Story by Emily Hilley-Sierzchula | Contributed photos
Tami Annable wants the Temple Health and Bioscience District to be a source of inspiration for women considering careers in science, technology and entrepreneurship.
“You can do it. Go for it,” Annable said. “The big picture might seem overwhelming but take little bites and anything is attainable.”
Often it’s tempting to see only obstacles standing in the way of a goal that can feel lofty when juggling children and jobs.
“If you don’t try, you’re going to fail. If you try, you have a chance to succeed,” she said.
Annable used her current position as an example. She had the science background required, but she had to learn other skills to secure the appointment. “I could have decided not to take it because of the challenges, but because I took the risk I have my dream job: helping people and the citizens of Temple, while keeping my fingers in science.”
Landing her dream job didn’t happen overnight.
It took Annable 10 years to earn her bachelor’s degree while raising kids and working. “Plenty of times I had to nap in the college parking lot,” Annable said. “I was doing homework at midnight and at my kid’s baseball games when they weren’t up to bat. Looking back now, I don’t know how I did it.”
Now a grandmother of eight, children were always important to her. “They came first and I didn’t want them to feel slighted because of my schedule,” she said.
It was a life lesson for her kids to see how hard mom was working. “All three graduated from college,” Annable said, proudly. It was one of those kids who persuaded her to head south to Temple. “It took her two years to wear me down, holding my grandkids hostage,” Annable said, laughing. She held up a framed picture of three smiling little faces. “This is why I came to Temple.”
The native New Yorker was pleasantly surprised by Central Texas. “It felt like home as soon as I pulled up in the moving van. We’re retiring here. The people are just incredible.”
As a young girl in the Bronx, Annable wanted to be an OB/GYN, but she said it was an “amazing” 7th grade science teacher who opened her eyes to the larger scientific world. “I was fascinated. I loved dissecting things,” she said. Annable credits that teacher for “planting the seeds” in a young woman who later would become a biologist.
Annable worked her way up, starting as a part-time filing clerk in a pediatrician’s office and finding herself office manager a year later. “Along the way I learned lab work skills and really enjoyed it,” she said.
Annable later worked for Avon cosmetics, which was making the switch away from using animals for research and needed an experienced lab technician.
“I loved Avon and didn’t want to leave,” Annable said.
It took another inspirational person to nudge her into what became a life’s work.
“Dr. Lee Greenberger from Lederle Laboratories in Pearl River, N.Y., called me and said, ‘Do you want to work on makeup or cure cancer?’”
It was a hard pitch to turn down.
At one time she was tackling 18 different cancers, primarily breast and ovarian cancer. She learned the value of teamwork. As a biologist, Annable worked with chemists to find ways to block pathways feeding a cancer cell.
Still, “cancer kicked my butt,” despite years of hard work, she said. If just one cancer cell survives the onslaught of chemotherapy, that one cell can multiply and it can lead to a patient relapsing with drug-resistant cancer.