Inspirations in Science and Medicine

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins (left) and Clinical Center Director Dr. John Gallin (second from left) visit with Medical Oncology Fellows

You never know when inspiration will strike. I still remember the day that Dr. Francis Collins came to visit my high school genetics class. At that time, Dr. Collins was the director of the Human Genome Project, an international research program aimed at uncovering the genetic building blocks essential for human life. It was soon after the groundbreaking release of the first draft of the human genome, and we students had read the newspaper headlines abuzz with scientific discoveries. On the day of Dr. Collins’ visit, we hovered on industrial stools around lab tables and listened with rapt attention. We nodded at the history of inheritance, from humble pea plants to the helical structure of DNA. We marveled at the sheer amount of data, the billions of base pairs in the human genome. It was thrilling to hear a physician-scientist hero come off the page into real life.

It has been about 14 years since that lecture in my high school genetics class. We were fortunate to have teachers who planted such seeds of inspiration and encouraged us along the way. Since then, I have continued to study science and medicine—undergraduate biology, medical school, internal medicine internship and residency. I am now completing specialized training as a medical oncology fellow at the National Institutes of Health, within the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Center for Cancer Research (CCR).

Me and the NIH Director

As a medical oncology fellow, I continue to find inspiration from many sources. I am thankful for the dual privileges of conducting clinical trials research through the NIH Intramural Research Program and taking care of patients at the Clinical Center. The NIH is an intellectual powerhouse that spans 27 institutes and research centers. We are surrounded by leaders in specialized clinical, translational, and basic science research. And the NIH Clinical Center, also known as “America’s Research Hospital,” is the largest clinical research facility in the world. Innovative treatments are at our fingertips, under active investigation. Together we fight cancer at the front lines and work towards a cure.

Imagine our recent excitement when Dr. Collins, now Director of the NIH, specially attended a reception for clinical fellows at the Clinical Center. A diverse crowd of new colleagues mingled with directors, as familiar faces and departmental faculty enjoyed sunshine and sandwiches on the patio. As I looked at the earnest faces of the many doctors around the room, I was reminded of the compelling power of inspiration. How many years studied and how many miles traveled in order to train at the NIH. Moving forward, I remain inspired by our shared mission: to improve human health through innovative science.

Category: Careers