Dr. Maureen Okam
Clinical Director of Non-Malignant Hematology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Attending Hematologist, Brigham and Women's Hospital.
As a student, Maureen loved math and chemistry—particularly chemical reactions (kapow!). Her spark for science led her to medical school in Port Harcourt, Nigeria (she is of Nigerian descent) where she decided to specialize in diseases of the blood and cancer. After residency training, she was awarded a fellowship in Hematology/Medical Oncology at Yale University and then attended the Harvard School of Public Health. Now, Dr. Maureen spends her days seeing patients, teaching new doctors, and testing new medicines. Although the paperwork that goes with her job is not her favorite thing, she does get to use a microscope every day!
Nancy asked Maureen about her work, the path she took to get there, and why she loves being a scientist.
Nancy: What is your goal as a doctor?
Maureen: To help patients with blood diseases get better using the tools and knowledge we have now. Also, to develop new strategies to treat patients in the future.
Nancy: People may not know that in many cases, doctors are scientists. How do you use science to help your patients?
Maureen: I use my microscope to look at my patients' blood smears and determine what's going on and what kinds of treatments might help them get better. The microscope is my coolest tool!
Nancy: You're also a teacher, right?
Maureen: Yes, I teach residents, or new doctors, in a clinic. I help them learn how to diagnose their patients—what questions to ask, which tests to do, and how to handle emergency situations.
Nancy: What is the most exciting thing you've done in your career?
Maureen: Well, it wasn't at work, but this past Mother's Day I successfully resuscitated a woman who choked and collapsed in a restaurant! I performed the Heimlich maneuver and CPR until the ambulance arrived.
Nancy: Saving people and finding cures for diseases—your job must be very rewarding! What are some of the most important things you did to get where you are today?
Maureen: I worked hard and played fair. I also had a little bit of luck and lots of blessings!