Meet Tiffany, a clinical cytogeneticist and molecular geneticist currently employed by Vanderbilt University Medical Center as a Laboratory Genetics and Genomics Fellow, on track to become a Clinical Genetics Lab Director. Always fascinated by biology, her natural curiosity and always wanting to know how things work has kept her engaged in science into adulthood. Tiffany holds a BS in Biology from Middle Tennessee University, a MEd in Secondary Education from Tennessee State University, and a PhD in Molecular Biology from Middle Tennessee University.
In her current position, Tiffany works in a clinical lab and analyzes genetic test results to help find answers for patients regarding medical concerns ranging from cancer to inherited diseases.
Cytogeneticist (n) - a professional trained in genetics who examines and analyzes chromosomes to detect defects and aid in patient diagnosis and treatment plans
While rewarding, work as a clinical cytogeneticist is emotionally heavy. Tiffany's work helps to inform doctors of what care patients should receive and how to manage or treat a variety of genetic conditions, but when test results come back with unfavorable results -- such as a leukemia patient who has been in remission but then the cancer comes roaring back at the cellular level when they relapse -- it is a great challenge. "I always root for our patients," Tiffany said, "and it's difficult to know they're ill and may not recover. I balance this with the knowledge that we're able to help people understand their illness in all its stages."
Outside of work, Tiffany enjoys knitting, reading, traveling, scuba diving, and gardening for monarch butterflies. She turned her backyard into a nationally-recognized monarch waystation where the butterflies have plenty of milkweed that they need for their life cycle. In the summer their place is literally crawling with monarch caterpillars that eventually transform into gorgeous butterflies!
As first in her family to ever graduate from college, Tiffany had some unique and insightful inspiration to share with young girls who may be interested in pursuing a STEM degree program or future career:
"Don't doubt yourself. I've spent years worried that I wouldn't make it, that I wasn't smart enough to be a scientist. You don't have to be naturally brilliant. If this is something you want to do - go for it. Work hard, and you'll succeed."
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