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Clinical Research Training Program Fellow
Angela A. Chang, M.D.
Brieanne V. Midura, M.D.
Cesar M. Castro, M.D.
Erica D. Taylor, M.D.
Gerhard S. Mundinger, M.D.
Margaret F. Lippincott, M.D.
Eunice H. Rhee
Jason A. Clark
Omair Yousuf
Tara Rao
Angela A. Chang, M.D. Photo Angela A. Chang, M.D.

Clinical Research Training Program Fellow
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
Resident, Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery program, University of California, San Diego Medical Center
M.D., David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
B.A.-Music, B.S.-Physiological Science, University of California, Los Angeles
Hometown: Brea, CA

My name is Angela Chang, and I participated in the Clinical Research Training Program (CRTP) in 2003-2004. I was born and raised in southern California, and completed my undergraduate studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Shortly after earning a B.A. in Music and a B.S. in Physiological Science, I began medical school at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in 2000.

I first learned about the research training programs offered at the NIH at an exhibit presented at the American Medical Student Association meeting. I was immediately fascinated with the wide range of clinical projects that CRTP fellows pursued, as well as the opportunity to explore clinical research through didactic sessions and discussions. Eager to conduct patient-oriented clinical research, I kept this opportunity in mind as I began my clinical clerkships.

On the wards during my third year, I witnessed the link between clinical research and patient care, and became particularly fascinated with the challenges in treating head and neck cancers and the strides to improve their therapies. The experience fueled my curiosity and motivation to become involved in the translation of research from the bench to bedside.

As a CRTP fellow, I had the opportunity to work closely with one of the most important scientists in the field of head and neck cancer research, Dr. Carter Van Waes. His laboratory is interested in defining the activation of signal pathways that may serve as translational targets for the prevention and therapy of squamous cell carcinoma. With his guidance, I conducted clinical and laboratory research on a phase I clinical trial studying bortezomib, a proteasome inhibitor, with concurrent radiation in the treatment of recurrent head and neck cancer.

During a typical week, I spent Monday mornings in the head and neck clinic, where I participated in the care of patients enrolled in several clinical trials. In the afternoons, I attended Tumor Board, a multidisciplinary conference in which head and neck surgeons, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, dentists, nurses, and social workers discussed each patient's pathology and treatment plan. On occasion, I would also assist in surgical cases and participate in morning rounds with my mentor. I devoted the remainder of the week in the laboratory, performing experiments designed to study the biologic effects of this treatment regimen in cancer cell lines and in patient tumor specimens.

In working on this project, I not only had the opportunity to participate in the implementation of an important clinical study, but I also learned how to approach a scientific question, design experiments, analyze results, and read the literature critically. I also had the honor of sharing my findings in platform oral presentations at two scientific meetings.

Outside of my experience in the Van Waes group, however, there were many other opportunities to learn and explore. Immersed in the intellectual community at the NIH, every day I was able to indulge in an infinite array of resources and research expertise and to delve into lively lectures and discussions with the most respected clinicians and scientists in the world. It was amazing to be constantly stimulated and inspired by those around me.

Perhaps most rewarding, however, were the relationships I developed with physician-scientists who were so eager to teach and advise me. My mentor Dr. Van Waes gave me a great deal of independence, but he also spent a considerable amount of time mentoring me. I met with him regularly to discuss my goals for the upcoming week, and to share with him any new findings or difficulties that had developed. He and others in his laboratory created a comfortable place to learn, to be challenged, and to conduct sound, scientific research. Dr. Lee Helman, my tutor (a tutor is a senior physician-scientist assigned to every CRTP fellow upon acceptance) was another source of great mentorship. We met monthly to discuss journal articles, analyze laboratory techniques, refine presentations, and chat about my CRTP experience. Both have helped me define goals for myself, and continue to serve as great role models.

Aside from the intellectual stimulus of the NIH, however, my year was also enhanced by a diversity of experiences in the Bethesda/D.C. area. Throughout my year, I enjoyed exploring downtown Bethesda's eclectic array of cuisines, Washington D.C.'s amazing monuments and museums, music performances at the Kennedy Center, and Georgetown's cute shops and cafes.

Without a doubt, my year at the NIH was one of most enriching years of my life both personally and professionally. It enabled me to live in another part of the country and to foster new friendships, while also solidifying my research interests and career goals. With my new skills and continued passion for research, I plan to continue to study and see patients with head and neck cancer throughout my career and perhaps someday I will return to the NIH for additional training!

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Brieanne V. Midura, M.D. Photo Brieanne V. Midura, M.D.

Clinical Research Training Program Fellow
National Cancer Institute
Resident, Pediatrics, Children's Hospital Boston and Boston Medical Center
M.D., George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences
B.S.- Biochemistry/Molecular Biology, Sweet Briar College
Hometown: Oklahoma City, OK

I knew I wanted to be a doctor before I could do multiplication tables. I grew up in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma where my parents started talking about education and my future as soon as I mastered those math tables. My first exposure to medicine was through my mother. As a hospital volunteer, I shadowed her during her nursing shifts and measured each patient's oxygen saturation and temperature. Even at a young age, I was extremely optimistic that I would find myself challenged and fulfilled by practicing medicine.

I always begin a chapter of my life with the goal to take advantage of every opportunity put in front of me. At Sweet Briar College, a small woman's college in Virginia, I started doing bench research as a first-year, but I also served on the student government, was my sorority's vice-president, and took ballet classes. I graduated in 2001 with high honors in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology. Taking advantage of opportunities rose to a new level as I entered medical school at George Washington University in Washington, DC. As a rising fourth year student, I have learned the art of medicine from passionate classroom instructors, clinicians, physician scientists, and researchers. While each of my mentors has contributed to medicine in a different way, they all have taught me to develop a strong sense of camaraderie and service. I watched and now participate in the selfless act of caring, healing, and curing patients as a member of a very talented, inspiring team of medical professionals.

As I moved from the classroom to the medical wards, my curiosity about the evidentiary basis for the treatment methods I was taught led me to seek clinical research opportunities at the National Institutes of Health. Accepting a year-long fellowship position in the Clinical Research Training Program (CRTP) was the way I choose to pursue my interest further. There, I anticipated I would study, gain some proficiency, and perhaps advance, even in a small way, evidenced based medicine. Under the expert guidance of my mentor, Dr. Lee Helman, at the National Cancer Institute, I made a beginning. My research involving childhood sarcomas has led me to strongly consider a future in clinical research. Discovery of the biology behind tumors will ultimately lead to treatment regimens designed for individualized patients according to their specific tumor biology. Care of pediatric patients on the medical wards and research in the laboratory has led me to the conclusion that the art of medicine is a seamless collaboration between the bench and the bedside.

My experience during the CRTP gave me the opportunity to take advantage of the unparalleled resources that the NIH provides to its physician scientists. Conducting quality research is facilitated by excellent staff, first-rate facilities, and collaboration among researchers. I am currently exploring pediatric residency programs that offer a research track in their curriculum and provide residents with opportunities for clinical research. Beyond residency, I anticipate completing a fellowship in pediatric hematology/oncology where I will be called back to the bench to conduct research that strengthens evidenced based medicine. I would consider myself extremely fortunate to return to NIH for my fellowship training and work among the caring, talented, and innovative physician scientists that have served as my mentors during this program.
Outside of work at the Clinical Research Center, I have spent time with many of the CRTP fellows celebrating birthdays, weddings, holidays, and finding any excuse to have Sunday brunch. Living in Bethesda allows you to be close to the NIH campus, metro DC, and countless restaurants and coffee shops. I have explored the hiking/running trails that connect Bethesda to DC, and I am currently training for a race this summer. I am indebted to the NIH-CRTP staff for their countless efforts to make this year possible and for rewarding personal and academic experiences throughout this year.

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Cesar M. Castro, M.D. Photo Cesar M. Castro, M.D.

Clinical Research Training Program Fellow
National Cancer Institute
Resident, Internal Medicine, University of California, San Francisco Medical Center
M.D., University of California, San Francisco
M.S.-Health and Medical Sciences, University of California-Berkeley School of Public Health
B.A.-Psychology, University of California-Berkeley
Hometown: New York City, NY

My name is Cesar Castro and I participated in the Clinical Research Training Program (CRTP) in 2003-2004. I am from New York City, New York. I attended the University of California-Berkeley, where I earned a B.A. in Psychology. I also, earned a M.S. in Health and Medical Sciences from the University of California-Berkeley School of Public Health. I graduated from the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine in May 2005. I am currently an intern in internal medicine at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center.

I first became aware of the CRTP by perusing the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Training website and decided this would be the perfect opportunity for me to return to the NIH and continue my research in oncology. True to the spirit of the NIH Roadmap, my CRTP research project comprised of a highly multidisciplinary collaboration across various scientific fields. The premise involved molecular targeting via a novel nanoparticle, of the avB3 integrin, that is over-expressed in tumor-associated angiogenic vasculature. The hope is to non-invasively monitor angiogenic response to cancer therapies, improve a priori patient selection and hence power of clinical trials, and improve local release of therapeutics without the systemic effects associated with our current chemo regimens.

I initiated my interest in oncology research as a Pre- IRTA Fellow at the NIH prior to attending medical school. While our current drug armamentarium generally involves untoward toxicities, the field of oncology is a promising one to enter as rational drug therapeutics, molecular imaging, and nanotechnologies begin to mature and display efficacy. The NIH Clinical Center is a well-known repository of forward thinking scientists seeking to advance their respective fields. I wanted to return to the NIH to re-engage in the process of researching technologies that have not yet trickled down to the rest of academia or pharmacia.

A typical day at the NIH involved research meetings with my mentors in the morning, which were followed by experiments. Afternoons involved Grand Rounds or patient rounds followed by more experiments. Didactic sessions and journal clubs were interspersed throughout the week. Video conferencing with our out-of-state collaborators were also not infrequent.

My experiences as a CRTP Fellow at the NIH only reinforced that clinical research and trial design will be continuing pursuits of mine as I continue to shape my career aspirations. Following my Internal Medicine residency at the University of California – San Francisco Medical Center, I expect to pursue a hematology/oncology fellowship. My goals include cancer-related clinical research and trial design particularly with novel therapeutics. Additionally, having been a repeat customer at the NIH, returning here would be within the realm of possibility. I have been enriched both academically and personally during my time here. I expect to receive multiple returns on my professional investment if I have the privilege to train or work here again.

As a CRTP fellow, my mentors were invaluable and defined my experiences. In addition to their scientific acumen, they are personable and student-friendly individuals. The climate they created was one of inclusion and collaboration. They were professional colleagues and just as importantly friends as well. I will always maintain an active outlook of my area of inquiry and keep asking questions and seek to contribute in creative ways. I will also be confident when discussing my areas of expertise and be honest about my limitations. A mentor-mentee relationship is a dynamic one where each party learns from each other.

I believe the most impressive aspect about the NIH were the resources and a stellar cadre of scientists, both domestic and international, with a like-minded vision—to advance our knowledge about infirmity and develop therapies through innovative ways.

In addition to spending countless hours on my research project, I try to find time to enjoy basketball, soccer, theater, and a continuing mission to find New York quality pizza here in California!

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Erica D. Taylor, M.D. Photo Erica D. Taylor, M.D.

Clinical Research Training Program Fellow
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
Resident, Orthopedic Surgery, University of Virginia
M.D., Duke University School of Medicine
B.S.-Major Engineering Science, - Minor Biomedical Engineering, University of Virginia
Hometown: Reston, VA

My name is Erica Taylor and I participated in the Clinical Research Training Program (CRTP) in 2004-2005. I was born and raised in Reston, Virginia, a town situated approximately 20 miles outside of the District of Columbia. I graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. I then earned a B.S. degree in Engineering Science from the University of Virginia, with a minor in Biomedical Engineering. I am currently in my fourth year of medical school at Duke University School of Medicine.

I first heard about the CRTP through another Duke medical student who had been a fellow in the program. She had many marvelous things to say about the program, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and life in Bethesda, Maryland. I then went to the Office of Student Affairs at Duke and read over a brochure for the program. The CRTP website was also a key source of information.

The clinical research project that I created for my CRTP year investigated relevant, yet underreported, musculoskeletal conditions present in overweight children and adolescents. It was a multi-dimensional cross-sectional analysis that incorporated data from medical charts, questionnaires, and radiographic images.

While orthopedic surgery has always been my primary career goal, I developed a sincere interest in public health and clinical research after completing multiple projects on the obesity epidemic during my clinical rotations in medical school. I was amazed by the number of serious co-morbidities that affected many of the patients I encountered in clinic and on the wards. Furthermore, it saddened me to see many of the same medical conditions on the rise in the pediatric population. Thus, my primary intention when I applied to CRTP was to come to the NIH and investigate pediatric obesity in some capacity. By designing my own project, I was able to tie this fascinating area of research to my interest in orthopedics. Since there were multiple components to my research project, I certainly had a variety of work-days, which was wonderful. On data collection days, lab work consisted of measuring lower extremity alignment on radiographic images, gathering and organizing past medical history information, running statistics and even occasionally alloquoting DNA samples. On more clinic-oriented days, my work activities included carefully consenting adolescents and their parents for clinical trial participation. Perhaps the most exciting part of my work week, I also helped run the weekly weight-loss group for the obese study participants. This included monitoring weight changes, completing 30 minutes of physical activity with the teens in the NIH gym, and escorting them to behavior modification classes facilitated by a dietician and clinical psychologist. The extraordinary interaction I was able to have with the children throughout the year was definitely the heart of my CRTP experience.

My experience as a CRTP fellow at the NIH gave me wide exposure to other areas of leadership that I could pursue as an academic physician, such a variety of positions in health policy, and careers in epidemiology. I learned that for today's physician, the sky is the limit!

I am adamantly pursuing a career in pediatric orthopedic surgery. As a product of a long lineage of educators, I am devoted to continuing the tradition of educating others in the realm of academic medicine, and I certainly envision returning to the NIH in the future to pursue a research career in the intramural program. There are so many facets of the NIH that I have yet to explore.

From the very first week I arrived, my mentor gave me an appropriate amount of independence to design, create, and follow-through with my own clinical research project, which was a learning opportunity not every research student is given. Throughout the year, he pushed me to prove that my approaches were practical, and that the results of my work would be clinically applicable. He also provided me with the flexibility to pursue the additional guidance of experts in other specialties. Developing my own project helped me to realize my strengths as a future physician-scientist.

I was very fortunate to have a mentor with whom I easily had contact on a daily basis and who truly valued the contributions of each member of the group. I knew that I could always walk around the corner to my mentor's office whenever I had a question or needed guidance. In addition, my mentor and I met one-on-one on a weekly basis to review the work I had accomplished the previous week, the goals for the current week, and any issues or problems that I may have encountered. This definitely kept both of us on track for ensuring that my CRTP experience was optimal and productive.

The NIH campus is amazingly huge! At any moment of the day, one could find a distinguished seminar series, scientific meeting, or conference in the works. To say that the research being conducted here is diverse is a severe understatement. There were several instances in which I passed by a group of physician-scientists speaking to each other in a foreign language. Being a part of the NIH community was certainly an unparalleled experience that brought researchers of all backgrounds together to achieve the advancement of healthcare discovery.

In addition to endless acquisition of research knowledge, I also enjoy exploring new approaches to physical fitness, sharpening my piano skills, and spending quality time with family and friends.

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Gerhard S. Mundinger, M.D. Photo Gerhard S. Mundinger, M.D.

Clinical Research Training Program Fellow
National Cancer Institute
Resident, Plastic Surgery, Johns Hopkins University
B.S. Biology (University of Michigan)
B.S. Environmental Policy (University of Michigan)
B.S. Ecology and Natural Resource Management (University of Michigan)
Hometown: Madison, Mississippi

My name is Gerhard Mundinger, and I have always gone by 'Sol,' a shortening of my middle name. I participated in the Clinical Research Training Program (CRTP) in 2005-2006. I am originally from Madison, MS, and earned B.S. degrees from the University of Michigan in Biology, Environmental Policy, and Ecology and Natural Resource Management. I started medical school at Johns Hopkins in 2002.

I first learned about CRTP through a medical school classmate of mine who participated in the program in 2004-2005. I was searching for year-long research opportunities for medical students at the time and was very impressed by the program's offerings as well as the strength of the research community at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

My CRTP project focused on assessing tumor and surrounding host-organ tissue protein signaling cascade alterations in response to surgically delivered chemotherapy and correlating these signaling aberrations with clinical response to treatment. The project was a joint collaboration between the National Cancer Institute's Surgery Branch and the Laboratory of Pathology, with Dr. H. Richard Alexander and Dr. Elaine Jaffe as respective principal investigators. I utilized reverse phase protein microarray (RPMA), an emerging technology, to assess tumor and host-organ protein signaling responses to high-dose melphalan delivered during isolated hepatic perfusion surgery for patients with metastatic disease confined to the liver. RPMA allows for real-time protein network interrogation in high-throughput and parallel fashion through the use of sophisticated robotic arrayers and isoform specific antibodies. I also evaluated protein signaling responses to cisplatin delivered during continuous hyperthemic peritoneal perfusion surgery for patients with advanced abdominal cancers, mainly peritoneal mesothelioma. As cell lines were grown from patients undergoing the latter procedure, I was also able to model operative conditions in vitro and assess the potential utility of tyrosine kinase inhibitors in combined modality treatment with cisplatin for peritoneal mesothelioma. I came to the NIH with the intent of working on a translational oncology project in the Surgery Branch and was most interested in this specific project because of the ability to work with an emerging technology platform and its interdisciplinary nature.

I have been interested in surgery since I was a teenager, and became interested in oncology during medical school for a number of reasons. Foremost, cancer remains a great frontier in medicine, both in terms of the staggering toll it continues to levy on humanity and in terms of novel research efforts aiming to reduce its substantial morbidity and mortality. Recently, discussion of oncogenesis, invasion, metastasis, and treatment of established tumors has been framed in principles similar to those I was intrigued by as an undergraduate in ecology: cancer is being increasingly evaluated in the context of the tumor-host microenvironment, and treatment paradigms are shifting toward combinatorial therapies in the hope of improving efficacy/toxicity ratios and reducing selection pressure for developing resistance to treatment modalities.

For me, a typical day at NIH involved work with biopsy samples in the mornings in the Laboratory of Pathology, followed by cell culture experimentation in the afternoons in the Surgery Branch. I performed intraoperative specimen procurements and had ample opportunity to scrub on cases both related and unrelated to my project throughout the year. I also worked to establish patient-derived cell lines in mice, spending time in the animal holding rooms as necessary. Laboratory meetings and journal clubs were scattered throughout the week. Multidisciplinary surgery conferences involving radiology, radiation oncology, pathology, and infectious disease were held on Monday afternoons and Friday mornings. Surgical research 'teas,' where research fellows and staff scientists present their individual work, were held on Thursday afternoons. I also kept an eye out for interesting lectures and symposia unrelated to my project taking place at NIH, of which there were many throughout the year, given by invited experts in their respective fields.

My year at NIH was invaluable in terms of developing and broadening my research interests. Aside from learning how to better articulate as well as formulate approaches to answering research questions, I was consistently stimulated and engaged by the community at NIH, which left me with a broader appreciation and understanding of areas of inquiry vastly different than my own. Even within my own project, every week it seemed like there were new potential avenues to explore that came up in discussions with principal investigators, residents, labmates, and other CRTP members. Drs. Jaffe and Alexander treated me as a colleague, and established a very congenial and open rapport, which I think is central to an effective mentor-protégé relationship. I felt that I was given enough space to pursue my project in an independent fashion but with adequate oversight so as not to inevitably 'dig a hole' from which I couldn't climb out. The oversight and direction provided by my principal investigators and residents were all the more crucial given the year-long program timeframe. Weekly discussions with my tutor, Dr. David Harlan, provided important perspectives on my project from a seasoned researcher with expertise in another field. I was able to present my findings in a variety of formats throughout the year and attended the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) national conferences, two of the biggest oncological conferences in the world, through funds made available by my lab and the CRTP. CRTP also funded travel to the national American Medical Student Association (AMSA) meeting and the Surgery Branch sponsored an oral presentation at the National Cancer Institute's annual Young Investigator's Retreat. Participating in CRTP has solidified my resolve to make academic research a foundational component of my career and has opened doors that I hope will help make this a reality.

At the conclusion of the CRTP year, I will return to finish my 4th year of medical school and apply for a surgical residency position. My long term career goals include teaching, researching, and operating at a high-volume academic surgical center, preferentially in an area with an active outdoor community. I would certainly consider returning to NIH for further research as a research fellow during or immediately after residency, and hope to come back to NIH during my 4th year of medical school to finish up my project work.

During my free time as a CRTP fellow, I caught up with high school and college friends living in the area, enjoyed the seemingly endless offerings of an easily accessible world-class city, explored Bethesda restaurants, caught up on free-reading, devoted more time to playing guitar, joined an indoor soccer team, played pick-up ultimate Frisbee twice a week on the NIH south lawn, trained for an off-road triathlon, took Japanese language courses, and promoted a volunteer clinic (Sal y Luz) that I have been involved with in the Lago de Yojoa region of Honduras.

Dr. Steven Rosenberg, Chief of the Surgery Branch, is fond of telling incoming students 'The opportunities at the NIH are extraordinary. You are only limited by the quality of your ideas and how hard you are willing to work.' As my time as a CRTP fellow at NIH draws to a close, these words could not ring more true. I am grateful to the CRTP for allowing me this time to explore these opportunities to the fullest extent possible.

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Margaret F. Lippincott, M.D. Photo Margaret F. Lippincott, M.D.

Clinical Research Training Program Fellow
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Cardiology Branch
Resident, Internal Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
B.A. Biology and Economics (Swarthmore College)
Hometown: Wellesley, Massachusetts

My name is Margaret Lippincott, and I participated in the Clinical Research Training Program (CRTP) during the 2005-2006 academic year. I am from Wellesley, Massachusetts and majored in biology and economics at Swarthmore College. I started medical school at Duke University School of Medicine in 2003.

I entered medical school with the intention of using the research year that Duke provides to do research at an outside institution. I learned about the CRTP at a presentation of 3rd year research opportunities. I chose the CRTP because of the focus on clinical research, the camaraderie amongst CRTP fellows, and the breadth of research opportunities available at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

My CRTP project was to design, write and conduct a clinical research study investigating the effects of short bouts of exercise on cardiovascular health with a specific focus on women. I worked with Dr. Richard Cannon, in the Cardiovascular Branch of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), who served as my CRTP mentor throughout the year. I wrote a protocol entitled ''Effect of Regular Exercise on Vascular Function and Cardiovascular Risk in a Sedentary Work Force: The NHLBI Keep the Beat Program.'' The protocol was approved in October of 2005. During my research year, I recruited, consented, encouraged, and followed my study participants. I learned multiple clinical and basic science research techniques including 6-color flow cytometry and the colony forming unit cell assay for endothelial progenitor cell colonies. Our hypothesis is that men and women differ in the role of endothelial progenitor cells in cardiovascular health, and we are currently analyzing data from the study.

A typical day at the NIH involved recruiting subjects for my protocol, consenting subjects for my protocol, preparing subject blood samples for multiple biochemical assays, culture and flow cytometry, and running the flow sample on a 3-laser cytometer. On days without subjects, I followed up on current subject participants, scheduled follow-up visits, analyzed data, and counted colonies by culture assay. I also had journal clubs, lab meetings, clinic, interesting scientific meetings at the NIH, and meetings with collaborating investigators throughout the week.

At the conclusion of the CRTP year, I'm returning to finish my 4th year of medical school at Duke University School of Medicine. I plan to do an internal medicine residency program and focus on women's health. CRTP was an invaluable experience that allowed me to create a research project in my areas of interest and have the ability to tap the amazing resources available at the NIH. I also connected with my CRTP colleagues through journal club meetings, potluck suppers and events in and around Washington, D.C.

If you are a medical or dental student and have ever thought about doing translational research and want to see why researchers are so passionate about what they study, I encourage you to consider the National Institutes of Health's CRTP – you'll see.

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Eunice H. Rhee Photo Eunice H. Rhee

Clinical Research Training Program Fellow
National Cancer Institute / Pediatric Oncology Branch
4th year medical student at UMDNJ – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
B.S.-Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Hometown: Tenafly, NJ

My name is Eunice H. Rhee, and I had the opportunity to participate in the CRTP for the 2006-2007 academic year. I was born in Seoul, South Korea and came to the US at the age of 10. Not speaking or understanding a word of English, I was thrown into the New York public school system wide-eyed and overwhelmed. With time and effort, however, I began to excel in my classes and soon found myself at MIT, where I received a Bachelor of Sciences in Brain and Cognitive Sciences. Then, I returned to my home state, New Jersey, for my medical education at UMDNJ – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

During my third year of medical school, I got to experience firsthand the ever-changing nature of evidence-based medicine. I frequented websites such as PubMed® and UpToDate® to research the latest diagnostic criteria or the most current therapies for various diseases I encountered in the wards. That is when I realized that I did not want to just practice this kind of medicine but wanted to get involved in the actual evidence building process. Therefore, I began searching for a program that would train aspiring physician-scientists. Luckily, two students from my medical school were participating in the 2005-2006 CRTP. When I asked them about the program, they both raved about how much they were enjoying it and what a great learning experience it had been for them. After further research into the program, I realized that this was indeed a unique program, unlike any other, that is truly devoted to training clinically minded physician-scientists.

A few months later, I found myself at NIH, faced with the difficult decision of choosing a mentor and a project for my year. This was especially a hard decision since I had yet to decide on my career specialty. However, I knew that I was interested in cancer research, so I spoke with several investigators from various branches within the National Cancer Institute (NCI). I eventually chose to work with Dr. Crystal Mackall in the Immunology Section of the Pediatric Oncology Branch at the National Cancer Institute. She had a very active laboratory that allowed for much flexibility and freedom for me to pursue whatever projects fit my interests. I had the chance to work on a variety of projects throughout the year. I participated in the launch of a new and exciting protocol, helping to revise the protocol many times throughout the IRB approval process. Also, from this new protocol, my mentor and I came up with some questions I could explore at the bench, and I did some flow cytometry experiments, which was a great learning experience. And I also had the opportunity to write a manuscript using data from a completed protocol, which consumed many months of my stay here at NIH. I compiled, analyzed, and wrote up the results from a novel immunotherapy protocol for refractory pediatric sarcomas. While working with my mentor, I thoroughly enjoyed the intellectual stimulation I experienced daily as we explored the latest ideas in the field of immunology and cancer immunotherapy.

My experience at NIH spanned the whole spectrum, all the way from the bench to the bedside. On any given day, I could be working on the latest draft of a protocol in the morning and then running flow cytometry experiments in the afternoon. Also, when my mentor was on service at the clinic or the wards, I often accompanied her to meet the patients who were enrolled in various NIH protocols and are thus treated at the NIH Clinical Center. And of course, the whole year was interspersed with various CRTP activities that enriched my learning experience here, such as the biweekly journal clubs and the clinical teaching rounds. I especially loved the clinical teaching rounds, where we met actual patients enrolled in various NIH protocols. We heard about groundbreaking research being done in fascinating and often rare diseases, such as Xeroderma Pigmentosum, Job Syndrome, and Paroxysmal Nocturnal Hemoglobinuria.

This past year of research has solidified my desire to pursue a career in academic medicine where I could be constantly challenged with new ideas. Additionally, this NIH year has been invaluable for me in terms of picking a specialty to pursue. I had access to great mentors who were always willing to listen to my struggles with the career decision and provide helpful guidance along the way. I truly enjoyed my interactions with the pediatric patients and their families here at the NIH, and I hope to start my training in pediatrics after graduating.

The truly unique and impressive feature of NIH is the cutting-edge research that is being explored in practically every field of science and medicine. I would not be surprised if my career path and research interests lead me back to NIH one day.

One of the best features of the NIH CRTP is the diversity of the research fellows. I made many great friends within the CRTP, with whom I hung out regularly. We were able to enjoy the unique environment of the DC metro area, exploring various museums and monuments during our free time. We also explored the array of great restaurants found in the downtown Bethesda area. In addition, I also became actively involved in a local church, where I also developed many close friendships.

Overall, this past year with CRTP has been one of the best years of my life, both personally and academically. I am truly grateful for the opportunity that I had been given to explore my interest in clinical research, and I enjoyed my experience at NIH tremendously.

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Jason A. Clark Photo Jason A. Clark

Clinical Research Training Program Fellow
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
4th year medical student at Duke University School of Medicine
B.A.-Psychology, Emory University
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio

My name is Jason Clark. I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and earned a BA is Psychology from Emory University in 2002. I taught in inner city Atlanta with Teach for America before beginning Duke University School of Medicine in 2004.

I participated in the Clinical Research Training Program (CRTP) from 2006-2007, after past fellow Erica Taylor’s enthusiasm about the program compelled me to apply.

I worked on several projects related to fibrosis and skin disease during the research year. I conducted genetic studies with familial keloids as my primary project with mentor Dr. Jeffrey Kopp, a nephrologist. I had become interested in keloids during a dermatology clerkship at Duke after learning that these disfiguring lesions, disproportionately prevalent in African and Asian populations, were first described nearly 3000 years ago in ancient Egypt, yet contemporary medical therapies have limited efficacy and high rates of recurrence. Moreover, only four papers have investigated keloid inheritance since 1806 when the word entered the medical literature. Surprised so little was known about this health disparity, I sought a project hoping to contribute to the field.

I think trainees can maximize their year with passion for the project, mentor accessibility and management style as foremost considerations. I came to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with very little research experience so finding a mentor who would be generous with his/her research expertise was especially important to me. I can not envision a better balance of accessibility, autonomy and guidance from my mentor.

As a CRTP fellow, I recruited families with keloids for travel to NIH where we conducted skin exams to characterize lesions by location, onset age, precipitating stimulus and symptomatology. We collected DNA samples for a genome-wide scan and linkage analysis, seeking loci and ultimately to identify genes responsible for this highly morbid condition. It is my hope that with a better understanding of keloid pathogenesis, targeted therapies will emerge.

One of my favorite aspects of work at NIH has been that every day is different. My daily activities have varied from patient screening to paper writing, from clinical examination to pedigree analysis, from authoring protocol amendments to leading conference calls with contractors or collaborators. I have had so many opportunities at NIH. Where else would a medical student study wound healing with a nephrologist, cancer with a dermatologist, and propose proof of concept clinical trials with industry?

Medical school sensitized me to the importance of evidence-based medicine in clinical decision-making; this year has shown me how exciting the process of uncovering that evidence, i.e. clinical research, can actually be. When you interview with the discoverer of Hepatitis C, or discuss methods with the geneticist who cloned the gene for Hartnup disease, you know you have accessed something special. Scientists here know what you are asking before you finish speaking, they generate ideas with a zeal that is palpable and they conduct their lives and labs at a pace that has been both refreshing and inspiring.

I hope to contribute even a fraction of this skill set as I pursue residency training in dermatology at an institution committed to advancing clinical practice and narrowing health disparities. I finished my CRTP year inspired that a career that combines teaching, research, and clinical practice is not only possible but, in fact, desirable. I find myself already envisioning ways to return to NIH for clinical electives, lectures, and research opportunities in my fourth year and beyond.

A lot has been said about the offerings of the District of Columbia and Bethesda and I found it all to be true. Recently I saw fellow CRTP participants present their years work and graduate. Seeing my work-out, study, lunch-time partners, friends and colleagues, present their research as young investigators, reminds me that there are 29 other “success stories” at NIH this year, stories that start with tireless labor and end with productivity and discovery. The CRTP opportunity is pervasive; success is collective.

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Omair Yousuf Photo Omair Yousuf

Clinical Research Training Program Fellow
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
4th year medical student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine
B.A.-Biological Sciences, University of Missouri-Kansas City
Hometown: Fresh Meadows, New York

I grew up in the suburbs of New York City and moved to Missouri during my early high school years. I matriculated into the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine’s accelerated BA/MD program almost six years ago and graduated with a BA in Biological Sciences in 2003. When I first started medical school, being an idealist and perfectionist, I wanted to become the best physician that I could possibly become. I realized soon that my passion to study medicine and to become an outstanding physician extends beyond the daily rigors and challenges of medical school. I believe that the fundamentals of biomedical research are a necessity to truly prepare physicians for the 21st century and to be constantly engaged in this continuum of discovery and implementation.

Since the beginning of my medical education, I have sought opportunities and experiences to immerse myself in various laboratory settings to understand the mechanics of research and evaluate my interest. I initiated my research interest in immunological sciences during my undergraduate years. Although my research experiences at the University of Missouri were a great introduction to the advancement of medicine, they were limited, given the primary care focus of the institution. Working in a summer research program between my first and second years of medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, provided me with insight into the clinical research process and allowed me to open my mind and explore some of my own ideas. From a sense of curiosity and wonder, to a strong desire to contribute to the canon of biomedical knowledge, I was inspired to pursue additional research training and further evaluate a career as a physician- scientist. I thought, what better way to explore science with creative activity, than to pursue a year-long fellowship in the Clinical Research Training Program (CRTP) at one of the world’s largest biomedical research institutes?

I first became aware of CRTP by visiting the NIH training website and reading these very same success stories. I learned more about the program from another student at my institution, who had participated in 2005-2006. I knew CRTP would serve me well because I was not committed to a particular area of research. The idea and liberty of interviewing the myriad of labs at this research powerhouse was something I could barely fathom at the time, albeit, very appealing.

My CRTP project focused on assessing coronary collateral circulation using quantitative magnetic resonance perfusion imaging (MRI) and interventional techniques. I worked under the leadership of my mentor, Dr. Andrew Arai, in the section of Laboratory of Cardiac Energetics of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. I had the unique opportunity to understand and evaluate basic science physiological principles in a model, which incorporated clinically applicable technological platforms. The idea of learning and being able to perform catheter-based techniques in an angioplasty model was something I had only witnessed in third year. I worked with an interventional cardiology fellow who helped me- from learning the very basics of coronary catheterization, to actual interventional techniques. This allowed us to create infarcts using balloon angioplasty to assess coronary physiology and hemodynamics. This experience, in and of itself, has been by far one of the most intellectually and technically stimulating experiences I have had in my academic career. I was beginning to learn highly technologically advancing procedures in an animal model that are performed at a PGY-7-8 level. What more could I have asked for as an aspiring cardiologist? I was also conducting several bench-top experiments on ex-vivo specimens. In addition, I was incorporating MRI technology to assess myocardial perfusion and viability pre-and post infarcts, as a clinically applicable, new and upcoming non-invasive modality. I am also interested in, and currently studying other imaging methods, including high resolution, micro-computed tomography (CT) scanner to identify vessels at the micron level.

I have been fascinated by the heart and its intricacies since my early high school years. I have been an aspiring cardiologist before I even entered medical school. During medical school, I have kept an open mind and explored most areas of medicine as a prospective career, but always found myself leaning towards patient care, balanced with leading technologically advancing and procedural oriented specialties. Foremost, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in industrialized nations. As a society, we follow the news of medical breakthroughs: scientific findings about the causes and prevention of heart disease and cancer; surgical procedures to repair or replace vital organs; and diagnostic tools to pinpoint disease in its earliest and most treatable stages. Two to three generations ago it was suggested that coronary artery disease (CAD) would be a threat to the world as there were no treatment options available. Today as we progress through the new millennium, the folly of this position is increasingly clear with recent therapeutic modalities in the last decade that have changed the standard of care for the management of CAD. There is currently a large body of work in angiogenesis that is being conducted for induction of natural coronary bypasses as a therapeutic modality. My work was focused on understanding the functional significance and using novel, non-invasive modalities to identify these vessels. I believe this area of research holds great promise in advancing longevity, identifying disease in its infancy, and a novel treatment modality for those that have exhausted traditional treatment methods.

A typical week at the NIH consisted of one day devoted entirely to conducting a large animal experiment. The following days were spent dissecting, slicing, sectioning, and staining the heart specimen from my experiment. Since I had become quite independent, and this was my own project, I also had the responsibility of ordering necessary supplies, including: catheters, pressure wires, microspheres, and various other equipment. I also conducted data analysis on a MRI perfusion imaging workstation for the perfusion studies I had acquired during my experiment. Usually, the entire week was devoted to analyzing the data from one day’s experiment and sending tissue samples to an outside company for microsphere analysis. In addition, I had the opportunity to work in a lab which had cardiology fellows acquiring further training with cardiac MRI. This allowed me to sit in on “read-outs” 1-2 afternoons a week as my mentor and the fellows reviewed cases from that day. This was a great learning opportunity and kept me quite tuned with the clinical aspect of my academic year at the NIH. In addition, I attended our weekly cardiology clinic from time to time to be engaged clinically. I also had meetings with other co-investigators, staff scientists, and my mentor. Lastly, if that didn’t keep me busy enough, there was always a well-renowned, interesting speaker or two each week that garnered my attention.

My year at the NIH has truly been one of the most rewarding and stimulating years of my life, both academically and personally. When I first came to NIH, I had a very remote interest in medical imaging. After working in a lab which focuses in cardiac imaging, I have become fascinated by the advancements in this technological platform that is a fundamental component in the practice of medicine. When I first started in Dr. Arai’s lab, I felt like I was in an environment that was beyond my ability and scope of understanding. The people were brilliant, full of ideas, and more concerning to me at the time was the foreign MRI language they spoke, which I could not fathom. I did not have a physics background and was not interested in it, but realized I needed to learn this language to be effective in the lab. I took a MRI physics course that was offered at NIH, which taught me the language I needed to know to function in the lab and communicate with my mentors. It was a very challenging and advanced course, taken mostly by cardiology and radiology fellows, which quite honestly, initially intimidated me. Aside from learning the principles and physics of MRI, I learned of my capabilities and potential when put to the challenge. For me, this year became more than science; there was tremendous personal growth, and being in an environment with 29 other students provided for a very nurturing and humble experience. I am realizing (as the year is ending) that being in this constantly stimulating and engaging environment, and the ability to work with such renowned mentors who respected and treated me as their colleagues, has truly been an exceptional opportunity. An experience that I hope to take with me as I start my career. My mentor’s open door policy, and communication on a first name basis established a great rapport and a very congenial mentor-mentee relationship. He provided me with enough independence to carry out my own project and was very helpful, supportive, and available at any time of the day. My goal at the beginning of the year was to gain a small fraction of his breadth of knowledge by the end of the year, and I can now attest to this accomplishment. The NIH is a remarkable place for anyone interested in pursuing creative activity with science. I am truly impressed with the collegial and humble nature of some of the world renowned experts in science and the diverse, myriad number of scientific discoveries that are being studied and implemented. Aside from the researchers, the wonderful and extremely hard working CRTP staff truly makes this year as seamless as possible. They are the backbone which holds the program together, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to know some of them on a personal level.

In addition to the academic experience at the NIH, this year allowed me to spend more time in some of the other things I am interested in outside of medical school. I was able to meet many young professionals in the DC area with similar interests. The friendships and professional relationships I developed with both CRTP and non-CRTP colleagues are invaluable and will be fostered for years to come. I was able to explore the unique culture and diversity that DC has to offer including: the great museums, plays, concerts, and landmarks. I spent more time with fiction reading, sharpening my tennis skills, participating in physical fitness, and taking weekend trips to a host of world-class cities within driving vicinity. I also had the unique opportunity to become involved with a very novel, collaborative project with Johns Hopkins University, which fostered relationships with world-class scientists and mentors outside of the NIH.

I am preparing to return to my home institution to finish my last year of medical school and apply for residency training in internal medicine, followed by subspecialty training in cardiology. Participating in CRTP was not only an experience, which I hold to a great degree of esteem, but it was one which elucidated that my future and passions lie in that of a clinical scientist. Someone who not only endeavors to ease suffering and increase longevity on a daily basis, but also one who has the opportunity to directly contribute to our every increasing fund of knowledge. While some may find their calling in the various practices of medicine, I see myself as a physician- scientist that bridges this ''gap'' between discovery and implementation.

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Tara Rao Photo Tara Rao

Clinical Research Training Program Fellow
National Cancer Institute
4th year medical student at New York University School of Medicine
B.S.-Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Hometown: Potomac, Maryland

My name is Tara Rao, and I participated in the Clinical Research Training Program (CRTP) during 2006-2007. I completed my undergraduate studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology where I received a major in Biology, minor in Biomedical Engineering, and concentration in Spanish. I went on to attend New York University School of Medicine. After finishing my third year, I came to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the CRTP.

My experience in research began in high school, when I received a fellowship from the Department of Defense for research at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Washington, DC. My project examined the immune response to Staphylococcal enterotoxin B in mice. I continued to do research in college with projects in biology and biomedical engineering. I even came to the NIH for a summer through the Summer Internship Program. I joined a lab in the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development that focused on signal transduction. For my project, I examined the effects of a newly discovered substance secreted by marine sponges on intracellular calcium signaling in mouse glial cells.

In medical school, I found the deans highly encouraging of graduation in five years, with the extra year dedicated to research. In fact, I met several residents during my third year who had done just that. Although they had participated in different year-off programs, they were unanimous in their satisfaction with their experiences. Passionate about medicine and science, and having participated in several interesting, but short-term, research projects myself, I became very curious about what I could do given an entire year dedicated to research.

I came across CRTP while looking for year-long programs available to medical students. Indeed, I was the first student from my medical school to be selected. CRTP’s emphasis on clinical research, bi-weekly journal clubs, and monthly clinical bedside rounds really appealed to me. I knew I would not stray too far from the clinical skills I had built up in medical school. Without a doubt, just being at NIH would be an unparalleled educational experience.

I joined Dr. Kenneth Kraemer’s Lab in the National Cancer Institute, where I was very lucky to find amazing mentorship and support. My project focused on two rare disorders of genomic instability, Xeroderma Pigmentosum (XP) and Trichothiodystrophy (TTD). In fact my mentors, Dr. Kraemer and Dr. John DiGiovanna, are the world’s leaders in the field. I was able to meet and examine XP and TTD patients and their families at the Clinical Center of the NIH. I also got to see other interesting patients at the NIH Dermatology Grand Rounds. I even had the privilege to present at these rounds several times throughout the year.

My year was very productive. I attended several major conferences, where I presented my work and met the leading scientists and clinicians in the field. In fact, my abstract was one of only five selected for oral presentation for a special group at the meeting of the Society of Investigative Dermatology in Los Angeles, California.

When I was not working in the lab or seeing patients in the clinic, there was always an educational activity happening at NIH. I would often attend Wednesday Grand Rounds at the NIH Clinical Center with my mentors. Outside of NIH, I was able to reconnect with some of my extracurricular hobbies, like sports and music.

Overall, I learned a lot, gained perspective, and grew personally this year. Whereas a year off is a requirement in some schools, I chose to take the year off, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. No doubt, I hope to continue in academic medicine and to keep research a part of my career. I think this year at the NIH with the CRTP has helped steer me in that direction.

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