Medical School Class of 2020
As a third year medical student, I became fascinated by the science behind medical treatments and the process of discovering new therapeutic agents, particularly for patients with cardiovascular disease. I realized that I wanted to learn more about how we develop effective treatments. After discussing my interests with the UT Southwestern Medical Student Research office, I learned about the Sarnoff Cardiovascular Research Fellowship.
A year to do research
The Sarnoff Fellowship program supports 10-15 medical students annually to spend one year pursuing research at top medical centers across the country, away from their home institutions. This program encourages students without extensive prior research experience to apply, which was particularly appealing to me. With the help of many mentors at UT Southwestern, I applied and was offered a fellowship position, which I gladly accepted. I visited several incredible labs and ultimately found the right fit with the Kaelin Lab at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
Over the next year, I had the opportunity to learn about how basic molecular biology can be utilized to develop new treatments for patients under the supervision of the Lasker Prize-winning scientist, Dr. William G. Kaelin, Jr. In the lab, I worked with a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Ben Lampson, to develop and execute whole-genome CRISPR screens and pharmacologic screens. Our goal was to discover novel, indirect gene targets and therapeutics for the treatment of cancers and cardiovascular diseases driven by aberrant transcriptional factor activity.
I found this work particularly exciting because these targets have previously been considered “undruggable” for treatment. I became so invested in the project that I applied and was accepted to continue work in the lab for a second year to complete more screening and participate in secondary validation of screening hits.
Improving understanding of medical treatments
The Sarnoff Fellowship provided the opportunity to cultivate my understanding of the basic science behind medical treatments, engage in scientific discovery, and practice presenting scientific findings at research conferences. I believe that I will be a better physician because of the skills I developed as a Sarnoff Fellow in the Kaelin lab.
– Jamie Pfaff, Medical School Class of 2020