty, speakers and mentors.  It is my life's work and I feel blessed to be able to get paid to do it  :) As an Administrator at Mayo Clinic, I am challenged to have very few peers of color.  I am one of only 3 African American Administrators here at Mayo Clinic Rochester.  That is a very disappointing matter for me to look around the campus in 2009 and see that kind of void.  I am a part of our diversity network group that seeks to connect and support African American employees.  This is a helpful outlet for several of us.  I do feel that more should be done to insure we have greater diversity in the administrative and leadership levels of the institution.  When asked, I am always eager and willing to share thoughts and success strategies that we have employed in the school to enhance our diversity. Solution seeking is how I live my life and although we do have challenges with diversity at Mayo Clinic, I am awed by the commitment and passion of others here at Mayo and I am thus inspired to continue to do my part to help us achieve success in this area.  In the end, we will all win!

Interview taken by Brittany Alexander (Intern of Office of Diveristy ) and Jessica Silva (Blog Manager and Grad Student)

Latina in Science: Dr. Audelia Munguia!!

Posted on June 15th, 2009 by Admin

Name: Audelia Munguiamunguia
Hometown: Saginaw, MI
Education: (College/s name/s) Undergrad: Grand Valley State University (Allendale, MI),
Grad: Wayne State University School of Medicine (Detroit, MI)
Current Status: PhD Postdoctoral Fellow
 
When did you start work/school at Mayo Clinic? October 2004
How did you become interested in or hear about Mayo Clinic? A friend was attending Mayo medical school.
What do you do here at Mayo Clinic? What is your area of specialty? I am a postdoctoral fellow in Steve Russell’s lab in the department of Molecular Medicine. I am currently, working on enhancing the therapeutic efficacy of oncolytic viruses for the treatment of multiple myeloma.
 Do you participate in any organizations, societies, clubs, memberships, professions at Mayo Clinic and/or Rochester community? I am member of MFA and MFRA. Every year I volunteer as a judge for the Rochester regional science fair.
How does working at Mayo Clinic Rochester location differ from your hometown or where you attended school? Even though I was born and raised in MI, it is much colder here in the winter months. I have always lived in a big city with a population of at least 100,000 people. Rochester is definitely much smaller and more intimate than any other city I have ever lived. The diversity of people that work in the labs here at Mayo Clinic, such as a large population of postdocs/grad students from other countries, is not much different than that of labs that I have worked at in Detroit, MI and Miami, FL. However, the diversion of people in Rochester and surrounding towns is extremely different than the towns I have lived. Rochester seems to be very conservative and not open to alternative lifestyles. In addition, there seems to be less people of color than other cities I have lived.
Do you consider yourself diverse? Yes, I am a Mexican-American woman.
What types of hardships or hurdles did you have to overcome to get your education or profession at Mayo Clinic? Did your diverse background have a role in these hardships? I was the first person in my family to go to college and graduate with a bachelor’s degree and a PhD. I do not come from a family of educated people. My family has made a living as migrant workers and working in the factories at General Motors. For me one of the biggest hurdles was figuring out how to apply to colleges, financial aid, and what was needed to continue on with graduate school. I worked many jobs during my undergraduate education to finance my education. I don’t think my hurdles are not much different from other first generation college students that come from middle class families. However, as a Hispanic woman scientist I have had to overcome many obstacles. I have had to become accustomed of being the only minority in both the classroom and laboratory setting. At times it was difficult to deal with the alienation that I feel by being one of only few who share my cultural values. Overcoming these obstacles has only inspired my desire and determination to preserve and achieve my goals.
How has being from a diverse background helped you succeed in getting your education or profession at Mayo Clinic? Yes, I was a McNair scholar, which is a federal program that gives first generation college students a chance to perform scientific research with a stipend. In addition, when I was in graduate school I was an IMSD fellow.
Coming from a diverse background, do you feel that people treat you different at Mayo Clinic or Rochester, MN? In general, I have not really felt that I have been treated differently because of my diverse background. Most of the time I don’t let people’s comments get to me, I have learned to pick my battles. However, there was one lab technician who was born and raised in Rochester, tell me that I spoke English very well for a Hispanic and that my accent was barely noticeable. I proceeded to tell her that I was born and raised in Michigan, a state that is about a 10 hour drive east of Rochester.
Do you feel that diversity plays a role in the education you are receiving (grad/med school, IMSD) or as a professional at Mayo Clinic? If yes or no, explain. Personally, as a postdoctoral fellow, I do not believe that diversity plays a role in my job at Mayo Clinic. However, I have seen diversity play a role in some professions here at Mayo Clinic. When I say diversity, I mean both gender and ethic diversity. I have seen instances where female faculty members do not receive the same respect as male faculty members even if the female faculty member is more successful than her male counterparts. I believe this discrepancy occurs throughout the scientific community not just as Mayo Clinic.
Do you think Mayo Clinic and/or Rochester, MN and/or your program is diverse? Does this affect you? Would you change it or leave it the same? If you would make changes, what would they be? Please explain. I don’t believe that Rochester, MN is diverse. I believe it is becoming more diverse than it was 4 years ago. I think the pre-PhD students and postdoctoral fellows are diverse at Mayo Clinic. I don’t let the level of diversity effect what I want to achieve in life. I have overcome many hurdles to get where I am today. It would be great if Mayo Clinic could recruit more females and ethic minority faculty members.
Interview taken by Brittany Alexander (Intern of Office of Diveristy ) and Jessica Silva (Blog Manager and Grad Student)

Woman in Science: Dr. Rebecca Laborde

Posted on June 9th, 2009 by Admin

for IMSDName: Rebecca Laborde Hometown: Winona, MN Education: Saint Mary’s University, Winona MN – BA Biology; Iowa State University, Department of Experimental Pathology and Entomology, Ph.D. Genetics, Current Status: Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Ph.D. 

 When did you start work/school at Mayo Clinic? Jan 2008

 How did you become interested in or hear about Mayo Clinic? When you grow up in Minnesota, you are always aware of Mayo Clinic. I grew up with friends with parents who worked here and I also came to Mayo for medical care on a number of occasions as a kid. In college, Mayo was an excellent source of research opportunity for students and was always top of mind as a potential future employer. 

What do you do here at Mayo Clinic? What is your area of specialty? I am a postdoctoral research fellow and facilitate a collaborative research effort between the departments of Experimental Medicine and Pathology and Otorhinolaryngology. The main focus of my work is applying new technology to the investigation of the causes of the development and progression of cancers of the head and neck. 

Do you participate in any organizations, societies, clubs, memberships, professions at Mayo Clinic and/or Rochester community? I also have an interest in education and for the past year have been teaching the evening sections of Microbiology at RCTC here in Rochester. 

How does working at Mayo Clinic Rochester location differ from your hometown or where you attended school? Moving back to Rochester felt like moving home. I was born and raised in Minnesota, so I still like to see how far I can make it into the winter before I need to switch to my “real” winter jacket instead of my fleece. The community in Rochester is larger than my hometown and is definitely more diverse, with people moving into and visiting the community for work and to seek treatment at the clinic. I feel that living in a more diverse community will be an amazing experience for my young son to develop a stronger understanding and comfort of what it means to live in a global society.  Rochester is very inviting and my family feels very comfortable in our new home.

Do you consider yourself diverse? I feel that my involvement in research has allowed me the opportunity to interact and work with individuals from a variety of backgrounds that would be less common in many other types of professions. I have developed a comfort in interacting and communicating with many people, which is very important for success in a research position. Although women are achieving an increasing presence in research, this has traditionally not been the case. It is exciting to be amongst a growing number of women obtaining advanced degrees and pursuing careers in this competitive field. 

What types of hardships or hurdles did you have to overcome to get your education or profession at Mayo Clinic? Did your diverse background have a role in these hardships? I actually feel that being a woman with an advanced degree has helped me to obtain my position with Mayo Clinic. I believe that Mayo is very dedicated to hiring and retaining qualified women for positions in research and did not feel that this presented a hurdle to entering my position.

How has being from a diverse background helped you succeed in getting your education or profession at Mayo Clinic?I have found that there are additional funding opportunities for women in science and that this can be an advantage in obtaining fellowship support.

 Coming from a diverse background, do you feel that people treat you different at Mayo Clinic or Rochester, MN? I feel that people both at Mayo Clinic and in the Rochester community are supportive of qualified women holding research positions. I do feel that it is important to demonstrate that you are qualified and dedicated to your position. Being not only a woman in science but also a mother of a young child, I do feel the pressure of maintaining a balance between my family and my careers. My experience has been that most people are understanding and supportive of this, but I know that this is a major challenge for many working women and may at times limit their access to certain opportunities.

 Do you feel that diversity plays a role in the education you are receiving (grad/med school, IMSD) or as a professional at Mayo Clinic? If yes or no, explain. Working with scientists of diverse backgrounds has helped me to develop a broader perspective of my work and my community. I also feel that I am continually improving my communication skills and learning to facilitate interaction between many different groups of scientists.

 Do you think Mayo Clinic and/or Rochester, MN and/or your program is diverse? Does this affect you? Would you change it or leave it the same? If you would make changes, what would they be? Please explain.  I think that Mayo Clinic is a key factor in encouraging diversity in the Rochester Community. There will always be adjustments necessary as the community continues to grow and change, but both the clinic and the city have demonstrated a commitment to encouraging a supportive environment that fosters success for many groups of people.

Interviewed by: Brittany Alexander (Intern of Office of Diversity) and Jessica Silva (Blog Manager and Mayo Clinic Student)

Upcoming Interviews with the Bread and Butter of Mayo Clinic College of Medicine

Posted on June 8th, 2009 by Admin

JessicaAs another year comes to an end and a new year will soon begin the diversity blog team would like to introduce you to several very interesting professionals and students who are at Mayo Clinic. As you know, Mayo Clinic has many different positions and programs that you may or may not know about. These include programs for postdoctoral fellows, pre-doctorate (Ph.D, M.D., Ph.D./M.D.), post-baccalaureate, summer undergraduate, and high school students. If you are unaware of these positions at Mayo Clinic, PLEASE HOLD ON TO YOUR SEATS, as starting tomorrow and the next couple of weeks, we will be highlighting many of these positions and programs. We simply asked our extraordinary fellow Mayo Clinic associates to answer several questions about their education and about diversity. You will be very surprised at how differently yet how similar the answers are to the questions, as well as how you can learn about the programs they are in! Have fun reading!!! :)Jess