Cool Girls with Tag: medicine

Dr. Karen Wilcox

Name: Dr. Karen Wilcox
Hometown: New Milford, NJ
Occupation: Department Chair at the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Utah, Principle Investigator of the Epilepsy Therapy Screening Program

Dr. Karen Wilcox is a professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Utah, and the director of an anticonvulsant drug development program. When she’s not combing over new data with her students and postdoctoral trainees in the lab, she’s going to meetings, and trying to answer the copious emails she receives. This brainiac neuroscientist always knew that she had wanted to be involved in science, so that sort of a schedule is a dream come true.

“When I was a small girl, I wanted to be an archeologist. And then an influential high school science teacher got me interested in marine biology. Finally, a mentor I met in college taught me about neuroscience, and I knew I had found my calling. So as far back as I can remember, I have always had a sense that I wanted to be a scientist,” she explains.

After years honing her skills and becoming an esteemed researcher, she and her husband moved to Utah to follow a great career opportunity for him.

“It was a bit unclear whether I would find an academic position here,” she recalls. “I was lucky, but had to start in what is known as a research track assistant professor position, which meant that I was not in a more secure tenure line. Eventually I was able to be switched to the tenure line and that has helped with my career tremendously.”

Now she works to hire new faculty members for her department, and makes sure those eligible candidates ensure its long-term success. Beyond the scope of academia alone, she is the Principle Investigator for the contract site of the Epilepsy Therapy Screening Program.

This is your brain on massive magnification.

“Just about all anti seizure drugs have been through our program,” Dr. Wilcox says, “so we are very proud of the fact that many of the medicines that are now available to patients with epilepsy have been through our program. When we test them for activity in our experiments, we are blinded to them so we can perform the experiments in an unbiased way. So I do not know which potential medicines we are currently working on!”

Fortunately, this contract for the program is NIH funded and has been at her university for over 40 years, though garnering funding for experiments is always a challenge. Nonetheless, Dr. Wilcox hopes that her experiments will continue to help those who suffer from epilepsy and that someday she and her team will either discover a cure or a way to prevent epilepsy in those patients at risk for developing it following a brain injury.

Dr. Wilcox in the WildernessBeyond the lab, Dr. Wilcox explores the beautiful foothills of the Wasatch Mountains, soaking up the replenishing energy of nature with her husband and their newly adopted terrier, Milo. She also binge watches British detective shows, reads historical fiction novels, and gets her passport stamped as often as possible. “I love to travel to other countries, which my job lets me do!” she says.

For her tireless work researching, and running a department whose experiments and steadfastness help countless people suffering from epilepsy, and for enriching the lives and minds of her students and co-faculty, we think Dr. Karen Wilcox is a Cool Girl!

You can connect with Dr. Wilcox on twitter at @kswilcox
Or see more specifics on her lab and work on her faculty page on the University of Utah.

Megan C. Valentine-Shafer

Name: Megan C. Valentine-Shafer
Age: 25
Location: Chicopee, MA
Occupation: Licensed Pharmacist, Recent Graduate and currently Job Hunting.

Chicopee, Massachusetts native Megan Valentine-Shafer has always been creative and compassionate. As a child, her mothers fostered her imagination. One of her moms in particular crafted and included her daughter in her creative pursuits.

“Some of my favorite gifts and experiences with her involve either something she made, or something that I helped her make, including things like a wonderfully hand-made dice bag from my table top games, and a quilt made out of my old band t-shirts,” Megan recalls.

As a student, Megan became intrigued by the idea of assisting others, especially in the medical field. But once she figured that out, she also realized her peeves.

“Part way through high school, I found that I really wanted to help people, and that I was interested in going into medicine of some kind. An issue arose, though, when I discovered just how squeamish I was,” she explains. “This lead to me realizing that most of the “well known” medical professions weren’t for me, because I couldn’t handle seeing the sight of viscera.”

But this feisty student didn’t let her dream get discarded. In her junior year, her chemistry teacher also worked as a pharmacist. “It was at that point I realized I had been overlooking a major part of medicine. It was like the angels sang out in an immaculate chorus, that “This is it! This is what I was meant to be! I can help people, and not feel sick to my stomach!”’

Recently Megan graduated school and became a licensed pharmacist, but in spite of the image of a white coat and a smile, Megan’s other identities get a chance to come out and play when she partakes in one of her favorite hobbies: cosplay!

“The summer before I started college, and I went to my first nerd convention, Connecticon. At this point in my life, I hadn’t realized cosplay was an actual thing people did, for fun, and I fell in love with it the moment I stepped through the doors.”

Seven years later, Megan has been cosplaying at almost every con she’s attended, dressing up as characters such as Theresa from the “Fable” video game series, Tsukimi Kurashita from “Princess Jellyfish,” Chiaki Nanami from “DanganRonpa 2,” a blue-team Engineer from “Team Fortress 2,” and the dessert witch “Charlotte” from the series “Puella Magi Madoka Magica.”

Although Megan is currently job hunting in an area that is competitive, and her resources are limited due to this as well as her student loans, she remains optimistic. She’s already writing a list of “to do” cosplay characters for when her financial situation is a bit more flush, and the best part of all is that she’s not doing it alone!

“I also fell in love with my fiance over cosplay, who supports and does this with me as well! We’ve been together for a little over 5 years now.” (Fiance not pictured below.)

Beyond her search for a job and her creative pursuits, Megan keeps her sensitivity and her perspective. To other young women, she offers this advice:

“Keep your aspirations high, and your passions strong. Even if those passions aren’t conventional, or may not be something “feminine” or “ladylike,” keep them as strong as anything, and don’t let anyone get in your way. The world today can put up barriers, make things seem impossible, make goals seem unattainable; keep at it, though. Keep plugging away, at your own pace, so that one day, your dreams will become reality. It won’t always be easy, but it will be worth it in the end.”

For her cosplay creativity and pharmacy prowess, we think Megan Valentine-Shafer is a very Cool Girl!

Chee-Chee Stucky

Name: Chee-Chee Stucky
Age: 35
Location: Houston, TX (but I’m a Kansas Jayhawk first & foremost)
Occupation: Surgeon

Cool girl Chee-Chee during surgery.Growing up, Dr. Chee-Chee Stucky wanted to be either a hair stylist, concert violinist, archaeologist, or interior designer. A running-theme of working with her hands was clearly present! As a chemical engineering major in college, she quickly realized that there was more to her future than the technical aspects of matter, methods, and production.

Cool Girl Chee-Chee Stucky MD“I asked one of my engineering professors if I could work in her lab to get research experience,” she remembers. “She started me on a project evaluating the rate of drug dissolution in rats…the caveat was that I actually had to do surgery on the rats myself! I went along with it, and as I got deeper into the project, I realized I loved the surgical aspect of it. I had a natural ability for operating, probably from the seventeen years of classical violin training I was forced to take by my parents, and I actually looked forward to waking up early to get the surgeries started. When I realized how happy I was doing surgery, I did a lot of self-reflecting and at the beginning of my senior year, decided to apply to medical school!”

Dr. Stucky’s love of her field, and her specialized training in surgery, are clear. But her dedication isn’t all operating room smiles and Grey’s Anatomy-like storylines, her daily life is often infected with the low hum of physician’s anxiety.

“Our patients trust us completely to take a knife to their body, fix whatever problem we are there to fix, and then to bring them through the surgery and recovery without any harm done. I absolutely love being in the operating room, getting to work with my hands, and making a difference in people’s lives but keeping my patient’s trust is a huge responsibility that goes far beyond the technical aspect of surgery,” she explains. “If they have complications, I will also live with that devastation for the rest of my life.”

Dr. Stucky 90 Minutes of HIPECWhen it comes to giving ladies advice for how to succeed in a male-dominated field like surgery, Dr. Stucky has learned a few things.

“You will always have to do more work but do it more efficiently than your male counterpart. You will be tested by both your male and female bosses on your dedication to your craft.  They will ask you to stay longer, come down on you harder, and place you in more difficult or stressful situations because they want to see if you are going to quit or break down. Women are often meaner to other women than men are to women. For women just starting out in a Chee-Chee with her family at Easter.traditionally “male” field, I would say, let your dedicated work ethic speak for you. Don’t try to become one of the boys, but rather just keep doing your job well. Surround yourself with great support systems. Once you’ve established yourself as an irreplaceable member of your team, take other women under your wing and teach them how to succeed,” she says.

“Surgery is the only thing that has ever come naturally to me, and I firmly believe that this [is] because it is [a] gift from God. My husband and I are starting to become involved in international surgical missions but we also have roots ministering at our local church, so our options are wide open,” Dr. Stucky says. “The good part about having minimal spare time is that you never take moments with your friends and family for granted,” she adds.

For doing no harm and being all awesome, we think Dr. Chee-Chee Stucky is a really Cool Girl!

Wendy Chan

Name: Wendy Chan
Age: 30
Location: Williamsburg, NY
Occupation: soon-to-be emergency medicine resident physician / filmmaker

Wendy Chan began her sojourn into emergency medicine by volunteering at the emergency department in an Oakland, California hospital. At the time she was working full-time as a video producer, but she had no idea how much like a movie her life was about to get.

“On my first or second day in the hospital, a paramedic shoved a bag of ice into my hand and said to me, “Make sure the patient we just brought in from the motorcycle accident gets his gum” and I thought, “Gum?” Then I looked down and saw I was holding the guy’s “thumb”.  The medical team later reattached the guy’s thumb and I remember thinking, “Wow!  It must be wonderful to be able to help people in such a profound way on a daily basis.”

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