Jeannie: Orlando Predators Cheerleader and phlebotomist

Jeannie AFL Orlando Predators Science Cheerleader

Howdy, Science Cheerleader fans! Bart here! Please welcome a Science Cheerleader from my adopted hometown of Orlando, Florida. Jeannie works in the wild world of phlebotomy? What the heck is that, you might ask? Read on, friends, and find out for yourselves. 

Editor’s Updates 12/2/13: Jeannie has been busy! The day after finishing her season with the Orlando Predators in 2012, Jeannie left for Navy boot camp to become a Construction Mechanic in the Fighting Seabees (Construction Battalion). Upon returning to civilian life, she added to her phlebotomy skills by working as a hemodialysis technician, administering dialysis treatments for patients experiencing kidney failure. She recently became a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and hopes to lead group fitness programs. She continues to enjoy dancing and is now performing at Sea World in Orlando. In addition, Jeannie hopes that her best cheerleading days are still ahead! She is now preparing for Tampa Bay Buccaneers tryouts in 2014. Goooo Jeannie!

So what got you into science?
One early experience that got me interested in science was reading childrens books like Germs Make Me Sick. There was an illustration of a lab scene in that book with a woman looking through a microscope with vials of blood waiting to be tested. It was my favorite page! Much later in life, being pregnant gave me a strong desire to understand what was happening inside my body. I had so much information coming from doctors, family traditions, baby product companies, and complete strangers that I felt obligated to understand the science of my baby’s development in order to make the best decisions for us. Turning to science made me feel more empowered during this life-altering experience.

Please tell us about your degrees.
I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a concentration in International Relations and Comparative Politics and a minor in Sociology. After earning my Bachelor’s, I still felt so drawn to science that I went back to school to study Phlebotomy! Many Phlebotomists also work in the lab processing and testing the specimens. We need to understand how the chemical additives in the collection tubes affect the blood and how the chemicals react to each other. Phlebotomists must know which tests require which component of the blood, like plasma or serum. Our knowledge of the circulatory system helps us choose the best vein for collection but this is the part of our job that comes down to practice and skill. The best phlebotomists are also able to care for patients with different needle comfort levels because blood collected from a tense patient has a risk of coming back hemolyzed (separated). Every patient is different so throughout the day, I am making critical thinking decisions. Serving a new patient every few minutes and giving each one special care and attention has made my cheerleading team appearances with fans seem easy!

Best part of your day job?
Every time I make a successful blood draw, I know I am having a direct impact on someone’s health. The results we find in the lab are the basis for important decisions that will be made about that patient’s treatment.

You cheer for the Orlando Predators Arena Football League team. Why did you try out to be a professional cheerleader?
I am in my rookie season. Even though I studied dance in serious conservatory programs, I preferred performing pieces that made the audience excited and happy. The professional cheerleader style of dance just came naturally to me and I knew that was the outlet I wanted to use for my dance ability. My family instilled in me a sense of civic responsibility and community service. I frequently saw the cheerleaders from our local sports teams involved in community activities and local events. Combining my love for dance with my desire to serve others is perfect for me.

Which came first, your interest in science or cheerleading?
It was definitely science first, even before I started school or took my first dance class.

How do your fellow cheerleaders accept your interest in science?
They are especially curious about my nutrition choices and I have explaining which foods I utilize to help my body work, so I have fun sharing that with them. However, most people think it is strange that I am so fascinated by blood!

Do you find that stereotypes about cheerleaders helped or hindered your professional experiences?
I try to use my best judgment when I tell others that I am a cheerleader. When it comes to my patients, I do not always tell them this piece of information. Having one’s blood drawn is a terrifying experience for some people and they want to feel assured that I am skilled phlebotomist. So, the stereotypes about cheerleaders can sometimes scare them further. At other times, it helps me because if I have a nervous patient who knows I am a cheerleader, they expect me to be positive and cheerful, which puts them more at ease. The good thing is that I love being a phlebotomist so I really am happy as I am drawing their blood!

Jeannie AFL Orlando Predators Science Cheerleader at WorkBest science-related experience?
During my clinical rotation, a patient asked me why the blood collection tubes were different colors. I started to explain how the chemicals inside the lavender tube had an anticoagulant that helped the lab test whole blood for a complete blood count. As I was speaking, I thought to myself, Wow! I really know this! At one point I thought that I just did not belong in the science world and now I was explaining how a lab test worked.

Do you have any advice for youngsters who might feel torn between following one dream and another?
Cheerleaders are performers so we like to be seen and admired for our hard work and talent. There are still plenty of opportunities to be “on stage” in the science world! For example, if you are part of a research team, one team member is usually the spokesperson for the study and might present the findings at conferences or at press conferences. Scientists who share their knowledge through classroom instruction have another way to “perform” their talent while shaping future science cheerleaders.

Along these lines, what advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
I would tell myself to be much less preoccupied with the negative opinions of others, even if that includes the opinions of family. Another piece of practical advice I would give my young self is to not try to “just get through” difficult classes but to instead really learn the skills that will be the foundation for next year’s classes. I would also tell myself that just because I don’t catch on to science as quickly as other students, it does not mean that I don’t have great potential to be a scientist. If you are off track academically or you hit a rough patch, don’t give up!

What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?
I have a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do and I am a mommy!

What are your plans for the future?
I am a newbie to the world of science and I am excited to see how I fit in! Even though I completed a social science degree, I have now discovered my aptitude and enthusiasm for health science so I would love to continue studying that. I will have to start from scratch so I will be starting with an anatomy and physiology course.

Why do you want to be a Science Cheerleader?
I want young dancers and budding scientists to realize they can truly be anything! I hope to show them that they do not have to fit a stereotype of any kind to be successful.