There can not be passion without also having heart, for Taben Hale this cliche is taken in a literal sense.
Hale is an assistant professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, but her expertise is not all in teaching. Her passion lies in, well, matters of the heart. Hale’s primary research focus is on how to treat and prevent cardiovascular disease. In addition to being a professor at U of A and a researcher, she is also an advocate for the Sarver Heart Center in Tucson.
“The people involved with Sarver are all people who see the value in research and like to give back to that,” Hale said. “It has been nice getting to know people who have either directly benefitted from research, or are contributing to see benefits down the road.”
Although she originally entered her years of undergraduate studies with the intent of continuing on to medical school, she later realized that her calling was behind the microscope.
“My senior year we were required to do a research project, so I joined the cardio lab,” Hale said. “That is when I realized what I wanted to do. I loved the behind the scenes research, especially getting to develop new medicine and treatments for heart disease.”
Since her days of discovering her love for medical research Hale consistently looks to encourage this same love in the students in the U of A medical research lab.
“Taben’s leadership style can be described enthusiastic and involved,” Hale’s colleague and fellow cardiac researcher, Rayna Gonzales, said. “She always takes a huge interest in mentoring students which is neat to see because when they are at the bench her investment shines through them in their work.”
Hale’s passion for mentorship and research can be seen all over the walls of her busy office, but amongst all of the statistics and data there are photos of a particularly special project tacked to her bulletin board. This project is one that doesn’t quite fit in a test tube, and is one that continues both in and out of the lab. Hale is not only a top researcher in her field, but she is also the mom to two little girls.
Hale balances work with her other full time job of being a mother, sometimes having to get creative with how to make it all work.
“My four year old, Maddy, has probably been up to the office with me 20 times now,” Hale said. “I’ve got a little sleeping bag under the desk I lay out for her to play on while I’m working.”
Not only does Maddy get a share in her mother’s ambitions, but also in her traditions. Hale, who is native to Canada, makes sure that even in the Phoenix heat she stays true to her background as an avid hockey fan.
“The [hockey] team here is so much more accessible. It has been fun sharing that with Maddy,” Hale said. “We would never be able to have that sort of opportunity back home.”
As a Phoenix transplant Hale isn’t afraid to tease herself about her Canadian roots, and neither are her colleagues.
“She always tells us stories about bacon, maple syrup, and how real Thanksgiving is in October,” Hale’s lab assistant, Octavio Perez, said. “Really though if anyone picks on her it is usually herself.”
While her nationality is a large part of who she is, it isn’t all that defines her. Hale’s background is so much more than just snow and maple syrup. Her grandmother actually had dreams to complete a masters degree in biochemistry. When she became pregnant with Hale’s father, however, she had to drop out to take on the task of motherhood.
“She had this dream that was never realized because back in those days you had to stay home and take care of the kids,” Hale said. “There were women that had to break down barriers so that I could not even think twice about becoming a scientist.”
Hale recognizes some of the challenges that come with being a woman in a primarily male dominated field, but that hasn’t stopped her. She doesn’t think they should stop other girls from looking at research careers either.
“Every generation is breaking down more barriers,” Hale said. “My advice for girls looking at careers in science is that if you are passionate about something don’t let anything hold you back from it, you can have it all.”
By: Rilee Robinson