Director of Regulations and Standards
Eye Bank Association of America
Jennifer has been at EBAA for nine years but has over twenty years of experience in acute and ambulatory infection prevention and control as a Healthcare Epidemiologist.
Growing up in the Pittsburgh area as the youngest of three daughters, Jennifer loved science and originally wanted to be an astronaut.“It never even occurred to me that women ‘weren’t’ astronauts,” she said, “I just wanted to do it!” She remembers reading a novel about early researchers in antibiotics while in elementary school when her interests started to shift towards biology.
Her father was always supportive of her interests, but her mother questioned them. “Why would you want to go into biology?” she asked – the thought of working with living organisms made her squeamish.
In high school, Jennifer met with a guidance counselor who discouraged her scientific pursuits and tried to steer her down a more “typical” path of being a teacher or a nurse. “She wanted me focused on becoming a wife and mother,” Jennifer said. “But I walked right out of that counselor’s office, and straight to the principal and demanded a new counselor.” She got one. And a few years later, she enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh to pursue microbiology.
As a college freshman, Jennifer decided to earn some extra money by working in a lab on campus. Her sister laughed at her, “they’ll never hire a freshman!” But Dr. Roger Hendrix took a chance on her, and she worked with him part-time during the school year and full time in the summers until she graduated. “He was my first mentor,” Jennifer said. “It wasn’t until later, when I started working in hospitals, that I had female supervisors and mentors.”
Patient safety and accreditation were what initially attracted Jennifer to her role at EBAA. She loves keeping up with the latest in healthcare regulations, standards, and scientific developments that fulfill the mission of restoring sight worldwide.
Jennifer encourages young girls and women to get involved with STEM clubs and organizations if they’re considering a career in science or medicine. She also thinks the middle school years are a critical time for girls to have mentors who will urge them to stick with science. “That point in life is a tough time for girls. They have all the confidence in the world, and then they start to worry about coming off as ‘too smart,’ or that the ‘cool girls’ have different interests, and they back away from science.”
Looking back at that time in her life, Jennifer is envious of the opportunities available to girls today that weren’t around when she was young. Even the Girl Scouts seem to have shifted their focus from domestic activities to STEM related projects. Jennifer laughs and says, “My girl scout sewing badge was pinned on. So, you could say ‘home economics’ were not my thing!” But science certainly is.