Athena (Kantarjis ’07) Petrides

Athena Petrides, Ph.d.

"I Stepped Forward."

Athena (Kantarjis ’07) Petrides, Ph.D.

Instructor of Pathology, Harvard Medical School

Athena Petrides wears many hats in clinical chemistry, including managing, diagnosing, teaching, collaborating and researching with healthcare professionals. And Athena says that the guidance she received during her time at Geneva College enabled her to pursue her goals and find her calling.

Although she was born in the United States, Athena relocated to the Republic of Cyprus at around age 7. In matters of religion, Cypriot Greek culture is dominated by Greek Orthodoxy. But its Greek Orthodoxy differs much from Greek Orthodoxy in America. “Being able to talk to people about God and even praying before you eat a meal— I know this sounds weird—but that’s not really done in Cyprus,” she says.

Due to these types of experiences, Athena was intrigued by the idea of attending a Christian college in the U.S. “I wanted a Christian perspective and worldview, especially while learning science and biology.” And a balanced, Christ-centered education is how Athena describes a Geneva education; something for which she is extremely grateful. “I appreciated the fact that in every class, they presented a secular view, as well as the Christian view,” she says. “It is nice to have learned tools to defend my faith and be able to give my opinion confidently.”

Upon arriving at Geneva, Athena soon became involved in the International Student Organization, where she worked closely with Crossroads staff members. “As an international student I became very close to them,” she says. “I didn’t have family here, and they opened up their houses to me.”

Relationships with classmates also made a major impact on Athena during her time at Geneva. “It’s funny, you come to Geneva not knowing anyone, yet in your freshman year you form bonds that will carry through your whole life,” she says. “I formed really strong friendships—especially with my roommates.”

Athena earned a B.S. in Biology at Geneva, and then went on to complete a Ph.D. in Biochemistry at the University of Rochester and a Clinical Chemistry Postdoctoral Fellowship at The John Hopkins University School of Medicine. Following her fellowship, Athena was hired onto the faculty at Harvard Medical School as an instructor of pathology. In addition, she is the Assistant Medical Director of Chemistry / Director of Toxicology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Athena had decided early in her education to pursue graduate school and a medical career. But she soon realized that she also desired to make a positive contribution to the lives of others through her job. “During my Ph.D. studies I liked research, but I didn’t feel connected to current science or what was making a difference right now,” she said.

She has found that there are numerous ways that she is able to have an impact on others in her work: “When I see a patient getting better, when I’ve made the life of a physician easier, when we develop a work flow in the lab that the employees like, all of it matters and impacts everyone around you.”

Athena’s devotion to her job is drawn from her desire to contribute to society and help those in need. “People spend a lot of time and money to understand and resolve their symptoms,” she says. “I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to serve and contribute to society by improving the process of testing interpretation and accuracy. I believe this aims to improve not only the physical but also the mental and spiritual aspect of one’s life.”

-Jessica Driscoll ’14