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Surround Yourself with Other Amazing Women (part 4)

I had such a wonderful time sitting in a cute coffee shop with one of my friends, Shatan. It was a beautiful day and it was close to the last time I would be in South Carolina for a while. I was overjoyed to spend as much time as I did with her and we had an amazing conversation not only about her career as a Medical Laboratory Scientist but also about how she was able to harness her gift and recent diagnosis of ADHD to help steer her into the perfect path for her and help other women in STEM. Ahh I am so excited to share our conversation! Shatan, you are such a light to this world and I am so happy to call you a friend!

I would love to know a little about your educational journey. What path did you take to get where you are?

In my little world, and how I was raised women become teachers or pastor's wives. I was not too fond of that but in order to get where I wanted, I focused on Science education. Before I graduated my father suffered his first stroke. I had two years of school under my belt and when my dad got better, I moved to Puerto Rico to teach, which you can do over there. I taught junior high and high school science and math for a year and a half. Once I had that experience, I knew that I wasn't interested in teaching. My dad had more strokes and it was time for me to come home. I happened to come across a newsletter while working in my new job in a hospital that talked about laboratory sciences and the path to get there.

I went on to Illinois State University to do their Bridge Program to earn my Bachelors Degree. The hospital I worked in was also a clinical sight so I was able to train in the laboratory while taking classes. I worked in the hospital there for about 12 years and then moved to Charleston, SC.

Along with your degree did you have to get any other certifications?

To work in the hospital I had to get my ASCP Certification which stands for American Society of Clinical Pathology. There is a test that you have to take and be able to pass and you also need 36 credit hours every 3 years.

With this degree, do most people work in the hospital?

Most do work in the hospital but you can work in the laboratory at practitioner offices, CDC, or the FBI. I have thought about pursuing working for the FBI

Is there anything that you would tell your younger self?

I wish that I would have gone more into the science route. When I was a child I wanted to be an Astronaut. I would look into my telescope and look at the planets when I was younger and loved it so much. I would have told myself in high school to go for that and follow deeper into my passion for science. I've been doing this for 21 years in July and there are still a lot of things I do not know and there is such a big difference from hospital to hospital.

What was your best subject in school?

Growing up my school was so small. I almost got suspended from this school because I was not listening. My parents and I had a meeting with the principal and my math teacher (who I am still friends with to this day). He asked me what was the problem and I told him I was bored. He responded by saying, "Well math isn't for everyone." My teacher spoke up and said "The problem is she doesn't need my help, she's bored because I don't need to teach her but I need to teach everyone else. The agreement was I sit in the back of the class, and do every problem and every test. I did this through calculus. I took calculus in college as an elective because I needed 3 more credits. But that is my scientific ADHD brain. The problem is I can't show my work because the information is processing so quickly in my brain that trying to write down the steps slows me down to getting to the answer and then I lose interest. So, If you have a child they have been diagnosed with ADHD and they are struggling with math, see how they do without showing their work.

What would you say to a woman wanting to become a Laboratory Scientist?

Ask for help if you need it, because there is a lot of information, and assuming you think you have to learn it all won't get you anywhere. In medical science things are changing all of the time. Don't be afraid of the Doctors because you are the expert in your field. I could look at 2 slides with the same diagnosis and they will look wildly different under the microscope.

When were you Diagnosed with ADHD?

I wasn't diagnosed until I was an adult in 2016. I think part of this was growing up in the 1980's it wasn't diagnosed that much. Especially being a girl and I think it is still this way. I appreciate it now that it is being seen more from a broader thing than your stereotypical "running off the walls" symptoms. It wasn't until I went back home after having my diagnosis that I realized how my brain works.

Here is how I described it to my family when they asked, "What do you mean you have ADD?":

"There is a train signal going off about 3 blocks from the house and I asked my family what they thought of this. They responded, "Well it's just a train." For me, it's not that simple, "Oh there is a train, you get stopped by the train and you have to sit there and wait and then you're like oh it's moving forward and then backward. I wonder if it has corn in it because of how it is moving. It's taking too long but I can't turn around. Well, there was this one time in East Peoria I was stopped at the light but I couldn't go across the rails and then elephants got off the train. I remember that the Ringling Brothers were in town and they were walking the elephants across the other bridge because the train doesn't stop there. We were still talking about trains.. right?"

Even as I was describing what was in my head, I had forgotten we were talking about trains. This is why kids in school get in trouble for not listening. They heard you, but you kept talking and now my brain can't keep up. I was very interested in school because I was interested in learning. When I had to go to church, that was different. I love church now but as a child, I wasn't allowed to have a pen or pencil or paper because doodling helps me listen. I HAD to sit and pay attention but I couldn't without something in my hands. I was constantly being told "Sit on your hands" because I was fidgeting. I didn't know this was an ADHD thing, and neither did my family. I was just annoying.

What happened once you were diagnosed?

After the diagnosis, I was put on Ritalin, which helped a lot. I also have sensory issues and texture issues with certain foods and materials. I do wish that there would have been more systems in place when I was younger to recognize some neurodivergent tendencies. Now, I have learned to avoid those things as much as possible.

As a woman, I think we are put in a certain box where it MUST be hormonal, It MUST be menopause, or PMS, or perimenopause and so many women unfortunately get misdiagnosed or not diagnosed until much later in life. I can understand where this can be a hormonal issue for some, but for me, I knew that wasn't the case. I am more vocal about my diagnosis because I want to be able to help more women feel comfortable and "connect with their people" easier. I can be a sounding board and let them know what has helped me through this journey. Let's have that conversation. I hated feeling like there was always something wrong with me.

I am so grateful for the time I had with Shatan. You are smart, hilarious, and just a beautiful person. Thank you for sharing your story! If you have any questions about women in STEM, ADHD, or looking for guidance you can connect with Shatan on Instagram @labrat2000 Or email me and I can connect you to her!

With All the love,

Dr. Ariel Blackburn

Chiropractor and Business Mentor



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