WINNING WORD: Antipyretic
DEFINITION: Anything that reduces fever
Now a neonatology fellow at the University of Chicago, Lagatta says, "I guess it would be a little bit weird to list spelling bee champ at age 13 on a resume for a doctor." But she mentions volunteer work judging spelling bees. "When I interviewed for my pediatrics residency [in Chicagao], this was the only place someone asked me directly about it, one of the attending physicians who was interviewing me. That was an interesting conversation, and now I work here."
She's part of a close-knit group of doctors. "Once one person found out, a lot of people found out. I rank right up there with my coworker who was a collegiate national figure skater."
At the University of Wisconsin, a freshman chemistry professor recognized her name. "I know you won, and I know what good things you're capable of," he told her. He stared at her, and she was intimidated. "I didn't have a terribly strong chemistry background." But she managed to pull a good grade.
Her trophy still sits on the piano in her parents' living room. She remembers "three great family vacations" because she went to the national bee twice and her brother once. She remembers the advice of the Wisconsin State Spelling Bee director, "Go and enjoy visiting our nation's capital. Enjoy meeting other teenagers. See the sights. Enjoy the competition. Don't worry about it. Do your best and be proud of what you've done." She adds, "I never thought I'd make it that far and was surprised to find myself still standing when it was over."
Today she puts her "ambitious but calm personality" to work in other directions, sometimes horizontally, sometimes vertically. She runs marathons and small triathlons and up buildings. She runs up 103 floors of the Sears Tower "Urban Climb for Cancer" and 94 floors of the "Hustle Up the Hancock." At this year's Pediatric Academic Societies' Annual Meeting in Toronto, she helped present Unfogging the Future: Can We Foresee the Ultimate Outcome of NICU Patients in the First Few Days of Life?
"I'm obviously proud of my educational accomplishments, and I'm getting married in September," she says. (Her future husband learned about her past before they even started dating. "He'd gone to a friend's wedding where someone outed me.") Still, winning the bee was "a unique life highlight. It's a unique feeling." She recalls happily, "There was a parade when I got home." By Rita Healy
Next 1992: AMANDA GOAD