Recent Grad Profiles
We believe that UNC MD-PhD alums are among the finest in the nation. They are a diverse group with a common goal: to make a measurable, meaningful impact in the world. Here are a few examples of our outstanding alumni.
I chose to come to the UNC MD-PhD program for the interaction of the program participants across all years of study, the open collaboration across biomedical departments (which allows for multidisciplinary research), and the national reputation of the medical center and graduate departments.
The leaders of the MD-PhD program recognize that the MD-PhD years represent the early stage of our career training. As such, we need some amount of formal structure to expose us to career paths, steps involved in training, funding opportunities, and ways to seek out appropriate career development tools. The UNC MD-PhD program provides this framework of career development, while allowing enough flexibility for individual students to follow various paths matching our interests.
Once my interests became more clear in the senior years of the program, the leadership of the program was also wonderful in helping me network and position myself to match into residency and fellowship programs that fit my needs. The Integrative Vascular Biology Training Program (T32 training grant) was particularly helpful in giving me exposure to research topics and investigative techniques related to my own research, as well as providing an additional layer of mentorship through my graduate school years.
The yearly MD-PhD program retreat was also absolutely invaluable through my entire time in the program. That one weekend per year was fundamental to keeping short term and long term goals on track, effecting change in program structure when needed, and building lifelong friendships both in and out of work.
The weekly MD-PhD program seminar series not only provided an easy, low-stress dinner every week, but also exposed me to some of the most memorable conference topics of my professional training – from life balance lessons to research updates to just getting a chance to listen to brillliant scientists in varied fields explain their different paths to success.
I think UNC has several strengths which are unique. First and foremost is the commitment of University leadership to the MD-PhD program, which is demonstrated by the resources provided to MD-PhD candidates. This includes the annual retreat, regular meetings, mentoring committees, networking with alumni, etc. The second, equally important strength is the support and mentoring from senior candidates to those coming behind them. Having a fellow student’s perspective as you deal with medical school coursework, pick labs, maneuver through graduate school, and apply for residency makes a huge difference. Finally, UNC offers a top-notch medical school and an outstanding, collaborative, and collegial research infrastructure, which ensures that you are fully trained on both the clinical and research fronts.
I think the lectures from other MD-PhDs who are in academics, industry, and even biotech finance really opened my eyes to the possibilities after I finished and helped me figure out what direction I wanted to take.
As a clinician-scientist on a NIH K08 training grant, I am juggling clinical care with laboratory research. Having a truly rigorous graduate school experience in a National Academy-level lab has prepared me well as I begin my own research program. My clinical training in medical school was similarly comprehensive and it made the transition to a traditionally tough internship and residency not only painless but exciting and fun.
On a personal note, I have loved living in this area for nearly 25 years. It is very liveable as a student and is great if you are the outdoors type, like me. If you are going to live somewhere for eight years and work hard during that time, it is important to love where you live!
I benefitted enormously from the wisdom of the students who were 2-3 years ahead of me in the program, and the fact that we all came together every couple of weeks was more important to me than I could have ever predicted.
UNC’s MD-PhD program is special in that a lot of it is student-run. This freedom to be creative and put into action your ideas to make the program better is an excellent opportunity to gain experience in leadership, pitching ideas, team work, program planning, and collaboration. All of these skills help you both in the program and beyond.
While I was in the UNC MD-PhD program, my classmate Kate Hacker and I started the UNC Advocates for MD-PhD Women in Science (AMPWIS), helped six other schools start similar groups, and fouonded the yearly MD-PhD symposium advocating for women physician scientists. The experience allowed us to bring awareness to the barriers women continue to face as physicians and scientists, and build a group of advocates within the program, in the Triangle area, and beyond. Through this work, I gained valuable eperience in leadership, grant writing, event planning, networking, mentoring, and collaborating with faculty. It was through this opportunity to advocate for myself and others on a topic about which I am passionate, that I was able to work out my fear of public speaking, networking, and interviewing, which in turn helped me succeed on the residency interview trail and every day as a resident. Starting that group helped me find my voice, and realize that my desire is to help others find their voices and succeed through continued positions in leadership, advocacy, and policy.
I chose to come to the UNC MD-PhD program because the leadership and students were all so happy, friendly, and helpful. It is a place where the education and research is top-notch and I could suceed while being happy at the same time.
I fell in love with the UNC MD-PhD program when I was an undergraduate doing a summer of research with the Department of Pharmacology, mostly because of the people I met and the collaborative environment that UNC fosters.
I think my MD-PhD training at UNC opened up fellowship opportunities for me that I wouldn’t have had with just an MD, and I look forward to using my training in the next stage of my career.
One of my favorite experiences from my time in the UNC MD-PhD program was participating in the program teams. I was a team captain, and I enjoyed the opportunity to get together with my teammates outside of the hospital, lab, or classroom. It was a great opportunity to interat with MD-PhDs at all levels of the program. I also played a lot of soccer – the Triangle area is a great place for adult sports – which helped me during the sometimes stressful process!
I just matched into my first-choice fellowship, and I had a huge advantage over the other applicants because while all of us have had the necessary clinical training in residency, I already know how to think like a scientist, design experiments, and write grants and papers.
I chose UNC for my MD-PhD for so many reasons: I love the camaraderie of the program, the leadership is dedicated to the success of every student, the medical school and graduate schools both offer training that rivals or beats any other program, and the Triangle area is a great place to live.
During my years in the UNC MD-PhD program, I was given countless opportunities to see first-hand how clinician-scientists at UNC (and elsewhere) were successfully pursuing their research interests and clinical practices in integrated and creative ways – which is not always easy to do. As I now try to do the same, it is very encouraging and incredibly helpful to recall the words of wisdom from these individuals.
I was also given the opportunity to write a grant (for a research fellowship) while in the program. By stepping through the grant writing process and framing my research interests in the structure of an NIH grant, I learned how to ask questions, create research aims, and write about my research in a manner that effectively and succinctly communicated my research to the target audience. These are skills that I continue to use contantly – both in research and in clinical practice.
I really enjoyed the Program Teams while I was in graduate school. Our group organized dinners, lunches, service/outreach projects, and other activities that allowed us to get to know one another, have fun, and spend time with our faculty sponsors, who were MD-PhD’s themselves and great mentors and role models. Most importantly, though, I loved the opportunity to spend time with fellow UNC MD-PhDs at the beach retreat each year. We went paddling through the intercoastal waterway, explored the beach, and competed for the team trophy by building elaborate sand castles and racing through bizarre obstacle courses. My initial impression of a welcoming, close-knit, and supportive program was more than accurate!
Overall, the program offers the best of many worlds – great people to work with, great mentors to learn from, great research opportunities, and a great place to live.
I chose to pursue my MD-PhD at UNC because of the great people. I found the UNC MD-PhD Program to be an incredibly supportive and encouraging environment. I really appreciated that I was encouraged to explore my individual interests and passions. It was very easy to branch away from your PI’s main area to do what you want to do. I didn’t realize how important and unusual this was until I went elsewhere.
The MD-PhD program at UNC allowed me to develop into an independent scientist. The program creates an excellent support network. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but being required to do an F30 is a great thing, and I now believe it to be the best part of the curriculum.
The culture is very nurturing to young scientists and provides a very collaborative atmosphere to explore and create your own scientific identity.