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Women in Medicine Month Spotlight: Janis Orlowski, MD

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Dr. Orlowski was given the opportunity to design, build, and test a pacemaker at the encouragement of her undergraduate mentor. Through that mentor and others like them, she found her passion for medical research.

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As an undergraduate in biomedical engineering at Marquette University, my mentor encouraged me and a few of my fellow students to apply for a grant to develop a pacemaker. The grant application and work seemed daunting, but under the encouragement of my mentor, we applied and to our delight, the application was accepted. For the next two summers, four of my engineering friends and I designed, built, and ultimately tested a pacemaker. 

After completing the design and build portion of the project, we encountered an issue with testing.  Approaching this task ethically and appropriately for the first time would require guidance from an expert. So we, perhaps innocently and naively, asked the chair of anesthesiology to help us in our project. John Kampine, MD, PhD, the chair at that time agreed.  We did not know Dr. Kampine also acted as the medical director of a multimillion dollar research lab.  But it was Dr. Kampine who came to our lab and personally looked over the project, giving us guidance and sharing his expertise along the way.

Our work was successful and we presented at two National Science Foundation conferences in Washington, DC. This experience hooked me on medical research, and the generosity of those who took time to invest in me at a young age helped propel me to the place I am today.

Dr. Janis M. Orlowski is the chief health care officer at the Association of American Medical Colleges where her focus is on the interface between the health care delivery system and academic medicine. Dr. Orlowski graduated from Marquette University’s College of Engineering with a Bachelor of Science degree in biomedical engineering in 1978. She received her medical degree from the Medical College of Wisconsin in 1982. Her residency (1982–1985), her term as Chief Resident (1985–1986), and her Fellowship in Nephrology (1986–1988) were completed at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Follow Dr. Orlowski on Twitter @JanisOrlowskiMD.

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