I’m a doctoral research trainee/graduate student at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine involved in a unique cooperative veterinary anatomic pathology residency training/PhD program funded by Biogen Idec (Cambridge, MA) under the mentorship of Dr. Robert Dunstan, distinguished investigator at Biogen-Idec and an adjunct faculty of Cummings School.
I intend on pursuing a career in experimental pathology, and I believe that the combination of pathology and intensive research training this novel program offers will afford me a more varied and balanced career. The first half of the program focused on rigorous pathology training in preparation for ACVP board certification through diagnostic pathology service, didactic teaching, and active participation in weekly pathology and clinical rounds, journal clubs, and seminars. This preparation provided me the fundamentals of pathology along with the incentive to conduct collaborative research in a state-of-the-art pathology laboratory at Biogen Idec.
The dual role of student and professional comes with its challenges and rewards. Academia and industry differ greatly in their approaches to advancing scientific research: academia works more in the area of basic research funded by grants whereas industry focuses more on applied research with a need to develop a marketable product. It is imperative to realize these differences early on to be able to work in a fast-paced industry environment and at same time keep up with the graduate training requirements in the pursuit of a PhD. This necessitates flexibility and adaptability, two skills that will benefit me throughout my career.
The program offers several other benefits as well: I gain hands-on experience with the work flow in a biopharmaceutical industry; I have a better understanding regarding the integration of anatomic pathology and biomedical research applications in drug discovery and development; I interact with several scientific and managerial teams and appreciate their role in the process of new therapeutic development; and I am better familiarized with the various career options for a pathologist in the fields of discovery, toxicology, regulatory and safety assessment. Additionally, I have a unique opportunity to work in a high through put and state-of-the-art translational pathology laboratory equipped with automated whole slide scanners; optimized high capacity automated sectioning, immunostaining and processing; and advanced imaging and microscopic tools that support several research projects at Biogen Idec.
My research focuses on myelin damage or loss, which is a hallmark of many infectious, neurodegenerative, and autoimmune diseases affecting the central nervous system. Therefore, better understanding the mechanisms of myelin loss has been a major emphasis for developing disease biomarkers, targeted drug discovery, and development.
With advancements in biomedical research, pathology is expanding rapidly and gaining momentum to decipher the etiology of diseases. I believe that the role of a pathologist in not limited to recognizing disease manifestations and to investigating the cause(s) of disease; a pathologist also requires keen analytical skills and problem-solving abilities. The integrated residency/graduate training at Cummings School and Biogen Idec emphasizes these qualities awhile improving my critical thinking, presentation and communication skills, prioritization, and time management. It has helped me advance my career and grow as a person