Women Are Researchers.mp4


(music) GATES: Space… is it really the final frontier? Or are there frontiers closer to home still left to be explored? Hi, I’m Gates McFadden, better known to some of you as Dr. Beverly Crusher on the Starship Enterprise. In my role as Chief Medical Officer on “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” I represent not only the future of medicine, but also equal opportunity for women in the field of biomedical science. Preparing for my role, I met many dedicated doctors and scientists, and I learned that every day in real life these scientists solved mysteries as intriguing as any fictional dilemmas we found in outer space. From genetics to biotechnology to molecular biology, scientific researchers are transforming the ways we understand the world and ourselves. As one puzzle after another is solved, scientific discoverers will allow all of us to live longer and healthier lives. The future of science is yours to create, whether you’re young or old, male or female, able-bodied or physically challenged. In this program, you will meet 3 extraordinary women scientists who persevered through their own challenges to claim this future for themselves. You can claim it also. If science interests you, talk to your guidance counselor or teacher about it. Get involved in research whenever you can, especially through science fairs and clubs. In the world of “Star Trek,” we predicted that all kinds of medical problems like headaches and common colds would be eliminated. Maybe you will be the one to find the cure. You can do it. You can participate in a world of discovery and be at the helm of your own voyage… into science. (music) GIRL: I came here to see her in person because I liked her character on TV. I can relate to what she says about science and discovery and all, but I also know she hasn’t really studied science. She’s an actor. What about real life, real doctors? What about real science? I like science and I’m pretty good at it. I get the best grades in my class in biology and math. I stole my brother’s chemistry set and did some experiments that came out all right. I had fun, but that’s kid stuff. I’m ready to hear the whole story. I want to know what a medical researcher does and what biomedical research is all about. I’ve got a few questions. What could I do as a scientific researcher? Could I discover something totally new–maybe a cure for a children’s disease. But doesn’t it cost, like, a million dollars to become a doctor, and how many years do I have to go to school to do it? It’s a little scary, and confusing. I’m not even sure what I would study. What exactly is a scientific researcher anyway? (music) DR. NOGUCHI: As a basic researcher, what I do is I look at very small parts of a very big problem. At the NIH community, we have a large proportion of M.D.s and Ph.D.s that come together to work on various projects. My background is as a Ph.D., which means, generally speaking, we learn a lot about a very specific topic. Fortunately, at the NIH I work very closely with other physicians who do see patients, and by finding out how the disease affects their lives and their physiology, we can take apart the problem, choose a very small aspect of it, and look at in great detail in the laboratory. In science, whenever you research a problem, you start by first learning as much as you can about what is known. You then try to look at the picture, define a very specific aspect that you can answer, learn about the tools that can be used to address that problem, and then, dig in and start working. (music) DR. YOUNG: I think when you go through medical school, you’re given the sense that all of the diseases in the world have been discovered, and all of the treatments in the world for those diseases are already in place. Then you finish medical school and you start to practice, and you have patients where you’re scratching your head and you’re having to tell them, “I don’t know,” or “there’s no treatment for that.” I think that that would inspire anybody to try a little harder. A clinical researcher is someone who tries to translate what they see as far as problems or disorders in patients in the office to find out the truth or find out the answer. I am a pediatric ophthalmologist, which means I take care of eye disorders in children, and because I’m in an academic center, it allows me the chance to see patients, but also address their problems in a different way by doing research. I think the exciting thing about that is that you can take what you see in the clinic and take it to the bench and try and figure it out. DR. PACHCIARZ: I did basic research for 17 years while earning a Ph.D. in immunology and microbiology, while at the same time I applied for medical school. I got into medical school in 1979 and I earned my M.D. in 1983. People have said that I am the first deaf person in history to earn both a Ph.D. and an M.D. I direct the blood bank of a trauma hospital and I teach transfusion medicine and I’m on the faculty here. My research now is mostly outcomes-based as well as patient-based, focusing on the outcomes of medical care and how to improve the process. I’ve had experience in several areas of biomedical research. Most research is similar. You start with a hypothesis or an observation and you gather facts, analyze data, and you reach a conclusion. GIRL: OK, basic, clinical, Ph.D., M.D., children’s health, women’s health, blood diseases, wow, I’m starting to think that being a scientific researcher is a pretty cool thing. My hypothesis is that science is fun. Now I’m going to collect data from all of you and see if I can prove or disprove my idea. Let’s call it an experiment to see if I’m really cut out to be a researcher. Now, any good scientist starts with some background about their subject, so I did a little historical research of my own. I found out there were quite a few great women scientists in history, but you’ve got to look pretty close to find them. (music) The first and earliest recorded woman in the history of science was Merit Ptah way back in 2,700 B.C. She was a physician in ancient Egypt but that’s about all we know. Jumping forward quite a few centuries, there’s Mary Hebraea, who discovered the formula for hydrochloric acid in the first century. Let’s get more modern. In the 19th century, Nettie Stevens discovered that the x and y chromosomes determined what sex we are. Florence Sabin, who graduated from the Johns Hopkins Medical School in 1900, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences for her work in human embryology. Rosalind Franklin was the first to recognize the helix shape of DNA while she was working as a research associate in early 1950, but she never got official credit for her contribution to genetics. Barbara McClintock worked in the 1940s and 1950s to show that genes could jump around within chromosomes, and finally got a Nobel Prize for medicine in 1983 for her genetic discovery. Rosalyn Yalow received the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1977 for her research in medical physics. And Rita Levi-Montalcini was the first woman in history to receive the Nobel Prize in neuroscience in 1986. (music) There were women in other branches of science as well–too many to name, but too few for 4,000 years of history. I think the next thousand years will be different, but back to now. I understand the difference between general types of researchers, but tell me about you. What is your research all about? (music) DR. YOUNG: I have two primary areas of research, both involving eye disorders in children. One of the disorders I study is something called retinopathy of prematurity, which is also called R.O.P. in slang. When babies are born prematurely, their eyes often don’t develop properly and they could have retinal detachments, which can cause blindness. I also do research in what we would call the molecular genetics of myopia, and that is basically used to understand at the very basic level the gene form of why near-sightedness or myopia occurs. I have a number of families in my practice with this disorder from which I can extract DNA and look at their DNA in the laboratory. Additionally, with our eye bank here, I can get eyes from people who donate them and look at certain genes, with our goal of finding the genes that cause near-sightedness. The nice thing about taking care of children is that you know that you’re making a difference for the rest of their lives. You know that you’re helping them. These are innocent victims of that disorder, or that problem, and they deserve to maximize or have as good a vision as possible. (music) DR. NOGUCHI: I work on sickle cell anemia and it’s a disease that affects the red blood cell. Specifically, it’s a disease that affects the protein in the red blood cell. The main job of the red cell is to carry oxygen to the parts of the body. Now what happens with sickle disease is that when the red cells give up oxygen, the protein inside the red cell changes. It’s as if you had pieces of Velcro on beach balls, and the beach balls would be the hemoglobin molecules. And as they pass one another, because they’re very crowded inside the red cell, they start to stick. So, eventually, you no longer get oxygen delivered to the tissue. Now one of the things that we do have to do, because we work with animals at the NIH, we all have to write specific protocols to document the experiments that we plan to do. What we’re able to do with the animal model for sickle cell disease is to look at the progression of the disease as it develops. What I’ve been doing in sickle cell disease has been looking at a variety of different approaches for disease therapy. Everybody carries information for making many different kinds of hemoglobin. As you’re developing, you actually have an embryonic form and a fetal form of hemoglobin. And when you’re born, this fetal form is switched off and the adult form is switched on. What happens when you’re born to turn off the fetal hemoglobin? If we could solve that puzzle and turn it back on, then we’ve used the own body’s information to give a gene therapy approach to treating the disease. (music) DR. PACHCIARZ: The research I do now helps me in my several roles as blood bank director, faculty, and administrator. Let me give you one really good example. A blood transfusion is made up of many different steps. Those steps cover a range of several departments, and also several levels of people are involved, and each step is prone to an error, so that you look at the steps where most errors or mistakes are made and whether there can be room for improvement, and we’re focusing on that. In the past, I have done some work with Pap smears. A Pap smear is a test used to screen for possible cancer. What I did was I looked at the number of smears that were collected inappropriately because not all of the cells were on the slide and it may give false negative diagnosis. That is very important, because a woman could have cancer and not be aware of it. GIRL: OK, let’s recap what we know so far about our sample population of researchers. Basic researchers like Dr. Noguchi usually look at things on the molecular level and don’t deal directly with patients. They usually earn a Ph.D. because it allows them lots of lab training, and their thesis can lead to a lifetime of experiments. They’re like Lewis and Clark discovering new frontiers in science. Clinical researchers like Dr. Young go to medical school so they can work with patients and often divide their time between their practice and their experiments in the lab. They can use the results of their research to help patients. Dr. Pachciarz is a mixture of everything. She started as a basic researcher and then moved into clinical research, and now she runs a hospital division and does outcomes research. She’s done it all. And here’s what I know about me. I like to solve puzzles like Dr. Noguchi and I love to learn new things. But it sounds hard. All that studying–can I do that? What makes it worthwhile? How did you ever decide on this? In other words, why did you do it? (music) DR. PACHCIARZ: From as far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a physician. And I remember reading about famous women and I was always fascinated by microscopes and caring for animals and doing scientific experiments. My mother believed in me. She knew that I could succeed, and she knew that there was something in me. And I told her that I wanted to be a doctor, and other people were laughing and saying, “You? A doctor? A woman? You’re deaf?” My mother saw something in me, so she drove me 80 miles every day to school and back. When I tried to get into college, the administration wouldn’t let me in because I was the first deaf person to apply. But I convinced them with my mother that I belonged in college even though there were no interpreting services at the time. I kept going because it was always my dream from childhood to become a physician, and I saw every obstacle as something to be overcome. DR. NOGUCHI: One of the things I think helped a lot was having resources at home. What I remember most about growing up was my father always had books around the house. And then he would not only get books, but then he would buy science kits through the mail for us to put together. One of the things I love to do is solve puzzles. I love reading mystery stories, putting together jigsaw puzzles. I’m having a wonderful time solving problems. I get to learn about any topic I want, and this is the nature of doing research. We get to go in whatever direction we want. And at the same time, I’m learning and hoping to develop approaches that will help in disease treatment, long-term. DR. YOUNG: My mother grew up rather impoverished in rural Mississippi and decided at a very early age that she wanted something different from her life, and so she joined the Air Force straight out of high school, off to adventure, which I think I’ve sort of taken the lead on that since then. When I was a senior in high school, I knew I wanted to go to college. My brother was in college and it was an expectation in our family. We didn’t have the funds to do that, but it was still an expectation. My science counselors at Bowden first suggested I go into medical school, which–I thought they were crazy. Then they suggested I apply to places like Harvard, and I thought they were doubly crazy. But I did so anyway, and was amazed to get in. And even though I didn’t have money to go there per se, I figured if they were crazy enough to let me in, I was crazy enough to go, and I’d find a way to pay for it. There are loans, there are work-study types of positions you can take, or grants or scholarship money that you can obtain as well. But there are sources for money. I think it would be a shame to not pursue your dreams because you felt you didn’t have the money to afford it. I think, ultimately, all of us want to have lives where we make a difference and where we have an impact, where we, hopefully, touch someone else. Every single patient I see, comes to see young Dr. Young, has a smile on their face at the end of the visit, and hopefully a treatment plan that will change their vision and hopefully their outlook on life. It’s worth every minute of it to know that you’re a part of all that. GIRL: That’s awesome. Finding a cure for a baby’s blindness, discovering how to turn a gene on and off, helping women detect cancer… I understand what you do and why you do it. Your work helps lots of people lead better lives, but have you managed to have a life? An outside life? (music) DR. PACHCIARZ: I find that being able to do what I’ve done does not mean that there’s no life outside of work. There’s plenty of time for both work and play. I was able to manage the stress of studying and working by playing sports like softball and marathon running. There were not that many deaf people in the world, so there were times when I was alone, but now I share my life at home with another deaf person and I feel that I have a very full life–both my work and my home life. DR. YOUNG: What’s worked for me is having an incredibly supportive and equal partner in this whole enterprise we call the Young-Jones household, and I think that that’s probably key, is having a partner–in this case, my husband, Greg, who is just as committed to raising the kids, doing the laundry, making that household run as I am. We certainly try to simplify our lives in terms of not racing here or there to various things. I think when you have the choice to do so many things with your career and with your work, you have to figure out what makes your heart sing, and generally that’s your family and your work, and maybe a little bit of time for yourself. But you have to simplify what you do in order to make it all fit. DR. NOGUCHI: Everybody has 24 hours in the day. During that time, you have to eat, sleep, work. You have to find time for yourself, and for some of us, we find time for family as well. I think the key to balancing my life has been to focus with the activity that I’m doing at hand. If I’m home with family, we focus on family. We don’t worry about work. We try to do activities that we can do as a group. When my kids were young, I was trying to find activities that they would get interested in so that they could do something outside of the house. Fortunately, one thing that they developed an interest in was karate, and because we were always car-pooling, taking them to class, the karate instructor talked my husband and myself into joining, and eventually we became a family of black belts. We would travel to workouts together, and the nice thing was that there was no age barrier. The important thing to remember is science is not all there is in life. You have to decide what it is you want to do. If you want to have a family, you can do that. It’s difficult to judge many different fields, but like any working parent, it requires balance. I think the benefit in science is usually the people who do it are very happy with their work, and so it makes it much easier to be happy at home. GIRL: It sounds like you made the right choice when you decided to become researchers. It’s looking better and better to me, too. I got the data, I gathered the facts, and I analyzed the results. I like science. I’m good at it. But where do I go from here? What do I do now? What does a girl like me do to become a scientist like you? (music) DR. PACHCIARZ: My advice to you girls is to look at every obstacle as something to be overcome to develop your character. DR. NOGUCHI: You want to learn as much as you can about what interests you. DR. YOUNG: Be aggressive about finding mentors who will nurture your career and your work. Don’t presume that if you sit in the back and do good work, that somebody will recognize it. DR. NOGUCHI: Teachers are usually around with advice. Your friends, your family–you’d be surprised. Maybe even your family physician will have a way of pointing you in the right direction to learn. DR. PACHCIARZ: If people tell you that you can’t do something because you have a disability or because you’re different in some way, you need to question that. Ask why. Fight it. Find another way. Go around, go under, go over, or just beat it down. (music)

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