Pathology lab manager nominated by colleagues for national award

December 5, 2016  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

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Mary Skinner knows the importance of scientific research — and what it means for the future of patient care at UMHS. That’s why she’s focused on making it as easy as possible for her UMHS colleagues to perform the work at the highest level.

As manager of the lab for David Lombard, M.D., Ph.D., in the UMHS Department of Pathology, Mary is tasked with keeping things organized, managing the lab equipment, training new team members, and maintaining and allocating funding — all while performing her own research.

“I do everything I can to keep the lab efficient and organized so I and everyone else can carry out research in the most productive way possible,” Mary said.

Her dedication and ability has not been lost on her colleagues, who recently nominated Mary for the “Best Lab Manager 2016” award from Proteintech, a company that provides antibodies to researchers. Mary is one of five finalists from nominees spanning the U.S.

“It’s such an honor to be nominated by everyone in my lab,” Mary said. “I try hard to support them as best I can and this is a really special way that they are supporting me back.”

You, too, have a chance to support our impressive colleague. Click here to vote for Mary — you can vote one time per day until the deadline on Monday, Dec. 12.

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A sense of pride

Mary came to UMHS — and Lombard’s lab — in 2012, after she completed her Master’s degree at Eastern Michigan University. Since then, she’s seen a number of post-doctoral students, graduate students and undergrads pass through the lab.

“No matter who comes in, we all share a sense of pride in our work,” Mary said.

The team focuses on cancer phenotypes and investigating other health issues associated with longevity and aging. “There are times when researchers become so focused on a project that the work becomes disconnected from the overall goal of improving somebody’s health,” Mary said.

“That’s not the case in our lab — or in most of the labs at UMHS. Everyone realizes that any progress we make will truly have an impact on people. That makes the health system a special place to work.”

‘Happy colleagues are more productive’

Mary said she is constantly looking at ways to improve the efficiency and success of her team’s work. One of the ways she does so is by focusing on a simple mantra: “Happy colleagues are more productive.”

“I see where I can limit hang-ups for our researchers and I never stop listening to their concerns,” Mary said. “Whether it’s ordering new equipment or making sure our facility is as clean and organized as possible, there are always ways things can improve.”

Her colleagues have taken note of her work ethic. “[Mary] certainly goes beyond her required duties, whether it’s organizing the lab freezers or organizing the lab for eight hours on a Saturday, Mary seems to be on call 24/7,” wrote graduate student William Giblin in his nomination of Mary for the award.

“Everyone knows they can come to me whenever they need,” Mary said. “That sort of access makes them more comfortable and makes it easier for them to succeed in their work.”

Ready to adapt with the times

When Mary earned her graduate degree, her dream was to come to UMHS. “The gold standard of health care is at U-M, so I knew I wanted to find a spot within the health system,” Mary said.

She interviewed for one of the few positions available, working in Lombard’s lab.

“The transition from my previous research to what I study at UMHS was interesting, but I was able to adjust pretty quickly,” Mary said.

Such an ability has served her well as a lab manager. “Science is changing all the time, so our lab needs to change with it. I make that very clear when I train our newest team members,” Mary said. “We need to change as findings change. If we’re able to do that, we will be successful and, in the end, patients will be able to receive the best care possible.”

Mary has already earned the respect and admiration of her peers. And it means her legacy will carry into future generations.

As Giblin wrote in his nomination, “My goal is to [one day] have my own research lab with a lab manager as capable as Mary.”

Is there a colleague who inspires you every day? Let us know! And don’t forget to vote for Mary as Lab Manager of the Year!

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