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Oral history interview with Jane E. Koehler

  • 2001-Mar-02 – 2001-Mar-04

Jane E. Koehler was born in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1953, the third of four sisters. Her father was the son of German-American farmers from Missouri; he was a World War II veteran who was the first in his family to attend college and would later go on to obtain a master's degree and a PhD in soil chemistry. Koehler's mother was of Danish parentage and also grew up in Missouri. She earned her master's degree in food science. Both of Koehler's parents taught at Washington State University during the majority of her childhood. From a young age, she was very interested in medicine, and she credits her sisters with being a considerable influence on her personal ambition and success. Koehler graduated from Vassar College in 1975. She struggled with Hashimoto's thyroiditis during this period, and although she found it hard to adjust to student life, Koehler applied to graduate schools and matriculated into a PhD Program at the University of California, Berkeley. She then decided to earn a master's degree in microbiology instead of a PhD in order to pursue a medical education. Koehler worked as a research associate while she took her MCAT and applied to medical schools. She was eventually accepted into the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, where she received an MD in 1984, and met her husband, Stephen X. Nahm. The couple moved to California so that Koehler could begin internship rotations at the University of California, San Francisco. It was there that she became much more interested in the study of infectious diseases. In 1984 Koehler was awarded an infectious disease fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco, where she researched the causative agents of bacillary angiomatosis in Dr. Richard S. Stephens' lab and later in Nina Agabian's lab. In 1988 Koehler began working at the University of California, San Francisco, as a Clinical Instructor of Medicine in the Infectious Diseases Department. She rose through the ranks from Research Microbiologist to Assistant Professor and was eventually appointed Associate Professor of Medicine in Residence in the Infectious Diseases Department. Her current research focuses on tracing the complex life cycle of Bartonella and its role in the frequent infection of immunocompromised patients. Throughout her oral history Koehler points out the many obstacles that women face when undertaking a professional career, and she stresses the importance of positive female mentors. She has won several awards including the American Medical Women's Association Scholarship Achievement Citation, the ICAAC Young Investigator Award, the Pierre Richard Dick-Virbac Fondation First International Award and a Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences award.

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