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Young Alum of the Month: Erin Healy

Erin HealyName: Erin Healy

Hometown:  West Des Moines, Iowa

Major and Graduation Date:  Microbiology, Spring 2019

Favorite ISU class:  My favorite class at ISU was Marching Band (MUSIC 114A). Although it was more than just a class and was a lot of work, my experience at Iowa State would not have been the same without it.  Practice was Monday-Friday for 1.5 hours, along with individual practice, and football games. Game Day was always my favorite day of the week, getting to perform on the field and in the stands with 61,000 of my closest friends.  My favorite Microbiology class was Food Microbiology (MICRO 420) because of how applicable it was to everyday life.  We learned about many potential foodborne pathogens and how to prevent them.  

Job Title & Company:  Clinical Laboratory Technologist, Bacteriology, Division of Clinical Microbiology, Mayo Clinic

Major Job/Position Responsibilities:  As a Bacteriologist my main responsibility is to identify potentially harmful bacteria and test them against antibiotics to aid health care providers with diagnosis and antibiotic therapy for treatment of infections.  We analyze a wide array of specimens; blood, brain, feces, urine, skin swabs, respiratory samples, and essentially anything a doctor wants cultured.  One critical source we monitor in the laboratory 24/7 is blood specimens; we strive to identify bacteria as soon as possible and notify providers of Critical Results.  Patients with septicemia (blood poisoning by bacteria), if not treated promptly, can lead to mortality.  However, for many specimens there is usual microbiota along with a pathogen.  It is my responsibility to recognize and identify pathogens correctly, as in many cases usual microbiota is not harmful to the patient.  Identifying the bacteria can be done utilizing Mass Spectrometry or by manual methods such as performing a quick test that gives results in a matter of seconds.  After reporting pathogenic bacteria, I refer the isolate to the antimicrobial susceptibility lab, which is the area of the laboratory that tests organisms against antimicrobials and informs providers which antibiotics will work against the specific organism to treat infection. I must work with my coworkers as it is a team effort to complete all the work in a timely and efficient manner which is best for quality patient care. 

Erin HealyWhat do you like most about your job/position?  I enjoy the aspect that I am always learning. There are thousands of different bacteria, and they all have something unique to learn about them.  At Mayo Clinic I am lucky to see a wide array of bacteria from all over the United States and even the world. Some of them have unique odors that we can’t help but notice when examining plates or produce beautiful colors on the plates like pink or yellow. Although there are textbooks on bacteria, they do not always “follow the rules” and they keep me on my toes.  In certain situations, I must learn more and ask my senior co-workers to teach me their knowledge to complete my job.  There is always more to learn about bacteria!

What advice would you give to current students pursuing a career in Agriculture and Life Sciences?  Enjoy your adventure at Iowa State.  Yes, schoolwork is important and getting good grades will assist you in the future, but it is important to still have fun and make connections with those around you.  Iowa State has so many opportunities to enjoy yourself on campus through clubs, different classes, and events.  Taking bowling and floral design classes were worth the extra time even though adding to an already busy schedule.  It was so fun to experience something new and gain skills I would have never received without those classes.  Making connections with your professors/advisors and classmates can be very valuable after you graduate to assist you in the working world. In the grand scheme of things, I may not have ended up at my dream job without chatting with a classmate and finding out her lab was hiring for another position.