Céline Richard, M.D., Ph.D.
The French Connection
"I wanted to come to House Research Institute to meet Dr. Linthicum and others who figured so prominently in the medical texts that I studied."
Early in her education Céline was a music student contemplating a career on the concert stage, until her success in pre-university tests redirected her interest toward medicine. As a medical student, she chose ear, nose and throat (ENT) as her specialty. "I love the diversity that ENT offers. There is such variety, from surgery to all of the elements of hearing and working with people of all ages," she stated.
In France, going to medical school and becoming an ENT is a very competitive effort. "In the first year there were over 700 students in the class. By the beginning of the second year there were only 61," she said. "I also wanted to become a PhD in neuroscience to understand the reasons why people lose their hearing, so that I could help them to restore or improve their hearing." Already an accomplished surgeon, Céline had performed several cochlear implantations as well as middle ear surgeries for cholesteatoma removal, and translabyrinthine and middle fossa surgical approaches for tumor removal, before coming to the Institute. Getting here wasn't so easy either. First she had to arrange to become a visiting doctor at the Institute. Then she needed to apply for and receive a grant in France that would finance her stay. These objectives were accomplished. Just as her travel plans were taking shape they had to be put on hold when Céline discovered that she was pregnant. Céline and her husband Arnaud met in graduate school. They are complementary in many ways: his work involves the algorithms that make cochlear implants function. But the timing of her pregnancy could not have been less convenient. She was just finishing her fellowship and her doctorate, and was working 100+ hours per week as a physician/ surgeon, until two weeks before son Hugo arrived last March. With a passport for the baby in hand, Céline and Hugo arrived in Los Angeles in June.
Céline has worked on several projects in the temporal bone laboratory. She began her research assignment with Dr. Joni Doherty working on DNA extraction to facilitate the study of hereditary ear abnormalities. Although she has worked mostly with the laboratory's human temporal bones, two of Céline's projects involve analyzing the temporal bones of guinea pigs. One study is to determine how injected substances disburse within the cochlea. The second study looked at the number of spiral ganglion cells present in the cochlea to see if they decrease in number as stereocilia (sensory cells) are lost. Additionally she is involved in clinical studies, one of which is exploring whether the number of spiral ganglion cells present in the human cochlea influences a person's performance as a cochlear implant user. Apparently it doesn't. "You need a good brain. It isn't only about the cochlea," Céline said.
The time remaining in her year with us is growing short. Soon Céline will be going home to assume her position as assistant professor. Though she was offered a good job in Paris that her fellow medical school graduates envied, she chose to return to her home area of Saint-Étienne, near Lyon. There she will help to develop the ENT branch belonging to the Inserm Bone Laboratory, a facility that shares the goals of the Temporal Bone Laboratory at House Research Institute. In addition to the challenging career she anticipates, the future demands of parenthood and family life also lie ahead. Given the capability Céline has exhibited thus far, this should be "un morceau de gâteau" – a piece of cake.
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