status: Enrolled in 2013 first year of studies in dual
M.D./M.P.H. program at the University of Miami Miller School of
What did you do between your graduation from Saint
Leo and medical school?
I spent nearly two years in a fellowship program for recent
college graduates at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda,
MD, called the NIH Academy. Aside from conducting research in an
NIH lab, I had the opportunity to participate in weekly seminars on
health disparities. I’m glad I got to have that experience since it
was a small enough group that we had good opportunities for
intimate and meaningful discussion on important health issues in
underserved communities. The program was expanded during my second
year so that more people would have the opportunity to learn and
think critically about health disparities.
Please tell us some of the non-proprietary details
of your research work.
In each of my years at NIH, I did immunology research through
the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. In my
first year I worked in the Biodefense Research Section of the
Vaccine Research Center (VRC), where my lab was interested in the
development and evaluation of vaccine candidates for Ebola virus.
My primary role was to conduct experiments involved in tracing a
specific immune response that the vaccines may elicit. Following my
departure from the VRC, I joined the Structural Immunology Section
in the Laboratory of Immunogenetics. Working in this lab was a
great experience, as I had the opportunity to help develop an assay
that will hopefully help address important questions regarding
natural antibody function. Aside from this project, I gained
experience in large-scale bacterial protein expression for use in
structural studies, as well as invaluable collaboration skills.
Why did you choose Miami for medical
The opportunities at Miami fit my career goals. The M.D./M.P.H.
dual degree program integrates medicine and public health in such a
way that the two degrees will be completed in four years. I want to
be thought of as a public health physician and be actively involved
in public health research and policy. I want to be able to make a
broad impact in health and wellness, especially in underserved
communities. The Miller School has leaders in both patient care and
in research and I wanted to be a part of the exciting work being
done here. Not to mention, the medical community here is incredibly
welcoming and really values its students.
Miami also has a very diverse patient population. The
international opportunities are incredible, and this is one of the
only places in the United States where you can see serious cases of
tropical diseases. Miami also has a strong commitment to health
care disparities. When all those things came into play, I knew
Miami was the right place for me.
How did your undergraduate degree program prepare
I learned to be very resourceful. I really appreciate the
opportunities I had. Working with Dr. (Leo) Ondrovic to do a study
on cigarette smoking made me realize I can make a difference. The
school is small enough to let you have your own significant
research project and have really close mentoring, and that’s one of
the best things I got out of Saint Leo.
What is your favorite memory of Saint
I loved all the events that were available to students, whether
it was going to a free movie at the Cobb or going to a Rays game
for $5. I don’t get those kinds of deals anymore! I made great
friends at Saint Leo and will always reflect back on my experience
there and remember what a great time that was.
What advice would you offer current SLU biology
Know what it takes to get to where you want to go. A lot of
biology majors want to go to medical school, graduate school, or
veterinary school. See what it takes to do that, and take control
of where you want to be. You need to make a plan from Day One and
go forward. You have to be determined and resourceful. People will
help you. My mentors have helped me so much along the way, and
continue to offer invaluable advice. Opportunities are your best
friends, so you have to be ready because they can happen at any
point. It’s a very relaxed and collaborative atmosphere at Saint
Leo with the professors being so approachable, so definitely take
advantage of that and you’ll be headed in the right direction.