Women in Medicine: Brooke Russell
At Texas A&M, we celebrate the American Medical Association’s Women in Medicine Month this September by highlighting a few of our extraordinary female researchers, scientists, physicians and students who are making meaningful contributions to medicine every day on our campuses and across the globe.
Brooke Russell, PhD, is one of these remarkable women. She earned her doctorate from the Texas A&M University Health Science Center, and now she is an assistant professor working on novel medical device development using materials from bacteria. To help mark Women in Medicine Month, she answers some questions about the profession and her life.
Q: Why did you chose to become a medical researcher?
A: As a child, I had Lyme disease. It went undiagnosed for about two years. My parents happened to find a clinician who did a lot of research as well, and he was the one to get me back up on my feet. His lab was on the second floor of his practice, and they let me tour it; it was fascinating, and I remembered thinking that it wasn’t the 10 or more prior doctors who had fixed me, but the researchers in this lab. Math and science always came fairly easily as well.
Q: What’s the greatest aspect of being a researcher?
A: I like the intellectual flexibility that it offers.
Q: What did you choose Texas A&M?
A: Location! I’m from Texas but moved to Louisiana when I was in middle school for my dad’s job. I was eager to get back. The Houston location made it easy for my husband to find a job as well.
Q: What accomplishment do you consider to be the most significant of your career to date?
A: I feel like I’m always working towards a goal and therefore haven’t accomplished that much. My graduate work was pretty exciting though, and when my professor finally got a grant based on my work, that felt very nice.
Q: What impact does your research have on women’s health issues?
A: We are working on a new product idea that could help with OB-GYN-based post-surgical adhesions. Adhesions can cause infertility, and given that infertility treatments are usually not covered by insurance, this can dramatically affect one’s quality of life. Adhesions are also painful.
Q: Are there any women in medicine, past or present, who inspired or influenced you to pursue a career in the field?
A: I think all the women that I have worked with have inspired me. They are all individuals who are very smart, capable and fun. No offense to the great men I work with, but women are simply efficient.
Q: What obstacles have you faced as a woman in medicine?
A: Balancing family and work is not easy for me. I have twins, and therefore was thrust into motherhood at full capacity. They are 5 now, and I still feel like I’m playing catch up.
Q: What hurdles do we need to overcome for women in medicine?
A: Again, my answer is based on what’s going on with me currently. I am not willing to see my kids for only an hour a night. I have taken a pay cut to end my workday at 3:30 p.m. in order to have time with them during the day.
Q: Based on your own experiences, what advice would you give young girls who want to pursue a career in medicine?
A: I think medicine and research are great places for women to flourish. I would advise that they get as far along in their career as possible before having children since this area is competitive and takes a lot of after-hours time.
Q: What is your personal motto?
A: Like Nike, my motto is “Just do it.” I’m not a procrastinator, so even if something is difficult or I have no idea how to do it, I just Nike and get it done.