Meet Avery-Cohen PSTP Associate College Advisor: R. Dixon Dorand, M.D., Ph.D.
By Natalie Bennett (G3)
Dr. R. Dixon Dorand, M.D., Ph.D. is a hematology & oncology fellow in the Vanderbilt Physician Scientist Training Program (PSTP) and serves as an associate college advisor for the MSTP Avery-Cohen College. I had the excellent opportunity to speak with him about his training so far and advice for current MSTP students.
Journey to the Vanderbilt PSTP
Dr. Dorand hails from Montgomery, Alabama and went to the University of Alabama at Birmingham where he studied history and biology. Although he was interested in medical school early on, he developed a keen interest in research through an undergraduate summer research program in Omaha, Nebraska, where he studied collagen expression in human fetal lung fibroblasts. After this experience, he joined a lab at UAB studying the role of prostaglandins in fertilization, which further solidified his excitement for research.
Upon graduating from UAB, Dr. Dorand spent a gap year in the same lab and ultimately enrolled in the MD/PhD program at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio where he became interested in pediatric hematology/oncology. He joined a lab focused on pediatric central nervous system (CNS) malignancies, where his PhD work centered around antigen presentation in the CNS. During his clerkship rotations, he was surprised to discover a passion for adult internal medicine rather than pediatrics and decided to apply to internal medicine PSTPs. The Vanderbilt PSTP stood out as exceptionally well-rounded, and he found a new home in Nashville and at Vanderbilt.
After completing two years of internal medicine residency, Dr. Dorand started his fellowship in hematology and oncology and identified sarcomas as his area of clinical and research interest, both because of the diverse patient population and the intricacies of researching a disease with a significant number of subtypes without effective targeted therapies. He is currently performing research under the mentorship of Dr. Ben Park and looks to apply techniques of molecular precision medicine to better understand drug resistance in sarcomas.
On his new role as an associate college advisor
Dr. Dorand is excited to work with current MSTP students as an associate college advisor. Throughout his training, he has been passionate about mentorship through his graduate student council and more recently through PSTP programming. “These opportunities make you feel more grounded in the community at Vanderbilt,” he noted. During his free time, he enjoys going to concerts and spending time with his family.
When asked for words of wisdom for current trainees, he shared an important reminder. “Family and friends are a huge support, but also keep connected with your colleagues,” he said. “Everyone is going through the same thing…so the support of someone who has been through it is so important.”