Children: Ryland, 19; Emersyn, 12; Kai, 9
Occupation: Epidemiologist; president/CEO, Translational Technologies International
Tell us about your work.
I am an epidemiologist by training. I did a doctorate and post-doctorate at Hopkins and now I run a research and consulting firm in the public health sector. We evaluate the effectiveness and safety of public health and health care sectors, like a tobacco cessation program, for example, and private programs, like a new drug. We investigate whether that drug is safe, whether it is effective and how it can be improved as it moves forward.
How did you get into this field?
I am from a family with a lot of clinicians. I was a pre-med major and started questioning if that was what I wanted to do. I heard about a master’s program in epidemiology and when I sat in the first class I had an a-ha moment. I realized epidemiology and public health had a greater impact than just one person — not to diminish health care, I just wanted to work somewhere with that kind of broad impact. Six years ago, I opened my own business. Most of our projects really require a multidisciplinary approach, so we have full-time employees, who are everything from social scientists to psychologists to mathematicians, and employees who are consultants and intermittent workers.
What is a typical day like for you?
I have some days where I am in 10 meetings and I have some days that are my cave days when I can throw myself into the work. We have a focus on health equity and eliminating health disparities and making sure we help vulnerable populations, so that could mean working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on helping the refugee population to working with a hospital in Atlanta on reducing readmissions and morbidity of heart patients and evaluating the success of that and the ability to scale up to other hospitals. From autism to ADHD to cancer, our work really spans health care across a lifetime.
With such a demanding job, how do you manage work-life balance?
We have good communication with the kids about our lives and what they are going to look like, so they know there are going to be very intense times. But they also know we will get to go camping for two weeks. It’s very dynamic, our work lives and our family lives. Our lives are not very normal. We have two children with birth defects. Our daughter has congenital constriction band syndrome or amniotic band syndrome. It was something we didn’t know until she was born. Her hands were fused together. She’s had eight surgeries and there are more in her future. Yet she is an incredible pianist, so that tells you something about her.
How has that changed your life?
Her birth defects led us to adopt our son, Kai, from China, who has the same birth defect. Kai was born with a club foot and has a prosthetic. He is also missing three fingers on his right hand, but he plays third base and outfield for a travel baseball club. Our daughter has had an amazing care community, and because of that, we knew we could provide for Kai.
I’m very proud of creating jobs and contributing to the local economy. I find that very rewarding. I have plans to continue to grow this business. We are very committed to our mission and to our culture. Of course, we need to make money to survive as a business and I want all of my employees to have a good quality of life, but it has to be about much more than that. We actually reinvest and self-fund projects. One of our big ones — it will actually be the largest U.S. study — involves prenatal exposure to anti-nausea drugs. The majority of drugs have not been approved for use in pregnancy. Our study is underway and by the end of the year we hope to have our first publication submitted.
It sounds like your life has influenced your work, too.
While I didn’t take any of the anti-nausea drugs, when my daughter was born I made a commitment to better understand what contributes to these birth defects.