Mentor of Distinction
“Doing great science is a collaborative effort – you have to be curious, persistent and most of all someone who enjoys collaboration and working within a team to accomplish the research objective.”
Dr. Deirdre Church is the Clinical Section Chief of Microbiology at CLS (Calgary Lab Services) and a professor at the University of Calgary in the Departments of Medicine and Pathology & Laboratory Medicine. Her specialty is internal medicine, with a subspecialty in infectious diseases and medical microbiology.
Dr. Church always knew she wanted to be a physician, interested in how the human body works and heals itself, even operating on her dolls as a child. Her undergraduate studies in Microbiology led her to her specialization in Infectious Diseases, and she completed a Ph.D. in Medical Sciences (Medical Microbiology) as a part of her sub-specialty training,
Though no one around her was in the healthcare field, Dr. Church notes that some important mentors to her included her high school teachers, and that they helped shape her future path through encouragement of constructive development and fostering her interest in science. During her Ph.D. studies, her Ph.D. supervisor was also instrumental in mentoring her, and was a special influence and support.
She does note that early on in her career she didn’t have an inspirational mentor, and is now proactive in mentoring students, Fellows and Graduate Students within the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary as she believes that good mentoring and supervision is absolutely critical for people’s development.
Dr. Church’s advice to kids interested in pursuing a career in the sciences is to make sure you understand that you may need several advanced degrees to obtain your goals. She encourages kids to seek out good mentorship, someone with “a solid reputation who will advocate for you.” In addition, developing “soft skills”, such as time management, effective teamwork and dealing with conflict, through leadership positions have enhanced her scientific career and are important skills to develop.
Dr. Church works mainly in the Science and Technology aspect of STEM, but also collaborates with Engineering and uses mathematics, particularly statistics, in her research. Collaboration is a key part of science, and Dr. Church believes it is very important to find the correct collaborators for you, as projects take a lot of hard work and time to undertake.
Dr. Church’s typical workday is full of administrative and academic duties, with meetings and focuses on her important academic goals in teaching and research; “research particularly requires dedicated time to focus and get organized, and to have uninterrupted time to think and write.” In her spare time, Dr. Church has a range of interests that keep her busy, including music, sports, reading, arts & crafts, and especially spending time with her seven grandchildren.