Meet Jen: Doctor in Forensic Pathology, former cheerleader for two NBA teams

Jennifer Cleveland Cavaliers Detroit Pistons Science Cheerleader at WorkPleased to introduce you to our latest Science Cheerleader, Jen, a doctor in Forensic Pathology who used to cheer for two NBA teams (Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons) and one AFL team (Columbus Destroyers).

SciCheer: Jen, what turned you on to science and when?

Jen: I come from a science-related family. My father is a PhD biochemical researcher and my mother is a medical technologist. My older brother was a chemistry major in college and now works doing quality analysis in the beer industry. My parents would sometimes take me to work when I was little and I would entertain myself by playing with things that were laying around the lab. I always thought I would be a veterinarian ‘when I grew up’ but then realized I was allergic to most animals; so then I decided medical school was the next best thing. I wanted to work in a field that would constantly be challenging, stimulating and engaging, and one that would have endless possibilities. Thankfully, my allergy to animal dander has responded to medication allowing me to have pets!

SciCheer: What is your degree in and from where?
Jen: I received by BA in Chemistry and Zoology from Miami University of Ohio in 1998 – I was only in college for 3 years because I had tested out of a lot of college credits from advanced placement courses in high school. I entered medical school at the Medical College of Ohio (now the University of Toledo School of Medicine) in 2000 and graduated with my MD in 2004. From there, I entered a pathology residency and as much as I tried to stay away from it, I realized my interest was specifically in the area of autopsies and Forensic Pathology.

SciCheer: Favorite and/or least favorite courses you took to prepare for your degree?

Jen: I was a complete geek that loved Organic Chemistry – I think for me it’s the ability to work things out spatially and visually. Least favorite course ironically was probably Biochemistry because I have a hard time wrapping my head around concepts that can’t be seen or touched.

SciCheer: When did you cheer for Cleveland and Detroit?
Jen: I was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers dance team in 1998 and 2003 and danced with the Detroit Pistons Automotion from 2001-2003; I joined the AFL Columbus Destroyers Bombshells dance team for 2004-05.

SciCheer: Which came first? Your interest in science or cheerleading?
Jen: My interest in science was practically inborn. I didn’t start dance training until I was a little older (the ripe old age of 8), and continued dancing through high school and college. The reason I went out for a professional team was because I graduated college early and had time off before I entered medical school so I thought, “why not audition?” The rest is history!

SciCheer: Can you describe a typical day at work?
Jen: I perform autopsies on people who may have met an unnatural death (ie accident, homicide, suicide). I go into the office around 8 am, perform 1-2 (and maybe more depending on the day) autopsies in the morning, and catch up on paperwork, phone calls, etc in the afternoon. My job mainly involves performing autopsies but may also involve speaking with families, detectives, prosecutors, going through medical records, and attending crime scenes.

SciCheer: did you find that stereotypes about cheerleaders helped or hindered your studies or professional experiences?
Jen: I’ve definitely found it hard to navigate the cheerleader stereotype in my professional and academic lives. I’ve had teachers and bosses outright tell me I should stop my extracurricular activities. I think a lot of my coworkers have found it interesting that I was a professional cheerleader/dancer, yet it’s hard for them to reconcile. I’m not sure if they’re amused, interested or appalled and it’s likely a combination of all those factors. We don’t talk about it at work, I try to keep it low profile because I don’t want to give people the wrong impression.

SciCheer: Best cheerleading experience?
Jen: For a lot of people it’s the first game, but for me I think it was towards the end of the season when I was really comfortable with our gametime rules, comfortable with the routines and choreography and could really just enjoy my time out there on the court.

SciCheer:Best science-related experience?

Jen: Being qualified as an expert witness in court; I’ll always have that badge of honor 😮