Alumnus Interview: Daniel Salahuddin ’11

Daniel SalahuddinCurrent status: Enrolled in 2013 first year of studies in dual M.D./M.P.H. program at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

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 school?

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 you?

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 Leo?

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 students?

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.