February 11th is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, designed to spotlight the incredible work of so many women in STEM who pave the way for future generations. The EBAA took a full week this year to showcase a number of women leaders in the field of ophthalmology, including our very own VP of Surgical Applications, Kristen McCoy. Read more about Kristen’s journey in the sciences, that led her to her current position at MIS, from her EBAA interview below.
When she was a student, Kristen McCoy was always interested in biology and dissection. She remembers bringing her parents to see some of her dissection projects when she attended college in Dayton, Ohio. While her mother was excited by her work, Kristen’s described her father’s response by saying, “He thought it was unusual, but was still extremely supportive.”
When she first arrived at college, Kristen thought she wanted to be a forensic pathologist. But when she considered the years of schooling and training required, she decided to explore other options. While many college kids served food in dining halls or ran errands for professors to make a little extra cash, Kristen’s job was unique. She worked part-time at the county coroner’s office, performing autopsies and getting hands-on training and experience.
While at the coroner’s office, she met her now-husband, who worked at the Lions Eye Bank of West Central Ohio, in Dayton. He introduced her to eye banking, and she started working at Eversight in 1996, immediately after earning her degree in biology. Her first role was as an eye bank technician, but she describes her early years at the eye bank, saying, “I did it all; recoveries, talking with donor families, reviewing medical records, slit lamping tissue. I was excited to learn all that I could about eye banking.” She learned what she liked, along with what she didn’t, and found that the recovery end of the field was her passion.
Kristen says, “I knew eye banking was where I wanted to be; I knew I could grow.” After ten years, she moved into management, but she missed performing recoveries, so she took a part-time job at the OPO and learned tissue recovery, which she did on nights and weekends.
In 2019, she moved to Miracles in Sight, where she is the Vice President of Surgical Applications.
In terms of being a woman in science, she’s happy to say she’s had “no real difficulties in the field. I have met some of my best friends and mentors through eye banking. People have always been supportive throughout my career. Today there are more women in eye banking than when I started…and now there are more women in leadership roles.”
Her advice for other women interested in science is, “Keep an open mind and always strive to continue to learn. Science is an exciting field that will continue to grow and develop. Everything is possible!”
Kristen predicts that science and innovation will continue to encourage eye banking to evolve. She expects the different transplant procedures to improve vastly and that each donation will help more people. “They are doing amazing research on ocular surface diseases. I think there will be more treatment options before a transplant is needed.”
– From the EBAA website. Read the other spotlight stories here: https://restoresight.org/ebaa-women-in-stem-2021/.