Adolescent Medicine Clinician-Scientist: Maria Trent

September 15, 2015

From an early age, Maria was devoted to quite a few things; science, studying, ballet, family, friends, and her community. She was a nurturer who wanted to help people.

 

When it was time to determine her career path, Maria chose to focus on psychology and psychiatry.  After studying and working in both fields, she realized that Adolescent Medicine would be her calling.

 

Today, Maria is an Adolescent Medicine Clinician-Scientist.  She’s a recognized rockstar in her field, and is doing pretty much exactly what she set-out to do, and then some, when she was just a kid.

 

If you haven’t already, please meet Maria Trent…

 

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where are you from?
Hertford, North Carolina

what did you want to be when you were a kid?
A psychiatrist

what do you do now?
I am an Adolescent Medicine clinician-scientist at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. I conduct research designed to develop innovative strategies to improve reproductive health outcomes for adolescents and young adults with a focus on the prevention and optimal management of complicated sexually transmitted infections using new technologies.  This work requires that I write grants, manage a large team of research staff, collect data from patients, and disseminate our findings through a peer review process.   I travel domestically and internationally to disseminate the findings from our research and to teach Adolescent Health in continuing medical education programs. I also provide primary and subspecialty clinical care to adolescents and emerging adults in clinical practice and inpatient settings, train medical students and new physicians in the clinical setting, and teach in the school of public health.

was your career path always clear, or were there bumps in the road?
There are always bumps in the road, but my path to medicine was clear from an early age. My general disposition as a nurturer, combined with my interest in science and academic success afforded me opportunities to explore medicine as a career as an adolescent.  I was determined to be the kind of physician who could really help patients and families struggling with mental illness after watching a family member struggle throughout my childhood.

Despite majoring in psychology, working in psychiatric facilities during my summer breaks, and conducting psychology research in college; psychiatry did not feel like a good fit during my medical school experience.  Adolescent Medicine, however, is a blended field that allowed me to connect with patients about both medical and mental health issues. Being an Adolescent Medicine specialist also requires an open-minded and nonjudgemental approach to patient care. The experiences that I had along the psychiatry trajectory prepared me to be that kind of physician for my patients.

what was happening at the dinner table when you were a kid?
We were pretty busy after school. My sister and I trained 3 times per week as a part of a regional ballet company, so the dinner table was not always at home. My mom was into slow food before it was cool and taught us how to cook at an early age, so we always had healthy meals on the go and family time together.  It was not unusual to have big meals on Sundays with impromptu visits from family and friends after church. The discussions were always lively and everyone was at the table.  There was no such thing as the children’s table.

if you could, what quality would you instill in all young women?
While I am generally a risk averse person with a healthy fear of failure,  I would discourage young people from allowing their fears to drive them.   Taking positive risks leads to success–the key is knowing the difference and creating a safety plan so that it is not too difficult to recover from setbacks.

who helped and guided you when you were young?
My mother was highly invested in our success, but we were also supported by my father and a community of family and friends.

no one is perfect. what about yourself are you working on?
I often see the world through a ‘glass half empty’ lens. While it pushes me to work harder, I have to be careful and conscious about allowing the positive parts of my soul to drive me.  

what are your favorite books?
I have really enjoyed the works of authors from Hispaniola– just finished Claire of the Sea Light (Danticat) and really enjoyed all the books by Julia Alvarez ( In the time of the Butterflies).  I also enjoy coming of age stories— two favorites from this year include The Casual Vacancy (Rowling) and Cutting for Stone (Verghese).   At home, we have a library full of classic and contemporary texts by African American authors that I grew up reading and will introduce to my own children to contextualize their history as they move into the future.

if you could spend time with anyone, in any era, who would it be?
There is no need to go back in time—I would like to spend time with the Obamas. I am fascinated by the degree of emotional intelligence it takes to get their work done with the world watching.   I’d also  love to work with them on a strategy to make adolescent health a national (and international) priority.  Even if I could convince them to speak publicly about the importance of nurturing adolescents and the joy and satisfaction parents can experience while raising adolescents, it might change the fixation adults  generally have on the challenges and inspire the parents to take a positive approach to effectively seeing it through.