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Anna and Cambray during a study/work/research session at Jordan Lake

Back when Cambray (’28) was an undergraduate student at NC State, she became interested in MD-PhD programs. However, she wasn’t sure if these would be the right fit for her, both because of the long training commitment and due to her interest in research areas that did not seem to be well-represented in MD-PhD training programs. After searching the internet for help and discovering AIMS, she was matched with multiple UNC mentors, including Anna Kahkoska, MD, PhD (’21) who graduated from the UNC MD/PhD Program and is now an Assistant Professor in the UNC Department of Nutrition.
“Anna has been a huge source of encouragement for multiple years of my life, and I am so proud to be a member of the same program as her,” Cambray says. The two had regular phone calls, met up for meals in the Triangle, and discussed ways for Cambray to determine whether this was the right career path for her. Anna also helped Cambray seek out research positions for gap years and reviewed application materials for those opportunities. As undergraduate students, they had both participated in the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Summer Undergraduate Research Program, which was another point of connection for the two.

Cambray Smith – UNC MD-PhD Class of 2028

“Seeing Anna work towards her PhD in the Gillings School of Global Public Health expanded my understanding of what students could do in an MD-PhD program. I also had many concerns about what it would be like to spend 8 years earning these degrees, and Anna convinced me that students are able to have a great quality of life while completing this rigorous journey.”
For Anna, the process of getting to know Cambray was a highlight of her own training in the MD-PhD program. “From the first time I met her, Cambray was so bright, full of ideas, and genuinely interested in so many things.  It was hard not to find her energy contagious. The opportunity to be a resource and a sounding board for her as she explored what might be the right decision, and now a classmate and a good friend, has been full of so much joy.”

Anna Kahksoka, MD, PhD – UNC MD-PhD Class of 2021

In her first year as faculty at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, Anna is leading a pilot study using group model building, a participatory method from the field of systems science, to explore the challenges and experiences that older adults with type 1 diabetes have surrounding the use of continuous glucose monitoring as part of their diabetes management. Cambray has been working as a Research Assistant and colleague on the project, and the two have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to work together on both data collection and analysis. “It feels like all of our conversations are coming full circle. As I get ready to start my PhD in fall 2022 in the UNC Department of Health Policy and Management, I’m confident that Anna will continue to be both a formal and informal mentor during my time at UNC and beyond.”
Cambray is currently involved with the AIMS Research Diversity team and looks forward to mentoring future MD-PhD students. Anna graduated from the UNC MD/PhD Program in May 2021. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Nutrition at UNC and a  Scholar in the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute Gene Orringer Junior Faculty Career Development (KL2) Program.