Cabot woman finds inspiration in helping others

Published February 9, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Dr. Mariann Harrington of Cabot is a medical oncologist and the lab director for CARTI in Little Rock. She is also the treasurer and co-owner of H&P Ranch in Cabot, one of the largest American Quarter Horse breeding and training ranches of Western Pleasure horses in the nation.

A day at work for Dr. Mariann Harrington of Cabot is anything but a 9-to-5 job. She is a medical oncologist and the lab director for CARTI in Little Rock.

“I get up at 4 a.m., I leave the house about 5:30, and I drive to Little Rock and do rounds in the different hospitals and start at my office at about 9 a.m.,” Harrington said. “I see patients [in the office] until I finish, usually around 5:30 or 6 p.m., then do paper work, go back to the hospital if I have to and then come home. I’ll get home between 7:30 and 10 p.m.”

She was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and spent her first four years there. Her father’s job with Mobil Oil Co. then took Harrington and her family to Abilene, Texas.

“I was there until I was in high school, and then we moved to Little Rock in the middle of my 10th-grade year,” Harrington said.

She finished high school, then made her way to college at the University of Texas at Austin.

“After a couple of years of not knowing what I wanted to do, I went to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville because my parents were Arkansas residents, and [they] graduated from Fayetteville,” Harrington said.

She graduated from the U of A with a degree in zoology but didn’t know what she was going to do with it.

“When I got my degree, I really liked biology and chemistry,” Harrington said. “My brother, who is a dentist, said I should do something medical, and he took me over to the lab at UAMS.”

Harrington said her family’s neighbor worked as the lab director at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock and showed her the research lab and what a medical technologist did.

“I got a little taste of [working in a lab], and I did a preceptor shift [in oncology] and decided that was what I wanted to do,” she said. “We don’t have any M.D.s in the family, and I didn’t really know what I was getting into. I liked working with people, and I liked the biology. [I thought] ‘What better way to mix the two?’”

She then spent four years at the UAMS College of Medicine and received a Doctor of Medicine degree in 1980.

“[After my M.D.], I did three years of an internal-medicine residency and then three more years in a hematology/oncology fellowship. I was 31 years old when I finally got out into a private practice,” Harrington said.

She started out practicing internal medicine in Benton.

“I was a blood and cancer specialist, so I brought a little extra to the table and practiced [in Benton] for three years,” she said. “I moved back up to Little Rock and joined Little Rock Hematology/Oncology Associates [in 1989] and just practiced my blood and cancer specialty.”

Harrington has been working in Little Rock ever since and has found a passion for what she does.

“I really like internal medicine because it’s about the entire body,” she said. “It’s adult medicine, and in hematology and oncology, you have to know everything you can possibly know. It’s the cutting edge of medicine, and it changes all the time.”

She started working for CARTI (the Central Arkansas Radiation Therapy Institute) two years ago, and along with her duties as a cancer doctor, Harrington also serves as the lab director for CARTI.

“As the lab director, in our lab, we draw blood and we run all kinds of tests, so we have different machines,” she said. “We make sure we are meeting the guidelines and make sure our lab is as accurate as it can possibly be. We make a lot of decisions based upon the blood-work results, [such as] treatment options.”

Harrington said she makes sure the lab is certified and meets state and federal standards.

Working with cancer patients can sometimes be emotionally draining, Harrington said, but she has seen medicine change through the years, and with recent medical advancements, she is now able to offer a ray of hope to patients more often.

“By the time patients come see me, they pretty much know that they have a malignancy, and nowadays, most of the time, we have therapy to offer,” she said, “but when I first started, we didn’t always have therapy to offer. We’re able to offer hope.”

One thing never gets old at Harrington’s day job.

“I love it when you can tell somebody they’re in remission,” she said.

After a long day at the clinic or hospital, Harrington has a way to unwind — right in her own backyard. She’s co-owner and treasurer of H&P Ranch with her husband, Joe Prause.

“Since I grew up in west Texas, I’ve always loved horses,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to live on a ranch, but I grew up in the city. It wasn’t until I married Joe that he kind of helped my dream come true. He made it happen.”

In 2000, she and her husband purchased 90 acres in Cabot to build a horse farm, and have gradually built on the property through the years.

“We didn’t move [out to Cabot] until about 2006, and we lived in the barn then. We have a two-bedroom, one-bath apartment in the barn, and we lived there until September 2013,” Harrington said.

There, she and her husband raise American Quarter Horses and breed them on-site.

“We have about 50 horses — they’re mostly broodmares and babies,” she said. “We also have a string of show horses.”

At the ranch, Harrington and her husband get to see colts born almost every winter.

“This is the height of birthing season,” Harrington said. “This year we are expecting 14 babies, and that’s plenty. Last year, we had 18.”

Harrington competes in the American Quarter Horse Association World Championship Show and has a goal of winning the championship in the Western Pleasure division.

“I’ve been trying for about 15 years,” she said. “I’ve gotten into the top 15 twice now. You only get one shot a year at [the championship].”

Harrington will keep trying to achieve that goal. Her interests — competing with and caring for her horses, and pursuing her career at CARTI — are her passions. Although it means that her workday never truly ends, Harrington will continue to make a difference and offer a ray of hope to patients whenever she can.

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