WANT TO BE A NEW CHAPTER ALUMNI?
Apply online to share your accomplishments and endeavors.APPLY TO BE FEATURED
Division of Medical Microbiology Department of Pathology
Johns Hopkins HospitalVIEW PROFILE
Patricia (Trish) Simner, Ph.D. (CM ’13), completed her undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D. programs at the University of Manitoba in the province of Manitoba, Canada, where she’s from. She says people who review her CV skim over those parts of her training because they don’t know a lot about Canadian education institutions. They take notice, however, when they get to the Mayo Clinic portion, she says. Dr. Simner completed a fellowship in clinical microbiology at Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. She’s now director of the Medical Bacteriology and Infectious Disease Sequencing Laboratories in the Division of Medical Microbiology, Department of Pathology at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She also mentors Ph.D. students to pay forward the helping hand that was instrumental in her career success.
“I come from a very small town. I wasn’t the strongest student at first. But I found my passion, which helped me succeed in my career. I’ve had amazing mentors. The faculty at Mayo Clinic are amazing mentors, colleagues and friends. Find yourself a good mentor who has your best interests in mind and will guide you toward your success.”
I’m from Ste. Agathe, a small French town in Manitoba, Canada. No one in my family was in medicine or science, but my mom worked at the University of Manitoba, which influenced me to pursue academics. In introductory biology classes, I really liked microbiology.
I did my master’s and Ph.D. in a research laboratory in a hospital-based clinical microbiology laboratory at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba. My Ph.D. adviser was a clinical microbiologist. This is where I found out about the career path and became passionate about medical microbiology. I planned to apply to all available clinical microbiology fellowship programs. Mayo Clinic was a leading option to pursue my clinical microbiology fellowship. It was world-renowned and close to my family. I feel fortunate to have been selected to train at Mayo.
Mayo Clinic is highly regarded in Canada, and many Canadians travel to Mayo Clinic for care. I knew what an impressive health system it was. But I was blown away by the Mayo Model of Care, which resonates with me to this day. Priority is always placed on the patient. I was impressed with how well operationalized Mayo Clinic is.
I’m very fond of my Mayo Clinic roots and often encourage Ph.D.s interested in clinical microbiology to apply to Mayo for fellowship.
The needs of the patient come first, of course. Also, reach out to the clinical team and discuss findings. Be part of the interdisciplinary team, and follow up with others on the team to make the best decisions.
Nancy Wengenack, Ph.D. (BIOC ’00, HEMO ’00, CM ’02, Division of Clinical Microbiology), was a major mentor. The University of Manitoba intended to recruit me back to direct the clinical mycobacteriology and mycology sections of the laboratory after my fellowship. Those were the sections Dr. Wengenack oversaw, and I had the opportunity to dive into developing and applying novel diagnostic tools at Mayo Clinic in her lab. I returned to Manitoba to work for two years as a clinical microbiologist with Diagnostic Services of Manitoba and as an assistant professor at the University of Manitoba in the Department of Infectious Disease and Medical Microbiology before joining Johns Hopkins.
I cross paths and interact with others at Mayo Clinic including Bobbi Pritt, M.D. (CM ’07, chair, Division of Clinical Microbiology), and Elitza Theel Ph.D. (CM ’12, Division of Clinical Microbiology), on the College of American Pathologists Microbiology Committee; Robin Patel, M.D. (I ’92, INFD ’95, CM ’96, Division of Clinical Microbiology), as part of the American Society for Microbiology, Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing Subcommittee and Antibacterial Resistance Leadership Group Diagnostic Committee; Audrey Schuetz, M.D. (CM ’18, Division of Clinical Microbiology), on Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing Subcommittee.
I’m director of the Medical Bacteriology and Infectious Disease Sequencing Laboratories in the Division of Medical Microbiology, Department of Pathology at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
I help in the diagnosis of infections with bacteria and develop next-generation tools used in the diagnosis of infections caused by microorganisms.
I love having a role in patient care and being directly involved in patient cases. In the Bacteriology Lab, one of my main areas of interest is antimicrobial susceptibility testing, which helps physicians know how to treat patients’ infections. It’s an area that’s very impactful to patient care.
I have a basic research lab where I study the mechanisms of antimicrobial resistant — how they become resistant to antibiotics.
I also mentor Ph.D. biology students into fellowships to provide them with medical microbiology experience. I give them research projects, have them join us on lab rounds, involve them in writing papers. It’s important to pay it forward and provide strong mentorship like I had.
Clinical microbiology is very competitive. As a Ph.D. student, you have a narrow-focused thesis project, but you need to know a broad array of microorganisms. Get as much experience as you can, get to know local personnel and shadow them, get exposed to diverse organism groups, get exposed to the microbiology lab, get to know other clinical microbiologists and understand how clinical labs work.
I come from a very small town. I wasn’t the strongest student at first. But I found my passion, which helped me succeed in my career. I’ve had amazing mentors. The faculty at Mayo Clinic are amazing mentors, colleagues and friends. Find yourself a good mentor who has your best interests in mind and will guide you toward your success.
I’m very proud of my Mayo roots. When people review my CV, they don’t usually have a lot of knowledge about Canadian education institutions. They tend to gloss over my undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D. information as a result. When they get to the Mayo Clinic part on my CV, they get a lot more confidence in my abilities. That said, I feel that I received a remarkable education at the University of Manitoba, which prepared me well for my fellowship at Mayo Clinic.
I got an amazing education, which has had a big impact on where I am today.
I have a 9-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son. They take up most of our time. We enjoy bike riding and the outdoors.
I used to be a very nervous public speaker. In my first public speaking as a master’s student, I could hear my voice jittering throughout my presentation. The audience could hear it. My supervisor said he thought I’d run off stage crying.
I learned that I needed to practice my presentations a lot and to be very well prepared.
Now, I rarely feel nerves come on. I still encounter peers who are giants in the field looking at themselves in the bathroom mirror saying, “It’s OK, you can do this.” It’s reassuring to see people I look up to having the same issues. It’s OK to be nervous. It can help make you a better presenter.
See past New Chapter stories here.