This item originally appeared in Pulse.
Jennifer Meece is comfortable running a meeting and making sure her colleagues in Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation’s Integrated Research and Development Laboratory (IRDL) has tools to get the job done, but she’d prefer spending her time in the lab doing research.
Needless to say, the shock factor for her was through the roof when she walked into a meeting Tuesday, Aug. 30, and found 25 people clapping and cameras flashing.
Meece, IRDL director and a researcher for 15 years at Marshfield Clinic, was told she is the 2016 recipient of the Gwen D. Sebold Fellowship for Outstanding Research.
“I’m very honored,” Meece said after the initial shock wore off. “It’s a privilege to be associated with an award so many outstanding researchers have received before and to be honored by my peers and friends.”
The fellowship has been given by D. David “Dewey” Sebold since 1988 to recognize an outstanding medical researcher and support continued research in his or her field.
Recipients receive $5,000 and a memorial plaque presented by Sebold in memory of his sister, Gwen, who grew up in Dorchester, about 30 miles north of Marshfield. She joined Marshfield Clinic as a medical stenographer in 1955 and died in July 1974.
A wealth of experience
Meece has been involved in hot-button health issues in Wisconsin for much of her time at the Clinic.
Blastomycosis? Her research led to recognition of two species in the region based on genetic studies.
Influenza? She’s led the Clinic’s laboratory component of influenza vaccine effectiveness studies for more than a decade.
West Nile Virus? She’s a member of the Wisconsin West Nile Task Force, having published research on surveillance studies showing evidence of infection in wild raptor and commercial waterfowl populations and investigating local mosquito control measures.
Laboratory efficiency? During the 2009 influenza pandemic, she partnered with clinical laboratories to handle the surge of thousands of testing requests. In 2012, she partnered with Laboratory Medicine to develop and validate nucleic acid tests for tick-borne diseases that are now commonly performed in clinical laboratories.
As IRDL director, she oversees 17 research and senior research associates, working on as many as 50 projects at a time. She has led or co-led 12 externally-funded grants, five internally-funded studies and four multi-million dollar contracts with external vendors to go with her more than 60 peer-reviewed scientific publications.
“Under Jen’s leadership, IRDL has partnered with Laboratory Medicine on multiple occasions and has helped materially with our mission here at Marshfield Clinic,” said Thomas Fritsche, M.D., director, Division of Laboratory Medicine. “Our patients have materially benefitted from her scientific investigations and through her participation in the delivery of health care services by means of diagnostic assay development.”
Dewey Sebold was impressed by Meece’s long list of accomplishments and the amount of support from peers who nominated her for the award.
“I’m amazed every year when I see the quality and depth of the research that takes place at Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation,” Sebold said. “The nomination letters are so informative and it’s impressive to see how much the Clinic’s research has grown over the years and contributes to the care of its patients.”
MCRF Executive Director Fritz Wenzel told the more than 20 of Meece’s colleagues gathered that they should share in the honor as the team that contributed to her success. Wenzel invoked a quote from Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, “When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.’”
Meece also was quick to credit her colleagues.
“These are my friends and my family,” she said. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”
An event honoring Meece as the Sebold recipient is scheduled for Oct. 11.