Oncofertility Consortium

by Megan Carlson, Guest Blogger for the Oncofertility Consortium

My name is Megan, and I will be your guest blogger for today.

I'm a journalism graduate student who had the great pleasure of shadowing Dr. Teresa Woodruff Tuesday as part of my health and science reporting practicum.

As soon as I arrived at 8 AM, Dr. Woodruff and I hit the ground running-- greeting and checking in with the entire staff, from the program managers to the researchers already diligently at work in the lab.  This daily process is part of Dr. Woodruff's efforts to maintain open communication with the entire lab.

We next traipsed over to a large conference room, where a group of 15 mostly-female scientists were already gathered with coffee and notepads ready for the weekly staff meeting, called the “R3 Data Club.”  Dr. Woodruff insists the entire team (who are located in several different locations) meet via web conference each week to discuss developments in the lab and present their research.  This is another explicit effort by Dr. Woodruff to ensure her team acts on the same page and immerses younger team members in the mission and work of the lab.

While some of the nitty-gritty details flew over my head (my knowledge of science could probably fill a thimble), I was impressed by the engagement of the staff as they listened to and questioned postdoctoral fellow, Pam Monahan, PhD's, presentation on interactions among signaling pathways leading to potential disruptions in follicle development (itself, a possible contributing factor topolycystic ovary syndrome).

After the meeting, we rushed off to a government relations teleconference where a group, including Sharon Green, executive director of the Women's Health Research Institute (WHRI) and Nadia Johnson, a program manager, planned the Chicago and Springfield Women's Health Week celebrations.  Dr. Woodruff quickly switched her hat from hard-nosed scientist, asking pointed questions to her researchers about gene signaling pathways, to politically-savvy division chief, strategizing about how to best promote gender-specific scientific research to legislators, scientists and other interest groups.

I spent the remainder of the day shadowing Dr. Woodruff as she discussed efforts to increase enrollment in the Illinois Women's Health Registry--an initiative that seeks to overcome the lack of sex-specific scientific research by connecting female research participants and researchers--- and then following program managers and researchers who introduced me to the work of the Oncofertility Consortium.

The day was an educational whirlwind.  I absorbed a flood of scientific information about infertility, fertility preservation, and the reproductive system (augmented by time I spent Monday in the reproductive fertility clinic of Dr. Mary Ellen Pavone, who works closely with Dr. Woodruff).  I also witnessed the behind-the-scenes political work, research, and coordination that function to produce the newest innovations in fertility treatment and women's health.  It was fascinating to see all the cogs in the machine interact together to create these beneficial and progressive outcomes.

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