Childcare leave and supportive colleagues make high-level research possible for mothers

Childcare leave and supportive colleagues make high-level research possible for mothers

Mariko Negi,
Assistant Professor of Human Pathology at TMDU

I started my career as a pathologist at TMDU after I graduated from medical school and completed clinical training. During graduate school, I was engaged in research to prove the hypothesis that the onset of sarcoidosis, which is a granulomatous disorder of unknown etiology that affects multiple organs, is caused by a bacterium resident on the skin, Propionibacterium acnes. Our team investigated novel monoclonal antibodies that were specific to P. acnes. We published data showing that these antibodies were present more frequently in sarcoidosis granuloma and its surrounding tissues compared to the tissues of other diseases (Mod. Pathol., doi: 10.1038/modpathol.2012.80).

Since graduating from graduate school, I have been working as an assistant professor of human pathology at TMDU, doing research, teaching medical students, conducting daily pathological diagnoses, and attending conferences with clinicians in the university-affiliated hospital. In particular, I have been involved in joint conferences with the gastroenterology department that focus on difficult cases of inflammatory bowel disease, of which there are an abundant number of cases in our hospital. As a pathologist, I find this a challenging task.

In my personal life, I have been raising our two children while working as an assistant professor. I was able to acquire a childcare leave thanks to the great cooperation of my department. Although I was worried that it would prove difficult to retain the diagnostic skills of a pathologist while on leave, thanks to my colleagues' support, I was able to return quickly to daily work and retain my skills. As a result of raising children, I am not able to spend as many hours at work as before, but I find I concentrate intensely while in the lab in order to complete the same density of work.

These days, the number of female pathologists in Japan is increasing, even in our department. I will certainly help my juniors in the future if they choose to pursue both paths – as a pathologist and as a mother – the way my seniors did for me.

P. acnes within sarcoid granulomas
Immunostaining with PAB antibodies specific to P. acnes.