My DMS Experience by Laura Patwa

      Hey you! Yes, I am talking to you. Now that I have grabbed your frontal cortex for a few minutes, maybe the attention centers in your brain can continue firing. Otherwise there are fine remedies such as No-Doz for some relief. If you are considering taking a year off to do research, then this is for you.

      I started this experience at the end of my 3rd year. At that time I knew that I wanted to do medicine and hopefully end up in a GI fellowship. I found immunology fascinating, which led me to focus my interest in inflammatory bowel diseases. With my background, perhaps it would have been easier to do more clinical oriented research; however at this stage in my medicine career, I thought it would be a good idea to try out basic science research.

      When I first walked in the lab I looked at the pipette with some apprehension. I hadn’t touched one of these in over seven years. I had clearly forgotten what to do with it. A quick trip to YouTube quickly de-mystified that. My second observation was that everything was so small….picograms? What was that? My brain couldn’t wrap its tiny little gyri around that. I was used to think in more tangible terms… 70kg male, that would be about 2.6L/day in maintenance fluids!

        At this point I was lucky to end up in a laboratory that had several post-docs and junior faculty members. The talent in the lab was quite impressive, so much so that I was awestruck half the time. Most of all, however, I am indebted to my mentor who took up the role and challenge of nurturing me over the year. This serendipitous encounter will forever change the landscape of my career in medicine. Perhaps someday I too can pay it forward.

      This year has been the most rewarding and physically demanding time of my life. It’s 9:30 pm at night and I have finished bathing and tucking my beautiful 7 months old to bed. I then rush out to the lab to collect a time point on an experiment, which lasts for about 1 and half hours. I arrive home at 11:00pm at night. All I can think of is that I am glad she is sleeping through the night, so I can finally rest for the day. The beauty of science is that there no time constraints. There are always questions that need to be answered.

      For me, the Holderness distinguished medical scholar program has been instrumental in opening doors that I wasn’t aware existed both personally and professionally. The DMS experience has allowed me step outside of my comfort zone; challenge myself to the point where I thought I could break, but realizing that, I apparently was made of thicker stuff. This year was about discovery.

      This year long experience was not unique to me, many others have many impressive tales to tell of their experiences. Having said that, if you are considering taking a year off, I challenge you to take the plunge, the water is way sweeter on the other side. 

By Laura Patwa