Mindfulness in a Toxicologist’s work; where productivity, creativity, and compassion happen

While brushing my teeth, that unrelenting cerebral list of tasks creeps up from the depth of my unconscious mind, brighter and bolder. My focal awareness inevitably shifts from my teeth to my workday. It narrates to me, telling me to email the Research Associate to confirm the time of dosing, reminding me to issue the memo describing the animal replicates, and inviting me to recall what’s left to pen for that report. I reply to myself that I will jot these down as soon as I get to the office.

The initial paces in each day are part of a ritual. I set my intentions for the day during the 5-minute coffee preparation time. No interruptions or disruptions during this commanding step. The dose makes the poison; one cup in the morning and one in the afternoon is the perfect amount to remain within the hormetic zone (too little will welcome sleepiness, too much will stimulate inner commotion). With the warm coffee gently flowing through me, awakening my brain and senses, I’m ready to go, full-steam ahead, with no pause button or off-switch.

The vocation of being a Toxicologist is encrypted in us; study plans, SOPs, regulations, and schedules are the amino acids in our DNA backbone. I use the word “passion” judiciously, but the Toxicologist mode is continuously switched on. The role fits the person or simply does not; either you crave the pleasantries and afflictions of the Toxicologist portrait or are averted. It is analogous to actors, when they become the character they portray with such harmony and perfection, almost though it were an innate process.

As the caffeine is coursing and the laptop is waking up, I analyze the list and set the priorities, check emails, add a few more items to the list, and respond to the emails requesting urgent replies. 

I sift through the folders dressing my desk and form Now and Later piles. The Now set holds formulation preparation requisitions, signature pages for a report shipping, memos with activities dependent on my impending signature; all which must be carefully verified (the formulation preparation calculations checked twice), authorised, and promptly returned so the study can be breathed into life. The Later pile—mostly innocuous documents—will be tended to with the company of Cup No. 2.

Time to work on the report. What blood effects do these target organ disturbances correlate with? Do the activated cytokines relate to the anti-drug antibodies response? These notions, which form the nucleus of the report, always invigorate me; the time used for research to comprehend and appreciate the mechanisms of the test item are, ironically, somewhat meditative. My brain is bubbling with new information to be translated into the report. As I notate what I have gathered, my doorway is suited with a smiling technician presenting dosing worksheets that need my undivided attention. Signed and a step ahead!

Every day starts as a fresh canvas, but the blueprint of a Toxicologist’s fundamental considerations rest on the corners of the canvas, creeping out by the minute; the daily realization that although it is a new day with new challenges and things to learn, our Toxicologist core is an engraved force in us.

The days evolve this way. Composed of engaged moments of data reflection to adaptable moments of epinephrine-propelled responses to the quandaries, all which seek our full devotion to offer an impactful decision, producing unsurpassed scientific outcomes to suit the study’s objectives, while unequivocally protecting the animals’ well-being, is paramount.

The final 60-minute stretch for the day. A mix of sweet relief at the glass of Merlot that will soon appease my simmering mind, and the groaning realization that there were just a couple of more remaining hours. The minutes march on, tomorrow will be here in just a few winks.

Be in the moment. Be intentional. Be inspired. A good way to journey through each day.