Employee of the Month – Mandy Murphy Carroll

February 2018, PCOR (Primary Care and Outcomes Research)

Mandy Murphy Carroll, MPH, RD, is “the glue that holds the CHIVES project together,” according to her friend and colleague Carrie McKinley.  As a Research Study Coordinator for the Stanford Prevention Research Center, she’s currently in charge of the CHIVES Project, which is a research study looking at the impact that different kinds of food vouchers have on participants’ health and nutrition. And her teammates, including supervisor Sanjay Basu, MD, assistant professor of medicine, “think the world of her.”

Challenging work

Mandy’s day to day work varies. As she puts it, “my role changes throughout the course of the study, based on what phase we are in. We ended recruitment last fall with 359 study participants, and are currently in the follow-up phase. Now I support the diet assessor team, act as the main contact for study participants, and manage the flow and execution of the various study elements. Every day is different, which I really enjoy!”

Her upbeat attitude is praised by many colleagues, especially during a trial as difficult as CHIVES. Basu in particular cites Mandy’s “poise and patience” through the randomized trial process. “She’s coordinated the placement of a field office in San Francisco and worked with a very low-income population on a difficult project. She’s faced clients who have wide ranges of challenges from mental illness to complex job timings, and she’s supervised our study staff with an air of professionalism that exceeds all expectations.  I’m happy to talk about her wonderful work,” he says.

Elizabeth Zanley, RD, diet assessment nutritionist, agrees that Mandy makes difficult work look easy: “Mandy never loses sight of the CHIVES project’s lofty goal; to improve food security and decrease health disparities in San Francisco. Despite the challenges inherent in this research, the CHIVES Project is thriving because of Mandy’s success partnering with the communities in which we work and addressing the participants with compassion and thoughtfulness. As a team leader, Mandy is creative in her problem solving and perpetually positive, which helps us all stay motivated toward these goals!”

Even during maternity leave, McKinley explains, Mandy left no stone unturned. “Before Mandy left, she constructed an incredibly detailed guide for each member of our team.  She forgot nothing!  Getting through those few months without our coordinator should have been difficult, but even in her absence, Mandy provided the leadership and structure that we all needed to stay on top of our work without any confusion or second-guessing.”

An asset to any team

Christopher Gardner, PhD, professor of medicine, echoes all this praise, adding that Mandy joined their team in the middle of a research trial and still managed to make her mark without ruffling any feathers. “You’d think the new kid on the block might take things a bit slowly,” he says. “But Mandy leaped in with both feet. She took several aspects of the diet intervention and modified or streamlined them. And she did this with an incredible knack for not offending anyone who had come before her.”

He also describes Mandy as “rock solid” and “very grounded,” both essential qualities for the work she does in research studies. “Regardless of what would happen in the study, Mandy would always take everything in stride, and simply find whatever had gone wrong or that might be done better, and she just got to it,” he says.

To sum up, he concludes, “If you were choosing research colleagues the way kids pick teammates for kickball games, you’d be competing with others to get Mandy on your team as one of your first picks.”

The cherry on top

But Mandy isn’t just known for her competence and leadership. Her other stellar quality (what Gardner refers to as “the cherry on top”) is her warm personality. “Mandy is simply an extraordinarily kind and upbeat person to be around. All boats rise in Mandy’s presence,” he says. McKinley describes her as “merry” and “truly a joy to work with” and Basu says she’s “fun to be around.”

She’s been at Stanford for four years. She started part-time as a health educator with SPRC’s Nutrition Studies Group under Gardner and Jennifer Robinson right before finishing her Masters in Public Health at UC Berkeley. Before that, she worked as a dietitian for the County of Marin’s prenatal and WIC clinics, mostly counseling pregnant and postpartum women on how to build sustainable healthy habits for themselves and their growing families.

At that position, she started a daily lunchtime walking group called “Paso por Paso” for moms and coworkers, and a postpartum wellness group “Un Comienzo Nuevo.” As she puts it, “It was this series of postpartum wellness groups that ultimately led me back to graduate school. I saw that moms were in need of more support in the year after giving birth, and I went back to graduate school to learn more about social programs, and how to grow and scale public health programs.” She adds, “While my focus has somewhat shifted since then, I am very happy to work in research now, especially on projects that will hopefully go on to make a social impact!”

She loves working at Stanford, and calls the people “the best part.” “Everyone is so inspiring to work with,” she says. “I’ve been lucky enough to have great mentors and colleagues.”

And outside of work, she’s just as active. She loves the outdoors—walking, biking, hiking, and she also starts groups in her free time. “Last year, my husband and I started a “Souper Thursday” group, which is a standing open invitation for friends and friends of friends every Thursday,” she says. “So, far we’ve hosted over 100 people at these soup dinners! It’s been a lot of fun with great conversation and lots of ‘sobremesa.’”