When Margery Moogk graduated with a degree in molecular biology, she never guessed where her career path would eventually lead. Moogk is now the...

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When Margery Moogk graduated with a degree in molecular biology, she never guessed where her career path would eventually lead.

Moogk is now the director of the nonprofit Northwest Tissue Center — and while it’s a far cry from her early work as a lab tech, Moogk says her scientific background has served her well in her current role.

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“Having a technical background has given me confidence to direct the decisions made by the center, especially in terms of safety and the standards that we use. On top of that, it gives me added credibility in working with the medical community.”

The Northwest Tissue Center, a department of the Puget Sound Blood Center, has a mission to provide high-quality human tissue — including bone, tendons, skin grafts and heart valves — for transplant to patients throughout the Northwest.

As director, part of Moogk’s role is to set the safety standards used by the center, located in a six-story building on First Hill overlooking downtown and Elliott Bay.

The American Association of Tissue Banks sets the standards required for accreditation, but in some areas the center holds itself to even more rigorous requirements, Moogk says.

Not all tissue banks are accredited, Moogk says, and standards can vary widely. Moogk spends much of her time working with other transplant organizations as well as the Food and Drug Administration, pushing for stricter standards and helping to guide the development of appropriate regulations.

Some of those efforts involve travel — Moogk attends regional and national conferences an average of eight times per year, and is often a speaker at those events. No matter whether she’s on the road or in her office, Moogk regularly interacts with a mix of professionals from scientific, medical and managerial backgrounds.

She also supervises 50-plus employees, and notes that a key factor to her success has been an ability to hire good people and then step back and let them work.

SCOTT COHEN / SPECIAL TO THE SEATTLE TIMES

Margery Moogk talks with the Northwest Tissue Center’s product services coordinator, Jeff Routh. At left, Scott Bevans sizes X-rays. The pluses of working at the center can outweigh the nonprofit’s lower pay, Moogk said.

“I like to give my folks a lot of space, and to mentor them in growing personally and professionally.”

At the same time, Moogk acknowledges that a clear direction is important and that setting it is part of her job.

“There have to be strong strategic goals in place,” says Moogk, “and people have to be accountable for reaching them. Then as you go along, the goals need to be tweaked and adjustments made.”

When asked about the rewards of her job, Moogk, who has been the Northwest Tissue Center director for about 12 years, has no trouble rattling off several. “I love my staff,” she says.

“I love that I still have a close connection to science, and that new techniques are being put into place that improve the ability to transplant tissue. I enjoy being involved in improving the quality and standards used. And I love that the work we do here makes a real difference in the lives of the people we serve.”

Each year, she notes, the Northwest Tissue Center helps an estimated 10,000 patients to regain mobility, avoid amputations, recover from burns, and more.

The challenges? Nonprofits tend to be conservative in terms of taking risks, says Moogk, because of their obligation to the community’s safety.

And while they try to be competitive with wages, as nonprofits they’re not able to match the highest-paying jobs.

Still, she says, “given all of the pluses to working here, a lot of folks who could go somewhere else choose to stay here.”

And that, ironically, might present a challenge to those aspiring to a similar career. With the center’s relatively low turnover rate, a quick rise through the ranks could be unlikely.

Still, Moogk notes that even as a woman in a sometimes male-dominated field, the doors of opportunity have been wide open to her.

In fact, she sees her own career path as evidence of the broad range of options available to the scientifically schooled.

“Even if you start life with a degree in a technical arena,” she says, “you might find that you best serve the profession in a supervisory or managerial role. You won’t necessarily spend your whole career standing in a lab.”