After Mark Gacki, 27, finished his graduate education in biomedical engineering at the University of Southern California he began working in a lab studying and analyzing the inside of arteries. He did so with optical coherence tomography, known as OCT, that allows cardiologists to see into clogged arteries and decide how to best repair the damage. In 2016, he transitioned from doing research and now teaches health care professionals in New York hospitals how to use OCT devices manufactured by his employer, Abbott. Gacki is also an improv comedian and avid volleyball player.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR JOB TO SOMEONE YOU JUST MET?
The title of my job is a senior clinical specialist. I go in and teach the physicians and staff at different hospitals how to use a lot of the devices that we sell and develop and help support them day to day. … They’ll send me out to whatever hospital I’m needed at. It changes a lot, like every week.
HOW DID THREE AND A HALF YEARS OF WORK IN RESEARCH PREPARE YOU FOR THIS JOB?
I fell into this job because Abbott is the only company that makes optical coherence tomography, OCT, which is one of the imaging modalities that I worked with a lot. I would see a ton of these images. It made me kind of a niche expert in an imaging field that’s not too popular.
HOW DO YOU LIKE HAVING A DIFFERENT OFFICE EVERY DAY?
Some days it feels like you have no base and you have no place to be an introvert and get away from everyone to just do work or whatever. You’re nomadically moving around. On the other side of it, I’ve had the office job, too, where it’s just the same thing every day. It gets mundane and then boring. There are good things and bad things.
WERE YOU ALWAYS A “SCIENCE KID” GROWING UP?
I liked the formality of “No, this is right, this is wrong.” I found that I like the problem solving and figuring it out eventually. That appeals to me. That’s maybe why I got into the sciences. I was just always kind of a science nerd.
HOW WAS THE TRANSITION TO WORKING IN HOSPITALS AFTER WORKING IN RESEARCH LABS?
It was super weird at first. I was very out of my element. Because everyone is there, doing their own thing. They have their own little set system and you’re just a visitor in their lab and you feel like you’re just intruding on their space a little bit, even though you’re trying to help. … You have to learn how to cater to every single person and just the social dynamics of everything. … You just have to be super patient with people.
WHAT IS CHALLENGING ABOUT YOUR JOB?
Lots of times, you’re just coming in and they’ve already been on an overnight shift. They don’t feel like learning.
WHAT DO YOUR COWORKERS THINK WHEN THEY FIND OUT YOU ARE ALSO AN IMPROV COMEDIAN?
They’re like, “Really, you do improv? But you’re so serious?” That’s ’cause like, it wouldn’t be appropriate, being really goofy right now, it’s a hospital.
(Header photo by James Baker via Flickr)