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When Work Gets Too Personal: A Pathologist Watches Her Dad Die From Cancer

Julie Randolph-Habecker
Julie Randolph-Habecker with her dad, Woody Randolph (far left) and the rest of the Randolph family on a vacation to the Galapagos Islands in 1991. Woody Randolph had his entire family wear Charles Darwin t-shirts on the trip.

Julie Randolph-Habecker followed her father's footsteps into the field of science. He was a pathologist, diagnosing patients from behind the microscope. She became a research pathologist, exploring what was behind the disease. However, when her dad fell ill with lung cancer, that meant understanding too much about what was killing him.

Julie remembers looking through a microscope at her father's cancer cells. "Everywhere I looked there were cancer cells. And they all looked bizarre and evil. I knew immediately when I looked at that slide, it was horrible."

Today, Julie is the director of experimental histopathology at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Since her dad died, Julie has studied the type of tumor that made him sick. Gabriel Spitzer talks with Julie about the experience of losing her father and how it affected her career in science.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.
Sound Effect producer Allie Ferguson has been making radio for nearly 5 years. She got her start at KUOW and has since traveled the country working for national news shows including WNYC's The Takeaway and NPR's Weekend All Things Considered. Allie won a 2016 Gracie Award, which celebrates women in media, for her work at KUOW. She enjoys telling surprising stories about passionate people.