Amy PetersenAmy Swift Petersen has her hands full. While most of her 20-years-old Nuclear Medicine Technology classmates are living in the dorms with little responsibilities beyond school work, 40-year-old Petersen is juggling classes and three children under the age of five; Beck, Ren and Raina. Two of them adopted from China have some special needs.

“In this challenging economy, I realized that investing in my education to take my career from the academic/research track to a clinical application would be prudent to raising three children,” said Petersen.

Petersen had left the workforce to raise her kids. She graduated Cum Laude from UAB in 1995 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. She worked as a laboratory technician at Southern Biotechnology Associates and was responsible for monoclonal antibody production. She left the industry work to move back to the UAB Department of Microbiology as a lab technician to work with her mentor. She eventually became a research assistant in the Department of Radiation Biology.

“This was the impetus for my current interest in Nuclear Medicine,” said Petersen.

Day in and day out, she would watch radiation therapy patients go in for their treatments. She couldn’t help but feel compassion for the patients because she’s watched her mother endure 24 years of battling cancer, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

“I have held her hand through the bone marrow biopsies, the surgeries, the chemotherapy, the radiation therapy and the scans,” said Petersen. “As a curious technician and as a worried daughter, I have been repeatedly reminded of the invaluable information that lies in a well executed appropriate scan.” 

With Petersen needing to head back into the workforce, she realized she required a degree in Nuclear Medicine Technology if she wanted to pursue a career in diagnostic imaging or radiation therapy.  She said it hasn’t been easy, but thankfully has support.

“Surviving such a rigorous and demanding program while also meeting the constant demands of internationally adopted, low vision preschoolers has tested my limits,” said Petersen.  “I would not be succeeding without the help and support of friends and family as well as the inspiring and supportive faculty.”

Petersen plans to graduate in spring of 2013 and hopes to practice pediatric Nuclear Medicine at Children’s of Alabama.

In the meantime, Christmas came a little early for Petersen’s family. Her mother celebrated another tumor-free PET scan.