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The Science Runway is a group of dedicated women inspiring girls to pursue their love of science.

Nancy Reau

Nancy Reau

What do you do every day?

Sure, so I am a physician and as you would imagine as physicians, I see patients. I’m a liver specialist so then my patients have liver disease. But in addition to that because I work in an academic university, there’s a lot of other things that are a part of my job that I probably wouldn’t have suspected physicians do especially when I was in high school or junior high. Academic physicians will often give lectures so I teach in the university, I teach community physicians, I teach—you know, nationally and internationally to other physicians. I actually will talk to different companies about my field or innovative development whether that’s through medications or diagnostics or information technology about how their product might integrate into the health care system in a field—you know in my field. I give a lot of continuing medical education talks so that I travel a fair amount and I would probably say I travel and lecture as much as I see patients.

Why do you love it?

I’m a pretty social person and medicine allows you to have a job where you interact with a lot of different people for the good and the bad. I chose liver disease as I ended up getting in this aspect of the field because I like people who are complicated and sick and I like to feel like I can offer a service that not everybody could do. So as I was exposed to various aspects of medicine in my residency in medical school, I really felt like this was a good fit for me, something where I was using my brain, using a skill set that I thought I was comfortable in. And I sub-specialized because I really wanted to make sure that I knew everything about my field that I could possibly know. I never wanted to be faced with something that I did not feel comfortable managing. I did not want to have to give it away to someone else to have them be able to take care of the person.

What were your moments of fear and challenges in your career?

I think that every person kind of has their weak points and my Achilles’ heel is not thinking that I’m smart enough or that I can figure something out. So there are definitely you know still—although a little less now than when I was in training—but times where I was faced with something challenging, where I was very, very insecure about. And when you're in something like healthcare, you realize that if you can't figure it out that that could be life threatening to the person in front of you. You know it’s a big deal if you’re on Wall Street and you lose a billion dollars but it’s still just a billion dollars, no one died because of that. And so I—you know not to say I wanted to be an investment banker or that that’s any less of a challenging job—but when I was looking at someone and realizing that what my insecurities might actually affect the rest of this person’s life in front of me. That’s a pretty scary place to be.

What are some of the latest innovations in science that you are most excited about?

Well for my field, the therapeutics have just revolutionized. You know there are diseases that we did not have any idea were curable when I was in training that are now—you know easy cures are available. I think that the diagnostics and the information technology is probably the most exciting thing. And that’s a lot where there are aspects of medicine that people don’t realize are parts of medicine whether it’s an app to identify people who have a chronic health disease that’s no longer controlled. So they have iPhone apps or smartphone apps that can identify someone who has diabetes who’s having low blood sugar or a flare of their rheumatologic condition before a person’s even aware they’re having them. I think that mobile technology so that you can interact in so many different ways— it’s kind of like the concept of flattening the Earth. I mean that you, regardless of where your physician is or where your patient is, that you can do so much without actually having to come together. And then the concepts of like the 3-D printer and so much biotech. I think that in our lifetime we really will see like synthetic organs and aspects of regeneration that we did not have any idea would be possible.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Ohio. So I grew up in a small town called Lima, Ohio which if you’d enough to have watched The Thomas Crown Affair, the actress in there claims that she’s from Lima, Ohio which she pronounced. But you know it’s apparently really insignificant and small that a movie actress pointed out that that’s where she’s from—the midwesterner.

Who was your favorite teacher and why?

You know I cannot pick my favorite teacher. There have been so many incredibly influential teachers and professors that I’ve had that it would be unfair to any one of them to single one out. I can tell you that when I was in high school I had a—what was her name? I can’t even remember her name which is like I have like Alzheimer’s I guess. But my English professor challenged me time and time again like it was such a hard class. By the time I finished, I was so certain that I had learned something and it’s such a sense of accomplishment. Dr. Levin, when I was in genetics, would consistently force us to be challenged in a very delightful way and then you know invite us all over to his house to kind of debrief after he tortured us through the weeks. So I think these individuals have really made challenging subjects more enjoyable. But if I hadn’t had effective teachers, and you’ll learn the benefit from the educational system, I probably wouldn’t have made it to the point where I’m at.

What is your unique talent?

Well I spend a lot of my time playing the piano so that’s not necessarily unique since piano performance is—piano’s a pretty common thing for little kids. But you know a little more unique. Outside of that no, I’m not at all that talented. I accompanied my daughter when she played the flute competition so it was kind of fun!

Is there a current book or book you love?

My favorite all-time book probably so far has been a book by Salman Rushdie called Shalimar the Clown. It’s not necessarily a light- hearted book but I have to admit that not necessarily reading the books but I’ve loved the Harry Potter series and the Percy Jackson series. The Harry Potter series especially because the different narrators—it’s like watching a play listening to the book because the reader is just such an amazing actor. But those are definitely a little more light-hearted. I like to try to balance things with something that I learn a little bit about.

What is your favorite website or fun activity?

Yes. So I have three little kids—so nothing is ever pleasurable at least for my own pleasure. But I listen to books on tape, I get them from the library. So I listen to all kinds of—not trash novels—but you know not particularly intelligent literature on my commute and I love it. I’m listening to the Percy Jackson series right now so I know what my 10-year old son is talking about.

Who inspires you?

Mentorship is absolutely instrumental in any kind of professional career. I think if you don’t have someone you can look up to and that can help bounce off ideas that you will not—your life will be a little bit harder or your path will not be as straight as if you can liaison with a good mentor. And I’ve been incredibly lucky to have several people throughout my academic career serve in that academic mentorship. My husband is probably one of the most hardworking people I’ve ever known and he still finds time to be an excellent cook and a great dad. So that when I’m complaining about feeling like I’m busy or stressed, I only have to look next to me and see someone who’s doing a lot more than me and isn’t complaining at all about that.

Khaudeja Bano

Khaudeja Bano

Vera Rulon

Vera Rulon