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ROTC alumna Molly Klote (’88) recognized as a top military physician
By Brandi Mooring ('12M)
JMU ROTC alumna Lt. Col. Mary “Molly” McNerney Klote (’88) is a recipient of the 2010 Military Health System Building Stronger Female Physician Leaders award, which recognizes the military’s top female physicians.
The glass ceiling for female physicians in the military may have shattered years ago. Always focusing on the mission, the military uses the best person to get the job done, regardless of gender. Female physicians have made such significant contributions in the military that now they have their own award.
In 2009, the Military Health System created the Building Stronger Female Physician Leaders to recognize the military‘s top female physicians. The 2010 class of six recipients includes Lt. Col. Mary “Molly’ McNerney Klote (’88), recognized for her extensive work in biomedical research oversight and for her positive role as a female medical practitioner. Committed to her passion of the expansion of knowledge in the medical field, Klote currently serves as director for the Clinical Investigation Regulatory Office, part of the Office of Research Protections, USA Medical Research and Materiel Command at Fort Detrick, Md. Her clinical work is done at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. She is also an assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics at Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Md.
A computer information systems major at JMU, Klote’s impressive list of accomplishments includes a dual board certification in internal medicine and allergy immunology. She is a Fellow of the American College of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. Her research background has focused on tuberculosis in the immuno-compromised and vaccine research with anthrax, smallpox and influenza. She has twice been named a finalist for the Bailey K. Ashford Award, Walter Reed‘s research competition.
“The medical field is a commitment, a lifelong commitment to learning and teaching,” says Klote, a JMU ROTC alumna. “Research is an equal commitment. Every study you do may answer the question you go after, but it may raise other questions. Then you have to ask why and what are the implications? You have to keep asking the questions, and you have to have the fortitude to go after the answers.”
Klote believes being in the medical field comes down to leading a life of service. “You cannot be a doctor unless you love people,” she says. “There is no question, the idea of service is around us - you are an advocate for your patients.”
Klote‘s inspiration to lead a life dedicated to service originated from her own family. Her childhood experience as an ’Army brat‘ led her to pursue her own military career in military intelligence and eventually attend the School of Medicine, Uniformed Services University. “I was brought up in a military family, and my dad was always happy because he loved being in the Army,” she says. “The idea of service extends not only to serving your country but service to your patients.”
Klote did not take the conventional route to becoming a medical doctor - she carved her own pathway creating her own opportunities along the way. “One of the hardest decisions I had to make was leaving the Army intelligence corps to apply to medical school - it was a leap of faith and a big life gamble,” says Klote. “I knew if I really put my mind and all my energies into it I could make it. I couldn‘t imagine not making it.”
Reflecting on her own military career, she adds, “Had I not been in the Army I don‘t think I would ever have had the opportunity to be a department chief at this point in my life. There is always a new opportunity to pursue or a higher level of authority to assume in the Army.” Before entering medical school she says, “I was glad that I had that five years of life experience, it made me a more well-rounded military doctor, helping me understand the operational side of the Army. Prior service in active duty provided me with leadership roles, which later made me more confident in my relationship with patients and peers.”
Klote also found the love of her life - Jim - at medical school. “I got married at the end of medical school and then priorities changes when we had our first child. My children are probably the reason I am an allergist immunologist and not an intensive care doctor as I had planned.”
Her interest in immunology led to her vaccine research for the Army as a staff allergist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. “Understanding how to get a research project off the ground and through the research review process led me to apply to the clinical investigation department,” Klote says. “Helping others to get their research approved and done became my new passion. It was a real opportunity to teach others. I started doing education programs and outreach to get help get their research started.”
While she has been assigned to the Medical Research Materiel Command‘s Office of Research Protections Klote has made positive changes in the Clinical Investigation Regulatory Office. She has worked to streamline the protocol review process through an electronic protocol management system for the whole Army medical department. “It helps to account for and route everything and improves the time it takes to get research approved and to clear publications for public release.”
To balance the demands as a physician and research regulator with the roles of wife and mother of three, Klote uses the support system learned from her parents. “The key to balancing family and career is being flexible and supportive of each other in times of stress. My husband was there for the family when I went to Iraq. Experiences like that can strengthen your respect for each other and your commitment to each other.”
Klote adds, “If you want a career in medicine, you have to enjoy getting to know others. You can learn something from everyone you meet - every leader, male or female, you can learn from his or her style. And for every patient you have to imagine they are your brother, sister, or your parent. You have to take care of them like they are your own family. That advice has stayed with me my whole career and has helped me to keep on caring, even when exhausted.”