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Dr. Wakenda Tyler is an Associate Professor in Orthopaedic Oncology and Metabolic Bone Disease and Adult Reconstruction at the University of Rochester Medical Center. She was awarded her M.D. And M.P.H. from John Hopkins University and completed residency in Orthopaedic Surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery. Wakenda then completed a fellowship in musculoskeletal oncology at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center before joining the faculty at the University of Rochester where she is today. Wakenda is with us today to tell us all about her journey through life and science.
People Behind the Science Podcast Show Notes
Life Outside of Science (02:10)
Wakenda spends her time outside of the science and medicine doing a wide variety of activities. For her, running is a great way to relax and she enjoys running in races, especially charity events. She also likes to go snowboarding, skiing, hiking, scuba diving, and traveling to new places.
The Scientific Side (03:10)
Wakenda is an orthopedic surgical oncologist. She is an orthopedic surgeon with a clinical and research focus on cancerous tumours found in bones, tendon, soft tissue, ligament, and muscles.
A Dose of Motivation (04:00)
“Keep on keeping.”
What Got You Hooked on Science? (05:49)
Growing up, Wakenda was exposed to a lot of math and science since her father was a computer programmer. When Wakenda was in sixth grade, her teacher was really enthusiastic about science and math. This helped spark her curiosity as well, and a string of inspirational teachers in high school and college kept her on a path to a career in science and medicine. Specifically, Wakenda’s freshman biology teacher in college recommended she pursue a career in medicine because of her talent in math and science, as well as her great people skills.
The Low Points: Failures and Challenges (14:15)
Wakenda met the first huge career challenge when a major grant she wrote was rejected. Her first few smaller grants were relatively easily funded, and she was feeling really good about her prospects for supporting her research. Then the reviews for the large grant came back, and they were devastating. After a few tears and some quality time hiding under a blanket at home, Wakenda returned with tenacity and has had many successes since.
A Shining Success! (17:00)
A project in Wakenda’s lab attempting to make a transgenic mouse model had been going on for over a year. They had to start over multiple times due to issues with the experimental design and problems with the methods. She was about to resign herself to giving up on this part of the project when one of her colleagues came in with picture-perfect results where everything had finally worked out. This was a hugely satisfying moment, and it was great to see the project through to the finish.
Book Recommendations (20:36)
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
Most Treasured Travel (22:07)
Wakenda was able to travel to Japan for an entire month on an orthopedic fellowship. She presented her research and clinical work to colleagues there, but was also able to learn a lot from the Japanese orthopedic surgeons she spoke with. As part of the fellowship, she travelled to different places and was able to see various parts of the country. Experiencing the culture and visiting the Nagasaki Museum were very memorable for her.
Quirky Traditions and Funny Memories (24:50)
During residency, Wakenda and her fellow orthopedic residents would escape from the stress of their positions once a year on a group trip. One year they went to Atlantic City for a week and spent their days playing tag in the casinos, racing up and down the beach, and having fun together.
Advice For Us All (28:55)
Observation goes a long way. There is so much you can see by simply looking carefully. Also, make sure you find a hobby outside of science that will give you peace and tranquility.
Wakenda focuses her practice on the care of patients with bone and soft tissue tumors. This care includes the treatment of patients of all ages, including young children to elderly adults and all components of the extremities, including the pelvis and sacrum. She also specializes in total joint replacement and complex reconstructive cases. Wakenda is committed to providing the highest quality of care to her patients and works closely with doctors within other medical specialties to provide the most comprehensive care that a condition may require. Her research interests overlap with her clinical practice and center around the treatment of patients with bone and soft tissue tumors and conditions that lead to osteolysis (bone destruction as a result of implant wear and loosening or presence of tumor). Wakenda’s current research investigates treatment of aggressive benign conditions, such as pigmented villonodular synovitis and giant cell tumor of bone. More specifically, she examines the molecular and cellular signaling pathways of cells in these conditions and the genetic alterations that lead to such conditions. Other research areas in her lab are: medical and surgical treatment of soft tissue sarcomas, the inhibition of osteolysis in both benign and malignant bone conditions, allograft implantation for large bone defects, and treatment of metastatic disease to bone from other organs systems.