8th Annual Southeastern Medical Scientist Symposium
by Maggie Axelrod (G2)
The Southeastern Medical Scientist Symposium (SEMSS) is a regional American Physician Scientist Association (APSA) annual meeting designed to bring together trainees at all levels, from undergraduates to current MD/PhD students and residents, who are interested in pursuing careers as physician-scientists. The main goals of SEMSS are to strengthen the MD/PhD community within our region and to help undergraduates learn more about the training path. This year SEMSS had more than 250 participants representing over 50 universities. SEMSS attendees heard from three physician-scientist keynote speakers with very different paths. Dr. Juanita Merchant flew in from Arizona to share her journey to becoming a physician-scientist and Chief of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the University of Arizona Health Sciences by taking “the road less traveled.” Dr. Josh Denny shared his experiences spearheading the All of Us Research Program, a historic effort to gather genomic and other data from one million or more people living in the United States to uncover paths toward delivering precision medicine. Dr. Lorraine Ware, a pulmonologist-scientist here at Vanderbilt, talked about the importance of mentorship along the journey and shared practical advice for students about cultivating an environment for success during training. SEMSS attendees also got the opportunity to network with physician-scientists in a variety of career paths during “Career Speed Rounds” or speak with admissions committee members from our MD/PhD program planning committee schools. Additional breakout sessions focused on the art of networking, how to maintain balance as a physician-scientist, #SciMedTwitter (after which several attendees joined twitter), and social engagement as a physician-scientist. A breakout session titled “Life as an MD/PhD” gave students from different MD/PhD programs the opportunity to share different student-driven initiatives at their schools and learn from each other. Programs included our monthly newsletter, women in science groups, program retreats, and student-run free clinics. Attendees also had a forum for presenting their research. Congratulations to Vanderbilt students Alex Sundermann (G4) and Matt Madden (G2) for winning oral presentation and poster awards, respectively.
Thank you to our excellent planning committee: Dr. Megan Williams (MSTP Assistant Director), Bryn Sierra (MSTP Program Manager), Co-Chairs Maggie Axelrod (G2) and Lizzie Hale (G2), Jerome Arceneaux (Meharry Medical College), Nowrin Chowdhury (M2), Juan Colazo (M2), Emilie Fisher (M1), Graham Johnson (M2), Zachary Jones (M1), Donald Okoye (M1), Michael Raddatz (G2), Maxwell Roeske (G1), John Shelley (M1), Alex Silver (M2), and Camille Wang (M2)!