As an undergraduate, Maggie Padek majored in history and considered going to law school. But she wound up as a grad student at the Brown School, first in social work and then in public health. Her change of heart wound up being a good thing for the PRC, where she is now a center manager.
“I wanted to do more hands-on work helping people,” said Padek, who joined the PRC in 2013 and loves her role in making research happen–and learning as she goes along. “You get to be a student for the rest of your life.”
Padek helped jump-start the Implementation Science Center for Cancer Control(WUISC3)after the five-year project was funded in late 2019, creating the infrastructure for the center from scratch. A partnership between the Brown School and the School of Medicine, the center presents unique management challenges in setting up communication system, websites, scheduling joint meeting and making sure the different units are following research timelines.
“I do a little bit of everything,” she said.
And speaking of everything, not long before she began building the new center, she gave birth to her first child, Harry, who’s now 22 months old. As it has for many, the coronavirus has complicated her work/family balance. “I always thought being a working mom was going to be good for me and my son,” she said. “With work at home, it’s been a different challenge.”
A Kansas City native, Padek is lucky to live just north of Forest Park, which has become the family playground. Home improvements, crocheting and puzzles have helped occupy her increased at-home time. She’s gotten back into running and reading, and even found time to take a test for a possible appearance on “Jeopardy.”
Aside from family, her main focus is the WUISC3 project, which uses implementation science methods to help advance research in cancer-control disparities and outcomes in 82 counties in Missouri and Illinois that are part of the Siteman Cancer Center catchment area. The work builds on her interest in implementation science that was sparked as a student of Enola Proctor, a leader in the field, at the Brown School. “We have these great interventions out there but they’re not getting to their intended audiences,” she said.
“I’ve really enjoyed research administration and coordination,” she said, adding that she liked being on the operational side of research. “We’re not PhDs, we’re not Principal Investigators, but we have a significant influence on the research, she said. “And I love working at the PRC. My co-workers have been supportive and inspiring from Day One.”