Woman in Science: Dr. Rebecca Laborde

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)

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