If you had told Dr. Kandice Kottke-Marchant five years ago that she would be the next chairman of the Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, she probably would have thought you were crazy. However, for the past five years that is exactly what she has been doing, and her journey there was long and filled with obstacles.
Kottke-Marchant’s journey started with the tough task of college, med school and raising a family. It was a challenge that at times she doubted she could accomplish.
“Given the path that I wanted to take academically where you have a bachelor’s and a master’s and a Ph.D. and an M.D., it’s going to take you 15 years from the time you finish high school to get anywhere close to being out and getting a job,” Kottke-Marchant says. “To do some of that part time and extend it to 20 years, you’d practically be retired before you start working. The kids are only little once and you can’t say we’re going to put the kids on hold and we’ll get back to them in 12 years. One of the things that’s really crucial is people working together to be as much of a family as possible.”
Kottke-Marchant didn’t want to make sacrifices for her career, and with her husband’s help, she was able to balance her career and home life and started climbing the ranks at the Cleveland Clinic.
“I started at the Cleveland Clinic as a hematopathologist, which is essentially diagnosing blood disorders, and worked in pathology and lab medicine for 20 years,” she says. “Eventually I rose through the ranks and became the section head of the laboratory. But the whole time that I was there, the chair of pathology was a very prescriptive sort of individual and really didn’t acknowledge and help people up in their careers. He was very military in the way he ran the institute and, I thought, shortsighted in terms of how the institute was run and didn’t really bring out the best in most people.”
For years, Kottke-Marchant thought about how she would make a difference if she was the department chair. When the previous chairman retired, she had a shot at the job. Up to that point there had never been a female institute chair at the Cleveland Clinic. The search took a year and a half, but eventually they picked Kottke-Marchant for the position.
“I’ve been chair now for almost five years and it still feels like it’s a new job,” she says. “This is a job that I’ve loved, and I think the thing I’ve loved about it so much is that I’m in a position where I feel I can make a difference and make a difference in an area that I know has struggled in the past to get the resources it needs to grow and develop like it should. That’s why I really like this job, because every day there are so many challenges, but you feel like you’re constantly moving forward.”
Her hard work and perseverance has ultimately resulted in a new lab for the institute that opened this year and will certainly be a difference maker for the Clinic.
“The new lab gives us expansion space to grow,” Kottke-Marchant says. “The old building was built about 30 years ago when our testing volume was one-tenth of what it is now. We’ve essentially doubled the footprint of the laboratories. Pathology in most hospitals is in a little dingy room in the basement and doesn’t get any space, doesn’t get equipment and doesn’t get respect because people don’t understand much of what pathology is and does. That’s my goal in life to make the institution understand how valuable we are to everything that they do with their patients.”
Kottke-Marchant loves tackling the challenges her job creates and it’s because of perseverance and a drive to achieve her goals that she has gotten to where she is today.
“It’s a combination of knowing what your goal is, knowing where you want to get to and taking things one day at a time and not letting things get you down,” she says. “I think so often little things can upset the apple cart. If you let every little thing get to you, you get so tied up in the present that you don’t see how to get to the big picture long term. Every day you just do your best and you get through that day to the next day. You just chip away one day at a time.”
HOW TO REACH: Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Institute, Cleveland Clinic, (216) 444-2484 or http://my.clevelandclinic.org/pathology/default.aspx