Researcher: Dr. Aimee Layton
Category: Rare Genetic Disorders
Education: Dr. Layton received her bachelor’s degree in exercise science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst before heading to New York City and Columbia University where she received a masters degree in applied physiology and her PhD in Kinesiology.
Research: Layton summarizes, “My research focuses on lung disease and how we can use exercise to improve patient outcomes and predict how a person with lung disease will respond to certain interventions, such as a lung transplant. I also research how the mechanics of breathing can be impacted by disease and how the environment (such as pollution) impacts how our lungs work.”
In Their Words: “When I was an undergraduate in college I interned at a pediatric exercise lab at Columbia University Medical Center. I had always wanted to work with athletes but this experience opened my eyes to how my work could impact people with chronic diseases. The exercise physiologist who ran the laboratory, Dr. Bob Garofano, was so passionate about his work, it inspired me to come to New York City for graduate school to work with him.” – Dr. Aimee Layton
Dr. Layton, a native of New Jersey who recently had her second child, recalls with stark clarity the phone call to her friend and mentor Dr. Garofano after taking her first job in a lab.
She was standing on the porch outside her apartment in Amherst, Massachusetts on the phone telling Dr. Garofano how much she missed people and hated working in a biomechanics lab of an athletic footwear company.
The bottom line for Dr. Layton, if she was going to be in a lab she needed to be working to try and help people directly.
“I really missed working with patients. I called Bob (Dr. Garofano) and told him I was in the wrong sector of life, that I didn’t want to be in industry and that I missed people so much,” said. Dr. Layton, who grew up playing sports and is part of a competitive cycling team that competes in road racing and cycle cross. “Bob asked me if I wanted a relationship with a product or a person? I knew I wanted to be in a lab, but I learned it also had to be with people.”
Dr. Layton was applying to graduate schools at the same time she had her moment of clarity, and she had already received a full graduate scholarship offer from UMass. Dr. Garofano told her if she loved people come to New York and go to graduate school at Columbia University and work in his lab helping people. He would help make sure to do everything he could to help.
The easy and safe decision was to take the full scholarship at UMass. Dr. Layton went to New York City and Columbia, instead.
I started as an intern with (Dr. Garofano) when I was a sophomore in college. I loved it so much I went back every year without getting paid or any credit cause I loved it so much. He was so inspiring and I loved the people,” Dr. Layton said. “So I went to Columbia and I did temp jobs and managed. What stayed with me was Bob kept his word to me. He told me to come and would make it work out and he did.”
“We all love working with people and also love the lab. To change even one person’s life, even just a little, making it a little easier to go up the stairs, for example, is such a great impact. That’s what inspires us.”