Dane Lyddiard - Women in STEM: Anda Clayton and Her Four Passionate Decades in Pathology
I was recently fortunate enough to sit down and chat with two ASM members who were pivotal in developing my passion for microbiology: University of New England Associate Professor Lily Pereg (previous blog) and former Head of Microbiology at Southern IML Pathology, Ms. Anda Clayton. I was honoured to have worked under the guidance of Anda who always promoted my interest in learning and impressed me with her extensive knowledge. Now I have the opportunity to share some of her experiences in the field of clinical microbiology. I am sure Anda’s experiences will add to those of Lily, revealing just two of the many possible careers in Microbiology. It’s important to point out that both Anda and Lily work in regional areas, demonstrating that you don’t need to live in the big cities to build your career.
What are your current roles?
Anda is currently a Senior Scientist at Southern IML Pathology where she manages the Crystal reporting database for the entire laboratory (both for internal and external customers such as clinicians). She continues to do bench-work and mentors the newer staff. Anda was also the Department Head of Microbiology for 10 years before switching to part time work as she moves towards retirement.
What is your interest in microbiology?
Anda’s main interests are in clinical microbiology in a pathology setting. Her interest and passion is most apparent to anyone who knows her (even as a Department Head, she made sure she worked on the bench and was always happy to help with those harder or more unusually cases!).
How did you get to where you are today?
Anda was a trainee at Davies Campbell de Lambert Pathology in the seventies, around which time she undertook the TAFE Certificate in Pathology Techniques (while pregnant) at Ultimo. After a year off raising her new bub, Anda continued part time at the Auburn District Hospital where a colleague encouraged her to take an undergraduate course in Applied Science (Laboratory Science) at what became known as Charles Sturt University (CSU). After six years of part time study, Anda graduated in 1983 and worked at various pathology labs including Fairfield Hospital and Sugarman’s Pathology. In 2004 she landed a job at Southern IML Pathology where she continues today.
Why science and microbiology?
“I always had a leaning towards science,” Anda states. “As a young child I dreamed of being a doctor or someone who helped people.” As Anda had an interest in pathology, it was natural that she followed that path.
As a woman in science, what have you found to be the challenges in your career?
“Not anything really.” Anda explains, “In my experience there have always been many women in pathology, for example, even at the management level at Southern IML Pathology about two-thirds of the Department Heads are women, as is the Laboratory Manager”. Anda also felt she had an easy transition back to work after having children. “I have, however, been mocked for working in a field that earns less money than those of my friends, and I did once receive a derogatory comment regarding the nature of my work to the effect that “I guess someone has to do it”, which I don’t understand, I love my work!”
What have been the most rewarding aspects of your career?
“Microbiology has always been a passion” (this is a theme between both Anda and Lily: I think their successes are testament to the importance of doing what you love!). Anda enjoys going to work each day, she loves seeing the advances and new techniques. Anda reminisced about the time Campylobacter was first routinely cultured, and recalled having to explain to clinicians about Campy gastro: such discoveries are always exciting.
What is your advice to women considering a career in microbiology or science?
Anda’s advice is clear: “Focus on a career path, forge ahead with you goals, seek advice and don’t feel intimidated.”
What would you like to see change with regards to women in microbiology and science?
Anda feels that at her current workplace, there are no real issues that would need changing, but on a general level, she would like to see more microbiology included in the course content at some universities.
So, where to from here?
While Anda is transitioning into semi-retirement, anyone who knows her knows she will always be learning something new, and so I was unsurprised by her response, “I want to further develop my IT skills now”.