It is Women’s History Month, which celebrates the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. To mark the occasion, we are featuring some of our female employees at Sema4. In our second Q&A of this series, Nefize Sertac Kip, Medical Director in our Branford lab, discusses what Women’s History Month means to her and why Turkan Saylan, a prominent female Turkish doctor, has inspired her. Read our first installment of this series by clicking here.
1. What is your role at Sema4?
As one of the Oncology Lab Directors, I sign out clinical reports of next generation sequencing of tumor specimens, select appropriate platforms, software, and kits to use in the laboratories and figure out which assays (an investigative procedure in laboratory medicine) to bring on board, or how to validate and apply within New York State. I review the pathology reports and tumor slides to provide the appropriate codes for downstream analysis. I manage the variant curation and annotation team that provides the gene narratives, clinical trial information, and appropriate therapies to explain the roles of the mutant genes in various tumors important in diagnosis, prognosis and therapy. I am also involved in oncology research, fellows’ training and building our histology and AI-driven digital pathology capabilities.
2. What motivates you to work at Sema4?
Sema4 is very futuristic and cutting edge. I am lucky to work with so many knowledgeable and sophisticated lab directors, genetic counselors, bioinformaticians, curators, scientists, software engineers, technicians and administrative staff. We collaborate in a multidisciplinary fashion to deliver the best possible solutions to healthcare providers and their patients.
3. What does Women’s History Month mean to you?
It means a lot. I admire Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, whose democratic ideals led him to emancipate women, and encouraged them to receive education in science and join the workforce with equal rights to men. In that spirit, I chose to pursue my medical training. I was following the example of other females in my family who also recognized the importance of education. Many women in my family took on leadership roles. My grandmother, though she did not work, was a very prominent figure at home. My mom, who is an entrepreneur and still working, has been instrumental in my motivation to excel as a human being and as a career-oriented female.
4. Can you tell us about a female role model who has inspired you?
Turkan Saylan was an exceptional medical doctor who graduated from the same college as me. She was renowned not only in Turkey but also in her field worldwide. As an activist, Dr. Saylan’s mission was to help care for leprosy patients, which paved the way for me to go to remote parts of Turkey. She embraced many people that were rejected by society. Turkan Saylan brought education, medicine and help to those who needed it. She has taught me that we are all humans at the end of the day who should offer a hand to the needy and always be involved in educating ourselves and others.
5. What barriers have you had to overcome to reach this point in your career?
I came to the U.S. from Turkey as the sole caretaker for my then nine-year-old son. I remember researching during the day, going home to put my son to sleep, and then returning to the lab to finish work. I was juggling a lot of balls for many years, but it was worthwhile. I am proud of the close relationship I have with my now grown-up son and everything that I’ve been able to accomplish in the workplace.
6. What advice would you give to other women who want to get into this industry?
Trust your abilities, fight for your truth with grace and build your knowledge each day. Also, find the time to enrich yourself outside of work. I get rejuvenated by looking at art, watching movies, and surrounding myself with a strong network of friends.
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