HUB Highlight: Brinsley Davis
We at the MNCCTN HUB are highlighting our team members and the fantastic work they do. The MNCCTN HUB is the central team that works in the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, while MNCCTN is the overall, wider network made up of five health care Partners and 23 clinical sites that conduct research throughout Greater Minnesota. This month's HUB Highlight is MNCCTN's Program Coordinator, Brinsley Davis. Brinsley began working with MNCCTN in March 2020, and her role encompasses a variety of administration and program management tasks. Hear from Brinsley about the unique career path that led her from the East Coast to Minnesota (and then to MNCCTN), what she enjoys about working in research, how MNCCTN is unique, and what qualities are a good fit for a career in research.
What was your career path before coming to MNCCTN?
My career path has been long and meandering. I grew up in Rhode Island and graduated from Goucher College in Maryland with a degree in English Literature. I moved to Minnesota to be a modern dance choreographer, and created a small dance company, Three Dances, which self-produced shows for 8 years. During that time I had a variety of jobs, like waitress, daycare teacher, personal assistant, and nanny. I eventually created a position at the Centers of Excellence at St. Catherine University where I helped run their interdisciplinary programs and events. A few years later I was running the Zenon Dance School in downtown Minneapolis. In 2015, I started working at UMN for the Rural Physician Associate Program in the Medical School. I eventually created an Educational Specialist position where I was in charge of updating the 9 months of online medical curriculum and overseeing all longitudinal programs in medical education. This background in rural health care outreach led me to my current position in MNCCTN. I do a wide range of tasks from office management to event planning, to programmatic logistics. The work I do is always changing, and I like the ability to grow our administrative programs. I have just started a Master's in Public Affairs program at the Humphrey School and am excited to see where that will take me in the second half of my career.
What is unique about MNCCTN?
MNCCTN really helps the UMN live its commitment to working with our whole “catchment area.” As a land-grant institution, the U needs to be serving everyone in the whole state. While some in rural MN think of us as mainly metropolitan, there are many programs that directly work with and in rural communities. Our HUB team is very dedicated to the outreach and access aspect of working with underserved urban and rural communities.
What 3 words best describe the MNCCTN HUB team?
We are Collaborative, Caring Philomaths.
What do you enjoy most about working in research? What is most challenging?
If you had told my 20 year old self that I would be working in the field of rural oncology research, she would have not even known what that meant. I had no experience with clinical research or oncology before this, so my three years with MNCCTN have included a lot of on-the-job learning. That was a challenge, but I love learning new things so it was also exciting. I recently had a coworker remind me that her life had been changed by a cancer screening and that all the work we do to increase access to screening, therapeutic trials, and comfort with research can improve, or even save, lives in a really direct way. I love being a part of a team that keeps everything moving smoothly so we can continue to expand our work and improve the health of the state.
What are the most important qualities and skills for a job in research?
As mentioned, I don’t specifically work with the research end of things at MNCCTN, but I work on the Workforce Development subcommittee and we have created a great Hiring Toolbox that everyone should check out if they are hiring or retaining staff (which is just about everyone). We asked research staff to identify what kinds of people succeed in a research career and my favorites were: Life-long learners, Self-starters, and “Super-weirdo nerds.”
What is something new, fun, or unexpected that you've learned in your job?
My past two jobs have given me a great overview of the small towns and health care systems around my adopted state of Minnesota. I love driving around the state and recognizing sites, especially when I can say “We have an RPAP student here!” or “We have cancer research here!” Working with rural Minnesota has given me a much better understanding of how large, complex, and quirky this state is. I have really enjoyed visiting the twine ball in Darwin, the giant fish in Bena, the fork made of forks in Austin, the Duluth bar from Merry KissCam, and many, many other unique Minnesota sites.