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Published by Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, 2016-12-13 14:17:38

2016 Spring Bunsen Burner

Bunsen Burner

Under the microscope:
Ben Fowler

Imaging Lab: Ben Fowler, Julie Crane, Alex Weddle, Justin Willige and Amanda Valdez

Walk into Ben Fowler’s office in OMRF’s Imaging Core The facility personnel serve as technical consultants,
Facility, and you can’t miss the overwhelming presence train users and provide special services to labs both
of the University of Tennessee’s creamsicle orange. One inside and outside OMRF. Three bulletin boards are
shelf supports a miniature football helmet emblazoned filled beyond capacity with scientific journal covers and
with a T and a model of 102,000-seat Neyland stadium. articles, a visual representation of their workload. “We
Below that sits a Glamour Shots-style photo of Ben’s have our name on about one scientific paper a week on
daughter dressed as a Tennessee cheerleader. “My average,” says Ben.
home,” Ben says with a chuckle, “is even worse.”
Every work station and microscopy room tells a
A native of Georgia, Ben fell in love with Knoxville different story on any given day. On this particular day,
during the five years he spent in graduate school at the Amanda Valdez is preparing and sectioning knee joints
University of Tennessee. But when he got an offer in 1999 for Tim Griffin’s lab. At another work station, magnified
to come to Oklahoma to establish and manage a chambers of a mouse heart sit ready for inspection on a
brand-new imaging facility at OMRF, he jumped at the screen for Rod McEver.
chance. Even if it meant coming to a place where orange
meant something completely different. Nearby, Elise Donovan, a postdoc in Tim Griffin’s
lab, is examining a model of an arthritic mouse knee
“When I came here, there was nothing like this facility joint. “At least one component of all the imaging we do
at OMRF,” Ben says. “That meant I could build it the way happens down here,” says Elise. “We use the core facility
I wanted, which really appealed to me.” because they’re good at what they do, and we have a lot
of other things we’re doing at the same time.”
In the 17 years since, as manager of OMRF’s
Imaging Core Facility, Ben has aided countless OMRF Is OMRF’s Imaging Facility critical to her research? She
researchers with needs ranging from basic histology, laughs out loud and answers emphatically, “Uh, yeah!”
immunofluorescence and electron microscopy to digital
image processing and analysis. An expert in microscopy, In an average year, more than three-quarters of OMRF’s
he estimates that he oversees an average of 2,000 faculty utilize the services in Imaging. It also provides
projects a year. services for other institutions, most frequently the
University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

continued on page 2

Under the microscope: Ben Fowler, cont. Ben found that he loved the work—and excelled at it.
More than two decades later, he’s still at it.
Although Ben has built a career around helping
investigators see—and create beautifully detailed images Since joining OMRF, Ben estimates that he and his
of things that are invisible to the human eye, he ended staff have helped investigators complete more than
up in this field almost by accident. 30,000 projects. He enjoys each project, he says, “but I
particularly like the really hard ones. The ones where the
After completing undergraduate and masters degrees scientists didn’t think it could be done.” And when he
in biology at Georgia State University, he decided to get and his staff find a way to make the impossible possible,
a second masters degree at the University of Tennessee the scientists’ smiles are the best payoff imaginable.
in Cellular, Molecular and Developmental Biology.
“It doesn’t feel like work to me,” he says. “I want to
As the newest member of a research lab in Tennessee, help our scientists get the best data possible. What
he didn’t have much of a say about his initial assignment, matters most is knowing that I’m helping many labs to do
a project with lots of microscopy. “When they asked if good research.”
anybody wanted the job, nobody raised their hand,” he
says. “So they ‘volunteered’ me for it.”

OMRF's IMaging
Facility uses

equipment to
magnify items

up to one
million times.

Five years of fitness

Not too far from the door, right beyond the new Kelie initially joined OMRF as a part-time trainer. Over
assisted pull-up and dip machine, you’ll see the wall of time, she took on the role of OMRF’s motivator-in-chief,
photos. There’s Danny Walker and Michael McDaniel encouraging growing numbers of employees to use the
after a mud run. Allison Parker, Stephanie Mode and gym and stay active. She added fitness challenges and
Anne Zike getting ready for a 5K. And snapshots of new classes, resulting in increased participation and
dozens of other current and former OMRFers grinning membership. When her responsibilities (and the center’s
after conquering—or preparing to conquer—rowing membership) grew, she joined OMRF’s staff full-time.
regattas, road races and other feats of physical fitness.
May 1 will mark the center’s five-year anniversary.
This shrine to OMRF employee wellness and teamwork But for Chip and Kelie, the facility remains a work in
hangs, appropriately enough, in OMRF’s fitness center. progress. Their goal is simple: making the facility as
With almost 200 employee members, the center has friendly as possible to employees’ workout routines.
become a hub of life at OMRF, a place where staff
members do everything from take yoga classes to train That means changing equipment (hello, Jacob’s
for marathons. But until 2011, if you wanted to get Ladder and extra rowing machines). Recently, they
a workout in before, during or after your workday at flipped the facility’s layout, enabling exercisers to view
OMRF, good luck. Forget about finding a treadmill or a four wall-hung TVs that replaced screens on individual
weight rack; OMRF didn’t even have a place you could machines. Kelie constantly revamps the classes and
shower. fitness challenges to keep people excited and engaged.

With the construction of the research tower, though, As a result, the membership rate hovers around 50
Chip Morgan saw a chance to fill a critical need. “The percent of all employees.
foundation’s mission is to help improve the health of
people everywhere,” Chip says. “Adding an employee “It’s really cool and gratifying to see employees on
fitness center gave us a chance to focus that mission on opposite ends of the fitness spectrum working out
our own employees.” together,” Chip says. “It’s exactly what I hoped for. When
I see that, it shows me that we were successful.”
After visiting several local fitness facilities, Chip and a
committee of employees settled on using the Midtown Ask Kelie about those who’ve developed new fitness
YMCA as a model. With the Y’s help, OMRF picked out habits with the help of the center, and she rattles off
fitness equipment and arranged for trainers to teach a dozen names: Janet Sharpe. Pat Marble. Amanda
various classes. To suit the often unpredictable schedules Valdez. John Ice. Jonathan Wren. Courtney Griffin.
of scientists, Chip decided that the facility needed to be Vijay Muthukumar. Debi Gibson. Danyale Zuroske.
open 24-7. Jennifer Muther. Tim Hassen. Alex Weddle.

As the pieces fell into place, Chip had an ah-ha! “All their stories are amazing,” says Kelie. “We see
moment. “People who already had fitness routines had lives changing here every day. Fitness makes a positive
gyms and were going to work out anyway,” he says. difference in every aspect of a person’s life.”
“The new center would certainly be nice for them, but
the people I was most interested in were those who Chip says he’d love to see enrollment hit 100 percent.
weren’t working out already. I realized that to get them “It may be a pipe dream,” he says, but he promises he
involved, you have to have a champion.” and Kelie will keep working toward that goal.

Enter Kelie Ashley. “I am so pleased that this idea panned out and took
shape like it has,” he says. “It’s been a great five years,
and I’m excited to see where we go from here.”

Kelie Ashley puts boot
campers through their paces

Stephanie Mode and Janet Sharpe
in the Fitness Center

Globe trotting

Does traveling abroad make you flustered? Hate the If you have any questions about the special features
feeling of venturing into the unknown with unanswered offered by either Aetna or Assist America, contact Beth
questions? Here’s a handy guide to some little-known Benefield in Human Resources ([email protected]).
features that might help ease your nerves as
you traverse the globe. Also before you travel abroad, you should consider
adding an international package to your wireless account
Our health insurance provider, Aetna, to help manage the cost of calling, texting and using data.
suggests that you tell your physician about
any upcoming international trips so you can AT&T offers a Passport Package that is added to
include any necessary vaccinations in your your account for 30 days and provides
regularly scheduled doctor’s visit. Should unlimited texting and WiFi, as well
you fall ill on the road, Aetna also offers as discounted per-minute rates on
health coverage in the event of an calls.
emergency. Verizon offers a similar TravelPass,
a flat-rate daily charge for the days you
Unum, OMRF’s disability insurance are traveling outside the U.S. This pass
carrier, has a contract with a company allows you to take your voice, text and
called Assist America. Through Assist data rates with you. Mexico and Canada
America, all full-time OMRF employees can rates are $2 per day, while 65 other eligible
return to the U.S. for free if they experience
a medical emergency. Assist America can also countries will run you $10 per day.
help replace lost prescriptions or passports, refer you Contact Debbie Lyons (Debbie-lyons@
to Western-trained, English-speaking medical providers,
and aid you in hospital admission, legal and interpreter in OMRF Information Technology
referrals. before you travel to sign up for international
services, as well as to receive travel tips and more
information for traveling abroad.

Safe travels!

Seen @ OMRF


First Thirstday Coast-to-Coast OMRF Holiday
Challenge ends Memorial Day

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