Elizabeth Sillman, M.A.

Elizabeth Sillman (Brothers) ’04 has her finger on the pulse of what is happening in the biomedical world. As a policy analyst employed by Ripple Effect Communications in Rockville, MD, Sillman’s work focuses on upper-level research and funding issues, matters that potentially have an impact on a national scale.

“The company I’m with provides a wide array of services to the National Institutes of Health, which requires broad training and a willingness to jump in to new projects,” said Sillman. “For example, I started out doing analysis on public comments regarding the current state of the biomedical research workforce in our country. Now, I’m helping to design a blog that will highlight news and updates in the fields of behavioral and social science research. The projects couldn’t be more different.”

The public policy analysis projects that Sillman worked on became important components for reports to the Advisory Committee to the director of the NIH, which will hopefully address key issues in the biomedical research workforce, such as inadequate diversity and the paucity of jobs for graduates.

Sillman’s work has focused almost exclusively on research regulation and development. She was a research and scholarly activity consultant for Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, VA, engaged in a project that involves e-learning for medical residents. She developed a research handbook for residency and fellowship programs and created an online research resource using Blackboard Academic Suite.

Prior to that, Sillman was a research program coordinator at EVMS and an Institutional Review Board administrator; assistant to the International Educational Programs director at Case Western Reserve; an undergraduate student researcher at the Medical University of South Carolina; and a laboratory technician at Johns Hopkins University Asthma and Allergy Center.

Though Sillman graduated from Immaculata with a degree in biology and chemistry—the pre-med track—she decided to pursue another path. “I set out to go to med school,” said Sillman, “but after a while, I decided it wasn’t going to match what I wanted to do. I realized that I didn’t have a passion for patient care. My interest in medicine was purely academic.”

Another factor in Sillman’s decision was going to the Naval Academy Ball held at Immaculata during her freshman year and meeting the man who was to become her husband. “By my junior year, my outlook on life was very different. When I graduated, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.”

What Sillman was sure of was where her deepest interests lay. “I minored in philosophy at IU, and took a medical ethics class that riveted me. This experience led me to pursue the bioethics master’s program at Case Western. I wasn’t sure where it was going to go, but it was very interesting to me and I felt it was where I was being called.”

Sillman earned a master’s degree in bioethics and married the man she met at IU; because he was in the Navy, she moved to where he was stationed at Norfolk, VA. “Luckily, there was a job available with the research ethics board at a medical school there, and I was able to apply my training,” she said. “Eventually I moved into a research administrative role and kept pushing along to the next step that made sense.”

When her husband got out of active service, they moved to Frederick, MD, where Sillman remained a consultant for EVMS and stayed home to raise their daughter, now 3. In the fall of 2011, Sillman found her newest job as a policy analyst with the communications firm, a position that allows her to balance the personal and the professional. Sillman welcomed her second child, a son, in May.

Of her current employer, Sillman shared that, “It’s a small, women-owned company, very close-knit, very understanding about the need to find that work/home balance. It’s a good fit because they do a lot of remote work, and it’s full of young women who need that kind of flexibility.”

Sillman eventually hopes to integrate her interest and education in the field of bioethics with the kind of work she is doing now. “The policy analysis is new to me, so I’m constantly learning new techniques and approaches,” she said. “But I would love to do policy analysis within the field of bioethics.”

“It’s my hope that the work I do will make a difference somewhere down the road,” she added, “even if it’s just one step toward addressing big problems.”

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