Kaitie Fernandez Lawson

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Class Year: 2009
Major at MC: Mathematics
Senior Thesis Topic: Kidney Transplantation Optimization
Current Town/City of Residence: Raleigh, NC
Occupation: Biostatistician
Family: Donna Cragle, PhD., Barry Fernandez & Danielle Fernandez Baxter

Describe your career path since graduating from MC.

I was accepted to graduate school in the spring of my senior year to the highly rated University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health. I graduated with my Masters of Science in Biostatistics in the winter of 2011. Before I graduated, I was offered a position as a Biostatistician at Rho (a contract research organization located in Durham, NC). I've been working there from August 2011 until now, and to say I adore my job would be an understatement!

Describe your job or a typical day “in the office.”

I would best describe a typical day at the office for me as a balancing act. I am currently in charge of 3 clinical trials conducted under a contract between my company and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). I am also a vital team member on numerous other trials (~6) ranging from Type 1 Diabetes to Peanut Allergy.

All of the trials I work on are in different places in the life cycle of clinical trial. Some are in start-up, others are in the maintenance phase, while others are working on publications for top tier journals. I constantly have to balance many competing priorities and timelines. Some days I'm running analyses to be included in publications. Some days I'm programming displays to track study maintenance/management. Some days I'm helping to write protocols for studies that are in development.

What has been your most exciting/enjoyable professional experience to date?

When I first started, I worked on a Kidney Transplant trial. One of the CEOs of my company went to a meeting where he got to meet one of the patients from this trial. This young lady had a kidney transplant as a teenager. The drugs she got along with that new kidney suppressed her immune system so that the kidney wouldn’t be rejected. By the time she was in college, she was in a wheelchair, because her feet and leg were so covered with sores that her immune system could no longer fight. Her transplant gave her life, but took away her ability to walk. And then she entered into the study that I worked on, and, as a result of an experimental treatment in a trial, she got off those immunosuppressive drugs. She got out of her wheelchair. She started walking. She started running. And now she runs marathons.

I have the wonderful opportunity, day in and day out, to help makes a lot of people's lives better.

How did your MC experience prepare you for your vocation and/or life?

I was a very busy student at MC. I was on the soccer team, sang in the Concert Choir and Off Kilter, was a Math Major, and did some student council work. I was so blessed to be able to attend a college where I was allowed to pursue everything I was interested in! Being involved in so many wonderful opportunities also came with a few burdens.

I believe that communication and time management are essential skills for your life and vocation. I got A LOT of practice with this at Maryville for four years! Or course there were times of conflict (like the time I ran from singing a solo in a choir concert to starting in an NCAA tournament game across campus in the same night!), but I would never trade my hectic schedule for anything!

I learned how important it was to wisely manage my time. I also learned how to communicate my schedules and commitments between those people who needed me (much like you would communicate your availability to your boss).

Professionally or personally, what’s still on your “bucket list?"

  • Be published in a scientific journal.
  • Swim in the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Adopt a Corgi and name him Buster.

What are your hobbies? What do you do for fun?

I still have a lot of the same hobbies I had when I was at MC. I sing in the North Carolina Opera. I still play soccer at least once or twice a week.
My husband and I love trying new food, and living in Raleigh gives us a plethora of options from which to choose!


What’s your best memory from your years as a student at MC?

I had some wonderful memories while at MC. However, I think hands down the best memories I ever had at MC happened when I got the opportunity to travel to Brazil during J Term. It was the first time I had ever been out of the country! Being immersed in such a welcoming, diverse, beautiful culture is an experience I will never forget and an opportunity for which I will be forever grateful.