My name is Tacey White and I am the current President of the Teratology Society. Since my graduate school days I have been keenly interested in developmental and reproductive toxicology (DART), and my career path has been shaped around that interest. I received my PhD in 1991 from the University of Rochester in Toxicology with a concentration in Reproductive Toxicology under the mentorship of Teratology Society Past President, Rich Miller. I joined the Society as a student member and gave my first Teratology Society presentation at the Boston Meeting in 1986.
I did not see myself staying in academia, but I did choose to expand my knowledge base by completing postdoctoral fellowships in (1) endocrine disruption and (2) tumor suppressor genes in ovarian cancer. I had planned on only one postdoc, and was disappointed when a challenging job market drove my decision for a second postdoc. However, it turns out that the skills I learned in the second position set me up for the future investigative work I did in industry, and taught me that there is always some value to be derived from any situation, even if it doesn’t feel like that in the moment. I joined the pharmaceutical industry as a DART study director in 1998.
Pharma turned out to be the perfect setting for me because of the fast pace, the ability to work on a wide range of projects, and the chance to learn something new every day. Through the years I held positions of increasing responsibility in DART and as a toxicology representative to drug development teams. And, thanks to the skills learned in that second postdoc, I supervised an investigative teratology laboratory, where we evaluated modes of action and the human relevance of our findings in animal studies. Eventually, I took a position as global director of small animal DART at a Contract Research Organization (CRO), providing scientific oversight into the design, conduct and interpretation of DART studies world-wide, and serving as a DART consultant for pharmaceutical clients. A very rewarding aspect of that position was bringing all that I had learned in big pharma to smaller companies that did not have internal toxicology or DART expertise. That interest led me to my current role as a toxicology consultant in the area of pharmaceutical drug development. In this role, I have the chance to really make a difference to small pharmaceutical/biotech companies and to the patients who will ultimately benefit by their important discoveries.
My advice to students would be to follow your interests, trust your judgment, but also give yourself the time to let new opportunities develop. Your career path will take many turns – some will be unexpected and some will be expected, but may not be what you anticipated. Give yourself time to grow into the role, make the most of your situation – and keep learning something new every day!