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Stanford faculty reminisce about their college summers

Stanford Medicine faculty Audrey Shafer and Mary Hawn shared experiences from their memorable college summers with Stanford News.

In the summer of 1978, before starting medical school at Stanford, Audrey Shafer needed to make some money and get some driving experience.

She took a job at a travel agency in Boston delivering airline tickets to business travelers. Boston drivers were quick to honk their horns at a 21-year-old learning to navigate the city's many traffic circles.

Once, in a rush to park on a busy street by MIT, she accidentally hooked the fender of the travel agency's car to the car parked in front of her. She thought for sure that was the end of her job, but the manager of the travel agency reassured her.

His response was a huge lesson to me about being a boss: how to judge the emotional level of your employees when they've made an error and gauge whether they have already chastised themselves enough for their mistake.

Having had a job that no longer exists has also made Shafer interested in "how technology interfaces with and replaces humans."

Audrey Shafer flying a kite, courtesy of Audrey Shafer.

Shafer, MD, now professor of anesthesiology, perioperative and pain medicine and director of Medicine and the Muse at Stanford Medicine, was one of several faculty who shared their memorable college summers with Melissa De Witte for Stanford News.

As De Witte writes: "For some faculty, even ordinary jobs led to extraordinary experiences that changed how they viewed the world, inspiring questions about social justice, democracy, artificial intelligence and gender equality -- topics that became the foundation of their research and academic career."

The summer of 1985, as an undergrad at the University of Michigan, Mary Hawn -- now MD, the chair of surgery at Stanford -- had a work-study job in a scientific research lab with Tadataka Yamada, MD. She got to run her own research project on the regulation of gastric acid secretion and was selected to present the findings at the American Gastroenterological Association's annual meeting. She explained:

At the age of 20, I delivered my first scientific presentation in front of over 1,000 people. My talk was at the plenary session, which meant it was in the biggest room with the most people in it. This was before PowerPoint and I had to make three sets of slides for each of the screens in the room.

After the presentation, Hawn's mentor, Yamada, made sure the audience knew she was an undergrad so they wouldn't ask too many technical questions. Hawn said the experience sparked her interest in becoming an academic physician and in gastrointestinal diseases. It also made her appreciate the value of collaboration, mentorship and experimentation.

"Not everything works out the way you planned, but sometimes you learn more in the failure than you do in the success," Hawn said.

Photo of Mary Hawn accepting an award at the American Gastroenterological Association annual meeting in 1985 courtesy of Mary Hawn

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