Wednesday, June 15, 2011
NV: When did your interest in science and medicine begin?
Marcy: I have always been interested in science, probably because my dad, who is also a physician researcher encouraged curiosity and analytic thought when I was younger. I wasn’t sure I wanted to become a doctor until I took a course on human genetics, reproduction, and public policy in the molecular biology department at Princeton University. This course covered many interesting topics, including in vitro fertilization, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis i.e. PGD, (the process whereby disease-free embryos are pre-selected to be implanted), and even cloning. I thought the science of reproduction and the early stages of embryo growth and development were fascinating.
After Princeton, I studied medicine at the Medical College of Virginia for medical and then completed a residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Tufts Medical Center. Presently, I am completing the final month of my reproductive endocrinology and infertility fellowship at the NIH. The first 1.5 years of my fellowship were largely clinical and patient-based while my final 1.5 years have been basic-science-oriented.
NV: When did you begin to specialize in OBGYN? What about infertility inspired you to focus your time and energy in this field?
Marcy: In med school you don’t really specialize in anything, kind of like law school. You go and learn a lot and graduate but you don't really specialize in a particular medical field. During residency you learn how to care for patients within a particular medical field, like obstetrics and gynecology. If you want to focus in-depth on an even more particular subset of patients, you complete fellowship training in a subspecialty within your field- for me reproductive endocrinology and infertility within the field of ob/gyn.
What really locked me into infertility was my interest in reproduction and genetics. For instance, a couple might come in, both of whom are carriers for Huntington’s or Tay-Sachs disease, and who didn’t want to pass the disease onto their children. The idea that you could select embryos without mutated/affected genes and thereby enhance the chance that such a couple would have a healthy baby is a very powerful thing. Now that I have spent a few years doing research in reproduction, I have come to realize that not only is this a fascinating field, but it is also incredibly conducive to research. There are a million fascinating questions that remain to be answered.
NV: Now that you are doing research in your 3rd year, what are you researching? What questions are you seeking to answer?
Marcy: I’m doing two projects. The first involves reproductive hormone receptor signaling in mouse ovarian cells. Reproductive hormone receptors play a major role in ovulation, menstruation, and many, many other cellular processes. A better understanding of how these receptors work could help us to better understand and possibly treat infertility, endocrine disorders, and even some types of cancer.
My second project deals with ovarian aging. I am comparing steroidogenic enzymes and regulatory molecules in ovaries from old and young mice.
Check in tomorrow when Marcy shares more about her work, it's applications and advice for early-career researchers.