Danny Sack (M1)
May 30, 2017

Professor Katherine Hartmann at the 2017 Physician-Scientist Speaker Series

When she returned to her lab at Johns Hopkins after a month-long clinical rotation during her MD-PhD training, Dr. Katherine Hartmann found a note explaining that her lab was closing and she had funding for three more weeks of work. From that chilling anecdote on, when Dr. Hartmann addressed a group of MSTP students on Thursday, May 4th for the 2017 Physician-Scientist Speaker Series, we were all ears.

The Physician-Scientist Speaker Series, which aims to provide students with matter-of-fact representations of life as a physician-scientist, is often cited as a programming highlight among MSTP students, according to American Physician Scientists Association (APSA) representative Katherine Konvinse. In addition to a yearly spring career talk by a Vanderbilt physician-scientist, the APSA representatives organize an autumn Flexner Discovery Lecture and evening career talk from an outside speaker and facilitate the Vanderbilt APSA undergraduate mentoring program.

In her 30-minute talk, Dr. Hartmann presented the benefits of deliberate practice, living below one’s means, and being collaborative internally to be competitive externally.

After leaving Johns Hopkins with an MD, rather than the planned MD, PhD, Dr. Hartmann continued her education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology and earned her PhD in Epidemiology. She now serves as the Associate Dean for Clinical and Translational Scientist Development at Vanderbilt and focuses on research to improve women’s health and quality of life.

Dr. Hartmann spoke about the benefits of deliberate practice, both in academic and extra-academic activities. She described her own path from feeling “old” in her 40s to being a decorated kettlebell contestant in her 50s. She took to kettlebell after researching that the best way to increase basal metabolic activity is high intensity interval training. She explained how the same techniques that made her healthy — choosing what is important and what can be outsourced — can be used to be more deliberate in the lab.

She then described some of her recent work that highlights the importance of living below one’s means to be prepared for unforeseen costs. In a paper that has been submitted to Academic Medicine, Dr. Hartmann and her colleagues found that, among early career academics at Vanderbilt, more than half experienced a major caregiving challenge in the past year. Others confronted death or serious illness in the family or among close friends (30%), retirement or loss of job in the family or among close friends (24%), or major money problems (18%). She also outlined other benefits of living below one’s means — beyond being prepared for the unexpected — such as hiring people to mow the lawn, paying for dry cleaning, and having the financial flexibility to focus on things important to a person’s overall wellbeing.

Dr. Hartmann finished by describing the benefits of collaborating locally in order to be nationally competitive. It is evident that she practices this advice given that since August 2014, eight of her ten publications have included predominantly Vanderbilt-affiliated authors. Dr. Hartmann has been from second to last author on these publications, a proxy for the various roles she plays when working with different principal investigators across Vanderbilt. In addition to improving national standing, she explained that teamwork at one’s home institution fosters a sense of community at work that allows for more enjoyable and productive labs.

Dr. Hartmann’s talk provided a tangible framework, based on her own experiences and scientific data, that trainees and physician-scientists alike could apply to have a more fruitful career, and — more importantly — a fulfilling life outside our careers.