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Take 5 with Tracey Taylor

Take 5 with Tracey Taylor
O U W B Professor Tracey Taylor speaking to two students

As a way to learn more about the diverse educators who share their expertise with our medical school students, OUWB presents a special interview series called “Take 5.” Let us know what you think.

Associate Professor of Microbiology Tracey Taylor, Ph.D., joined the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine in August 2014 and teaches microbiology and infectious diseases to M1 and M2 students. Prior to joining OUWB, Dr. Taylor was an assistant, and then associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Microbiology at the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, where she taught microbiology to M1 and M2 osteopathic medical students. She received a B.Sc. and a M.Sc. in Cellular, Molecular, and Microbial Biology from the University of Calgary, Alberta, and a Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of Western Ontario, London. In 2014, the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners appointed her to its National Faculty in the Foundational Biomedical Sciences in the Division of Microbiology and Immunology. She served as vice president for the American Society for Microbiology, Missouri branch, and is a member of the International Association of Medical Science Educators, the American Society for Microbiology and the American Gastroenterological Association. Dr. Taylor’s main research areas are microbiology and pathogenesis, and includes a microbiology medical education research project investigating the use of online learning modules for microbiology laboratory teaching; a study to understand how the aquatic bacteria Plesiomonas shigelloides causes diarrhea and other infections in humans by characterization of adherence and antibiotic resistance factors; and another that investigates the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) among the homeless and economically disadvantaged populations.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy interacting with the students and watching them learn. I love to see the students get excited while learning things that I teach them.

Speaking of teaching, I’ve heard you use stuffed animals sometimes in your teaching. How so?
I DO! I discovered “Giant Microbes” in 2005 when I was volunteering at a Science Fair and I wanted to see if medical students would find them to be a good learning tool. They are fun and fuzzy, but they are also great to trigger a student’s memory about details of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. Silly, funny, and a great learning tool, all wrapped into one!

When did you know you wanted to become a professor of medicine?
I have a defining moment for when I knew I loved teaching. I grew up terrified of public speaking. In undergrad, in my fourth year, I had an opportunity to be a teaching assistant in a human genetics course. I had this moment and thought ‘I’m so scared but I can’t pass up this opportunity,’ and I knew I had to do it. Though it was terrifying, I loved it. I do think of that moment fairly often. I wonder what would have happened had I said no to that. I was as surprised as anyone to learn that I liked teaching because it was not on my radar at all before that day.

Can you tell me a little bit about the M2 Embark Research Colloquium?
The colloquium is one of the best parts of being involved in the Embark program for me. I’m a co-director for the M2 students, so I watch them work on their projects and I love seeing the students present their research in a public forum. The top students get to present at the Embark Research Colloquium at the auditorium at Beaumont Royal Oak. It’s a professional environment with printed programs. It’s so neat to see our top students presenting their research projects to their classmates, Beaumont and OUWB faculty and staff, and other dignitaries. It’s a fun celebration day to end the M2 year.

What makes the M2 Embark Research Colloquium important for second-year students at this juncture in their medical education?
I think it’s important within our curriculum because it’s the halfway point of their medical student career so it’s a good time for them to have the experience of presenting their research projects. It’s also at their transition point of going to Beaumont and doing their clerkships. They’re changing their daily schedules. It’s a good time for them to slow down and think about their research project and the process of doing research. Big picture, doing their research projects helps them develop critical thinking skills and completing research will help the students to get into great residency programs. It gives them extra skills that they don’t get from their other classes.

Can you tell me anything about this year’s finalists and the range of research they are presenting?
They’re a good representation of their class. There aren’t two students working on similar projects, so it’s a good mix of students. There was really a good delineation of their scores that these were the top students. (Read more about the student research on the Embark page of the OUWB website.)

So, you’re a Canadian. Any thoughts on Michigan?
I grew up in western Canada, so it’s pretty different for me. If anything, I love that people here like hockey. I was very excited that there was a hockey team here because I came from Kansas City where there wasn’t one. I also enjoy curling at the Detroit Curling Club, which is one of the oldest clubs in the country.

Do you curl?
I do curl. We’re closed for the season, but we’ll be back up again in the fall. I love curling and it is a great way to meet people in the area.

Do you have any big summer plans?
I just bought my plane ticket for my son and I to join my dad to visit family in a tiny town with two streets in Manitoba. Later, we’re also going up to the Upper Peninsula by Grimsby. It’s our third time going up there and we love swimming in Lake Superior at the end of the summer.

Can you tell me something that most people at OUWB probably don’t know about you?
I used to play the accordion. All of my friends played the piano and I was jealous, but we didn’t have a piano so one day my mom enrolled me in accordion lessons. I played for ten years.