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Behind the Scenes

Family Matters - Spring 2009

Mary Ann Gianan

If someone had told Mary Ann Gianan 30 years ago that she would be a research nurse manager at one of the best cancer centers in the world, she would not have believed them. Gianan’s story is one that epitomizes the path that hard work, a mind for discovery and a dedicated spirit leads to.

Today, Gianan wears the credentials of R.N., M.S.N. and O.C.N. after her name. Gianan supervises a clinical research team of 13 research nurses and data analysts, and also serves as research nurse for Eugenie Kleinerman, M.D., head of the Children’s Cancer Hospital at M. D. Anderson. In her 27 years of service at M. D. Anderson, Gianan has seen the institution grow significantly and her position evolve as a result.

Landing a Job in America

In 1979, Gianan arrived in the United States from her native country, the Philippines, to work in the coronary care unit of a hospital in Tennessee. Soon after, a close friend encouraged Gianan to come to Texas to work for M. D. Anderson.

“At first, I was intimidated by the idea that I would be working with cancer patients,” says Gianan. “I didn’t really know what to expect, but my friend convinced me that I would really love M. D. Anderson, so I decided to move to Texas.”

Gianan started working as a clinical nurse on the pediatric and adolescent unit at M. D. Anderson in 1981. Eventually she became charge nurse on the unit, but then left M. D. Anderson to work as an agency nurse. She found little satisfaction in this role because she missed the opportunity to develop relationships with her patients. It took only nine months before Gianan was back working at M. D. Anderson — this time as a research nurse in the adult Melanoma and Sarcoma Center.

A New Career in Pediatrics

Seven years later, Gianan interviewed for a position working as research nurse for Kleinerman in cancer biology and pediatrics. Attracted by her interest in cancer biology, she accepted the job in January 1996. At that time, she was the only research nurse in pediatrics. Gianan credits Kleinerman for helping her get to where she is today.

“Dr. Kleinerman has been a great mentor to me, and she has patience that makes her a great teacher,” says Gianan. “She encouraged me to attend her lab meetings, which was helpful because it gave me perspective on how trials translate from the lab to the clinic for patients.”

Since Gianan became research nurse manager in 2004, the number of pediatric clinical trials has increased from 64 in 2004 to more than 100 trials in 2008 alone. As research nurses, Gianan and her team are responsible for managing many of the logistics of clinical trials. They screen patients for eligibility, register patients for trials, ensure patients’ and health care providers’ compliance with protocol requirements and research regulations, prepare treatment orders, schedule treatments and admissions and then record how each patient responds to the treatment.

Gianan’s motivation in her role comes from advice a guest speaker shared when she was graduating from high school.

“The speaker told us to choose a profession that would serve God and would serve our neighbor,” recalls Gianan. “Nursing was a way for me to do just that, and it has been a rewarding experience.”

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