DALLAS—Like many ministers, Misty Shields received her calling when she was a teenager. In her case, she believed God called her to be a lung cancer researcher.
In her fourth year working cancer research at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Shields said her father’s struggles with lung cancer led her to the path she now follows.
“I was led to lung cancer research because I lost my father to lung cancer when I was 15 years old. So, I feel like this is my lifelong passion to give back to make sure some other girl has her father. Even if it is just one person, I think it will make a difference,” she said.
Her research involves deciphering how a particular cancer drug and cancer cells interrelate.
“I’m looking to find the gene that makes these cells tick. A large subset of patients doesn’t respond to this drug, so patients would have progressive disease. A large subset of patients also has an exquisite response—their tumors shrink, and for them, it’s a wonder drug,” Shields explained.
Shields discovered the cancer cell lines that respond well to the therapy have a common gene. Clinical trials are in the beginning phases.
Apart from the laboratory, her sense of calling also prompted her to sign up for the inaugural Dallas-area Free to Breathe lung cancer awareness 5K walk/run later this month.
While Shields has been a Christian many years, attention to her father’s illness delayed her baptism. She was baptized about a year ago at Brookhaven Baptist Church in Dallas. Even so, her faith always has played a crucial role in work.
“I think it could not stand on its own. I love working, because it brings me so intimately to God’s creation. I do believe in intelligent design. It’s so interesting to see how beautifully put together all this science is. It wasn’t by chance,” Shields said.
God’s imprint not only is on the science, but also her own heart, as well.
“I always pray for guidance. I pray for God’s will, and I pray for unbiased truths in my work. I pray for strength and direction and the knowledge to keep growing and being a good scientist,” she said.
“I feel like I speak to God all the time. I pray for good results—just everything. It’s there every day.”
That calling she felt so intently also is just as strong.
“I vividly remember going to the hospital with (my father). He fell sick when I was about 13. I remember seeing all the different doctors’ names on the walls,” she said. “I remember having goose bumps thinking: ‘This is what I was meant to do. This is how I can change other people’s lives.’”