Physician-scientists who complete the Tom and Anne Smith MD-PhD Program are well-equipped to understand the significance of scientific discoveries.
They can then move faster than many others to develop tests that determine whether the discoveries can be given safely to humans and provide effective treatments for patients. MD-PhD graduates also are better qualified to communicate with both clinical and laboratory researchers, and they are often better prepared to explain the importance of research to patients who could benefit from clinical trials. Physician-scientists, in general, are expected to become powerful new advocates for educating the public about the importance of translational research, as well as making translational research happen through their own efforts — and they do.
Meet the program graduates, and learn why they chose to become physician-scientists at MU.
Undergraduate Institution: University of Missouri
Long-term Goals: Clinical cardiology and research in cardiovascular disease
Currently: Assistant Professor of Medicine and Associate Director of Cardiac Rehabilitation at University of Missouri Health Care
"As the only Level I Trauma Center situated within a largely rural area, Mizzou uniquely combines the opportunities of a top-tier academic and research institution with an intensive rural medicine experience. As a Missouri resident, I am specifically interested in understanding and improving the health of Missourians. The patient-based learning curriculum here offers in-depth learning experiences on the host of diseases that afflict the residents of our state.
"I am intensely interested in science and discovery, but I also relish the physician-patient connection and helping people improve their health. An MD-PhD degree allows me to do both, with extensive study in basic science and clinical research. This dual integrative training allows me a wider range of career options and a deeper understanding of disease. Mizzou's MD-PhD program provides me with research and clinical experience in a multitude of diseases, especially heart disease where Missourians rank in the top 10 for incidence."
Kevin E. Fisher
Undergraduate Institution: Rice University
Long-term Goals: Academic pathology
Currently: Assistant Professor at Texas Children's Hospital
"I chose to train in an MD-PhD program to expand the frontiers of medicine. Scientific advancement in the field is due to the insightful and clever ideas by people with the tools to implement those ideas. Ultimately, the knowledge gained from training in both clinical and basic science arenas allows one to address the ever-changing questions in our medical landscape. I feel that I as I complete my training, I am able to go forward and expand the boundaries of medical treatment to offer better patient care.
"I chose to continue my training at the University of Missouri after my mentor, Dr. George E. Davis, professor in the departments of medical pharmacology and physiology and pathology, transferred his research laboratory to this campus. I would do it again in an instant. The resources, the training environment and the medical education I've received here are top quality. I will be proud to graduate from the University of Missouri with both my MD and my PhD."
Undergraduate Institution: St. Louis University
Long-term Goals: To practice academic medicine, devoting time to clinical practice in addition to medical research and education at an academic medical center.
Currently: A fellow at Washington University in St. Louis
"I chose MU for its excellent reputation, USMLE scores and residency options; research opportunities; curriculum; location; and reasonable tuition. I chose the MD-PhD program here because I'm interested in academic medicine and all of the opportunities if affords in terms of improving research, teaching, manuscript and grant-writing skills."
Undergraduate Institution: University of Texas at Austin
Long-term Goals: To continue basic science research that parallels my medical practice with the hope of taking key basic science findings and transforming them into therapies for clinical trials. Particularly, I'm excited about the promise of immune therapies that originate with a patient's own immune cells that are expanded or otherwise modulated in vitro, as an alternative to strict pharmacological management of disease processes.
Currently: A resident in general surgery at Michigan State University
"I lived in Columbia a year prior to joining Mizzou's MD-PhD program. During that year, I worked as a technician in the Department of Biochemistry and also as a unit clerk at University Hospital. From that vantage point, I gained an appreciation for the collaborative work carried out among colleagues in the basic and clinical sciences. Furthermore, it was clear that the university placed great emphasis on basic science research with the construction of the Bond Life Sciences Center underway and numerous faculty members being recruited.
"I saw MU as a great place to receive my MD and PhD at an affordable tuition level, which was further enhanced when I was awarded a Life Sciences Fellowship. This award is unique in that it allows one the opportunity to complete PhD training with any faculty member on campus, regardless of their departmental affiliation. This contrasted greatly with other programs I was considering, whose infrastructure seemed to pigeon-hole a candidate into a given area of study. Although I had already determined my main interest was in immunology, the fellowship allowed me to rotate with and consider disciplines that were related to my long-term goal of working in organ transplantation.
"I have also appreciated the flexibility the MD-PhD program has allowed me in designing my curriculum. Some students opted to complete the first two to three years of medical school before moving into their research theses, while others, including myself, have opted to complete their research degrees prior to matriculating in the medical school curriculum."
Undergraduate Institution: Texas A&M University
Long-term Goals: To work in an academic setting
Currently: A fellow at the University of Pittsburgh
"I transferred to MU in 2006 to follow my PhD adviser, Dr. George E. Davis, MD, PhD, when he accepted an MU faculty appointment as professor in the Departments of Medical Pharmacology and Physiology and Pathology. I have been fortunate to learn from and interact with some great scientists and physicians at MU.
"I always wanted to pursue a career involving research in science and engineering. I became fascinated by medicine during a biomedical engineering physiology class during my sophomore year of college. I was fortunate to enter the MD-PhD program and to have an opportunity to do research in vascular biology, which was at first new and unexpected. So far, it has been a great experience for me to learn and grow. I have come to realize that training to become a better and mature physician-scientist is a great privilege that comes with many great opportunities and responsibilities."