WOMEN SHAPING HISTORY 2012
Dr. Maria Mitchell: President, AMDeC
What inspired you to pursue your current career?
When I had the good fortune to witness first hand the depth and breadth of the research resources available in the medical research institutions in New York, I realized that so much more could be accomplished through a better coordinated, collaborative effort. Working with AMDeC offered a unique opportunity to work closely with these world-class medical research institutions, creating an environment designed to accelerate research and discovery. I love New York City and really welcomed the idea of creating something that would leverage many of its brightest stars and make it a better place.
What are some of the challenges you have faced and how did you resolve them?
Starting a new organization always poses challenges, and the early days of AMDeC were no different. In addition to the more typical challenges of starting a new organization, such as defining a mission, there was the challenge of encouraging collaboration among institutions that were not accustomed to working together.
I understood that many of the challenges required political skills—skills that I had acquired during my years in government—to get so many different organizations focused on some key issues in the same way. I worked hard to understand the needs and culture of each of our constituent organizations, and these efforts paid off.
What are some of the accomplishments you’re proudest of?
AMDeC has been able to accomplish much in its 14 year history, and there is much to be proud of, including the fact that we have raised more than $100 million for research and have taken on—and completed projects—that many experts said couldn’t be done. An early example of this is the New York Cancer Project, a groundbreaking initiative that created a DNA library, with medical and lifestyle information, from more than 18,000 New Yorkers. The DNA samples, which are still being used today, have been used in numerous research studies, which have generated more than 25 scientific publications.
One of our most recent projects – the development of AMDeC F.I.R.S.T., an online registry that allows researchers to easily find services, instruments and technologies available throughout the AMDeC consortium – was thought to be equally daunting, especially because of the amount of information that we needed to gather from each of our Members. Not only did we collect the needed information about the offerings of the Core services in our Member network, but we were able to do this in a very short period of time. We were successful because of the positive relationships and trust that we had built up with our Members.
Who have been the most influential mentors in your life?
When I think about my important mentors, Rudy Giuliani and Hank Greenberg are always top of mind. What I admire most in them – and how I try to model myself – is their determination, persistence and belief in themselves. These attributes are what enabled them to achieve so much.
What would you describe as a turning point in your life?
When I started working in government, I realized that it was possible to effect change on a much larger scale than was conceivable working individually. This experience solidified my commitment to focusing on the changes that can make a big difference for a great many.
What are your future goals?
There is still so much for AMDeC to accomplish. Certainly, I would like to see it grow, with many more institutions taking advantage of its services and benefits and many more scientists embracing the value of AMDeC F.I.R.S.T. Most importantly, I would like to see AMDeC bringing in sufficient funds to have a surplus so that we also will be able to provide the research community we serve with an ongoing source of funding. #