MD/PhD Students Participate in National Physician-Scientists Meeting

UConn MD/PhD students recently attended a national meeting for physician-scientists in Chicago. (Photo courtesy Feria Ladha)

By Feria Ladha and Maria Xu, UConn MD/PhD students and APSA Institutional Representatives

Sponsored by the Office of Physician-Scientist Career Development, seven UConn MD/PhD students recently attended the national meeting for physician-scientists, which was held in Chicago. This annual joint meeting brings together some of the nation’s most illustrious physician-scientists from the Association of American Physicians (AAP) and American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI), as well as early-career trainees from the American Physician-Scientists Association (APSA), to celebrate advances in science and medicine.

It was an incredible opportunity for the students to present their research, hear talks from leaders in their field, network, and attend mentoring events. Anthony Pettinato, a third-year MD/PhD student, said, “I had a great time presenting and getting feedback regarding my work, connecting with others in the medical field, and gained invaluable insight into the research being conducted throughout the country by fellow students.”

This year, the meeting focused on aging, human genetics, and health longevity, with researchers and clinical investigators providing insights into their basic and clinical research. Students had the opportunity to listen to talks ranging from neurodegeneration to aging in the clinic. Michael Chung, a fourth-year MD/PhD student, said, “These talks really helped put my research, which involves neurology and human genetics, into a translational and clinical perspective. It’s great to see how innovative investigators can bring basic science research to the forefront of clinical care.”

There were also numerous mentoring sessions, where students had the opportunity to receive beneficial career advice directly from residency directors and established investigators. Jennifer Chung, a third-year MD/PhD student, said, “The mentoring events were extremely helpful, as they provided firsthand information from residency directors that you wouldn’t have the opportunity to hear elsewhere.” These sessions were multidisciplinary, enabling students to gather information regarding different specialties via the unique perspectives provided by physician-scientists of varying career backgrounds. Timofey Karginov, a first-year MD/PhD student, said, “Meeting residency directors and professors at other institutions allowed me to get a better idea of the steps I could be taking early on in my time as an MD/PhD in order to support my interests and my career goals.”

In addition to APSA-sponsored events, all seven UConn MD/PhD students attended the annual ASCI dinner and new member induction ceremony with Andrew Arnold, MD, an ASCI/AAP member and director of the UConn Office of Physician-Scientist Career Development. This prestigious dinner recognized the novel scientific contributions of new ASCI inductees, and attendees heard powerful career advice and perspective from George Q. Daley, MD, PhD, dean of Harvard Medical School and a renowned stem cell and cancer biology expert.  Dr. Arnold noted that “exposing our aspiring physician-scientists to the Joint Meeting’s diverse array of role models and exciting clinically-relevant science has long been a major priority for our office and the UConn School of Medicine, and the continuous enthusiasm and participation from our students makes it all worthwhile.”

This year’s meeting was also notable as being the final one for Alexander Adami as a student, as he is nearing the end of his eighth and final year in the UConn MD/PhD program, after which he will begin an internal medicine residency at the University of Washington. Alex served as the national APSA President and played a crucial role in organizing these meetings. He has been an incredible liaison for UConn students to APSA and he will be greatly missed.

Whatever the stage of training, MD/PhD students all derived inspiration and excitement from their interactions at the Joint Meeting and look forward to returning.