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SEMSS honors MD/PhD student Zach Jones

Posted by on Monday, May 16, 2022 in Around the Medical Center, Spring 2022 .


Zach Jones

The Southeastern Medical Scientists Symposium (SEMSS) was held in January and honored Zach Jones, a third-year Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) student at Vanderbilt and one of the co-chairs for the event. Jones, 25, died unexpectedly in September 2021.

Started eight years ago, the SEMSS is an American Physician Scientists Association (APSA) regional meeting that brings together aspiring physician scientists from schools around the southeastern United States. This event is primarily organized and attended by MD, MD/PhD, and undergraduate students, with many opportunities for students to present their work.

The symposium features plenary and keynote speakers, representing the best and newest ideas in fundamental, clinical and translational science.

The planning responsibilities for the conference shift each year between Vanderbilt, University of Alabama-Birmingham and Emory, and it was Vanderbilt’s turn to spearhead it. The co-chairs were to be Jones and classmate Nowrin Chowdhury. The committee chose a theme to honor Jones posthumously, “Humanity as a Physician Researcher,” and the students produced a tribute to Zach that was enclosed in the program, which, in part read:

“SEMSS was very important to Zach. He would tell anyone who would listen that the reason he ended up at Vanderbilt was because of a conversation with our directors during SEMSS as an undergraduate. That conversation helped him find a home where he could achieve his dreams. When given the opportunity to work on and ultimately be co-chair of SEMSS, Zach did not hesitate; he wanted to provide future physician scientists with the opportunity to learn from each other, be there for each other and achieve their dreams together. He put everything he had into trying to make this conference great. This conference, its theme, everything it is, is for him.”