One of the things that fascinates me is finding out how people end up in the job they have, the job they love. It is rare that the direction they started out on is the one they end on. Usually, people take several different paths, some intended, some unintended, to get to where they want to be.
A case in point is Dr. Linda Boxer, a renowned and respected researcher and physician at the Stanford School of Medicine, and now the newest member of the CIRM Board (you can read all about that in our news release).
In Dr. Boxer’s case, her original career path was a million miles from working with California’s stem cell agency:
“The first career choice that I recall as a young child was professional baseball—growing up in Minnesota, I was a huge Twins fan—I did learn fairly quickly that this was not likely to be a career that was available for a girl, and it wasn’t clear what one did after that career ended at a relatively young age.”
Fortunately for us she became interested in science.
“I have always been curious about how things work—science classes in grade school were fascinating to me. I was given a chemistry kit as a birthday gift, and I was amazed at what happened when different chemicals were mixed together: color changes, precipitates forming, gas bubbles, explosions (small ones, of course).
Then when we studied biology in middle school, I was fascinated by what one could observe with a microscope and became very interested in trying to understand how living organisms work.
It was an easy decision to plan a career in science. The tougher decision came in college when I had planned to apply to graduate school and earn a PhD, but I was also interested in human health and disease and thought that perhaps going to medical school made more sense. Fortunately, one of my faculty advisors told me about combined MD/PhD programs, and that choice seemed perfect for me.”
Along the way she says she got a lot of help and support from her colleagues. Now she wants to do the same for others:
“Mentors are incredibly important at every career stage. I have been fortunate to have been mentored by some dedicated scientists and physicians. Interestingly, they have all been men. There were really very few women available as mentors at the time—of course, that has changed for the better now. It never occurred to me then that gender made a difference, and I just looked for mentors who had successful careers as scientists and physicians and who could provide advice to someone more junior.
One of the aspects of my role now that I enjoy the most is mentoring junior faculty and trainees. I don’t think one can have too many mentors—different mentors can help with different aspects of one’s life and career. I think it is very important for established scientists to give back and to help develop the next generation of physicians and scientists.”
Dr. Boxer is already well known to everyone at CIRM, having served as the “alternate” on the Board for Stanford’s Dr. Lloyd Minor. But her appointment by State Controller Betty Yee makes her the “official” Board member for Stanford. She brings a valuable perspective as both a scientist and a physician.
The Minnesota Twins lost out when she decided to pursue a career in science. We’re glad she did.