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Dr. Ingrid Mayer can relate to many of her female patients—through their hobbies, their children—and some patients get to her more than others. When she loses a patient, it fuels an anger inside her.
“When something happens to someone you love, you work harder,” Mayer explains. “It makes you angrier at the disease and more motivated to find a cure.”
Mayer’s research is focused on targeted therapies for breast cancer. She says the progress in breast cancer treatment has been amazing. “I feel breast cancer treatment is the most rewarding field within oncology,” Mayer says.
“There is a lot of funding available, and women are very willing to participate in clinical trials.” Mayer makes the point that many targeted cancer therapies get their beginnings in breast cancer research.
It was her interest in oncology that brought Mayer to the U.S. from Brazil. “I was born in Romania, but my parents immigrated to Brazil in the 1970s. I met my husband in medical school in Brazil,” she explains. “At that time, oncology was not an established specialty, so we came to the U.S. I was drawn to Vanderbilt for its breast-cancer research.”
Traveling extensively for her research, Mayer credits her husband, a radiologist, with helping to make things work at home so she can have the time away. Research is not the only reason Mayer travels, though. She recently went back to Romania with her husband, parents, and children after 40 years away. “It was eye opening and quite emotional,” she says.