Always For the Babies…

yellow brick shoesI didn’t always want to be a university professor. I’m pretty honest about that when I meet with undergraduates to discuss careers and professions. For a while, I just followed the next logical step. Undergraduate, to graduate school when my husband-at-the-time wanted to go, and then a postdoc because that was what you were supposed to do. I met a young woman the other day that told me that she’s know since she was three years old that she wanted to be a doctor. I admire her. I was never that confident in my career aspirations – until two things happened…

First, I found myself in pediatric critical care, where I had the opportunity to see an application for my work. I got to know the NICU chief and the cardiologists. It was stunned to see babies that weighed less than a pound. I also had a child of my own, which gave me some small insight into what the parents of our hospitalized patients might be experiencing. I don’t have the calling to be a physician, but I did feel a calling to try and help these patients in some other way.  That’s central to the first sentence of my lab’s mission –

Our primary mission is to understand how events that happen immediately after birth impact the short- and long-term cardiopulmonary health of the premature infant, and to develop strategies to help them achieve the best quality of life possible.

I think the students that come to the lab can articulate that this is what motivates me. Which is the other thing that happened to inform my career path. I learned how much I enjoy doing to research with students. They’re enthusiastic and they breathe new life and ideas into the enterprise. It’s fun to watch them learn and succeed.  Those experiences are what pushed me toward an academic department with undergraduate and graduate programs. I like feeling like I am helping students progress in their goals. any job has is stressors and frustrations (especially one that is reliant on the federal government for its funding), so it’s nice to be reminded of the two things that motivate me to keep trying to be better – the students and the babies.

Leaving this here for myself for when I need those reminders…

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