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Distinguished Medical Scholar Researcher

Distinguished Medical Scholar Researchers

Campus: Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas, TX
Research Area: Pediatrics Orthopaedics
Fellowship: Poggi Pediatrics Orthopaedics Research Fellow, Johns Hopkins Medicine

Testimonial: Before starting medical school, I had no real concept of what I wanted my future in medicine to look like. I am the first physician in my family so there was no real introduction into medicine or guiding hand to push me one way or another as is so common among medical students. During my first year of medical school I listened to a grand rounds by an MD/PhD and it resonated very strongly with me. That very same day I began looking into research opportunities that were available to medical students. Most of the searching revolved around combing through forums, google searches, reading literature posted by the NIH and other medical school programs. I made notes on programs, researchers, projects, etc on things that interested me. I sent out hundreds of emails to programs or directly to researchers asking about availability, applications, funding, and the like.

I received several positive responses from people, offers to help find funding, offers to have open positions if I could find my own funding, and just encouraging responses to keep looking. I took phone interviews with a handful of people and even flew to Chicago to interview with two labs. My third year also brought some elective time so I did a research elective at UTSW in a surgical oncology lab, which I really enjoyed and felt that I would like to pursue. I applied to the HHMI MSRP through his lab, which is a very extensive application. While I was waiting to hear back from this, I decided to reach out to a few more programs.

My year out was an excellent opportunity for me. It gave me the ability to solidify my desire to pursue academic medicine but also exposed me to the harsh realities that this would entail compared to private practice. I was able to see patients in clinic every week, many of whom had rare diagnoses that would be unlikely to be encountered elsewhere. I was also able to go to the operating room (OR) every week and see cases by leading surgeons in the country. All of this was done in tandem with trying to produce research, which proved to be both stressful and rewarding. I was also able to network with many leaders in the field of orthopedics at various conferences and research functions. All-in-all, the benefits I was able to glean from the year went far beyond just doing research and I believe have changed the trajectory of my career. I have a better understanding of what a future in academic medicine would look like as well as steps I can take to get there. Now I’m certain that this is what I want to do and I am still looking for opportunities for future endeavors.

I think that year-out programs offer a great benefit to those in similar situations as myself, having a strong initial desire to be in academic medicine but little guidance on the best way to reach this goal. I do not, however, feel that this choice would be for everyone. It is a difficult year that can be discouraging and burdensome at times. I would say that the onus falls on the individual to research opportunities and really ensure that this would be an intelligent decision for the individual. If that is the case, I would encourage the individual to be tenacious in searching. Apply as broadly as makes sense for you. Don’t waste time applying to things that you are not interested in but keep an open mind and learn as much as you can. Meet as many people as you can try and network because when looking at a hypothetical curve of merit vs. connections, there is an inflection point in where who you know becomes just as important as what you’ve done. The best piece of advice I can say is cast a wide net. I have applied to anything I’ve seen that I’ve been interested in. This takes a lot of time and I have had an enormous amount of disappointment and rejection but I’ve also been more fortunate than I deserve secondary solely to persistence, being proactive, and being respectful.

Campus: Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas, TX
Research Area: Urology
Fellowship: Leadership & Innovation Fellowship Training Program, University of California, Irvine