Growing up, I was raised in the suburbs of Lansing, Michigan. I became interested in medicine at a young age through my father, a local OB/GYN. As I progressed through my undergraduate years at Michigan State University, I found that I also had a great interest in biomedical research through our university's McNair Summer Research Opportunity Program. My first research project, completed under the direction of Dr. Bruce Uhal, investigated the pathogenic links between the renin-angiotensin system and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. After completing this project, I knew that I wanted to complete both medical school and graduate school to combine my interests in clinical medicine and research.
After completing my Bachelor of Science in physiology with a specialization in bioethics, I was accepted into Michigan State University's DO/PhD Physician Scientist Training Program. Through my research conducted in Dr. Andrea Amalfitano’s laboratory, I discovered my passion for immunology and the role it plays in cancer pathogenesis and treatment. My dissertation research focused on the use of recombinant adenovirus (rAd)-based vectors as vaccine platforms and the ways in which we could boost vector-expressed transgene immunity. Specifically, I focused on the use of a tumor antigen (carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA))-expressing rAd in conjunction with a novel TLR agonist to enhance the adaptive immune response against colorectal tumor cells.
In addition to my cancer immunology research, I was also involved in a collaborative project at Michigan State University that established an HIV/AIDS patient research database which has currently enrolled hundreds of patients who are HIV-positive and receiving their care in mid-Michigan. This database was created to allow HIV/AIDS patients to participate in novel research projects conducted by our university’s researchers and clinicians. In conjunction, I also applied for and received an American Medical Association Seed Grant which provided basic funding to study the innate immune response differences of our HIV patients who respond well to their anti-retroviral medications (HAART) and those who were resistant to treatment (e.g. continue to have low CD4 T cell levels).
After completing my PhD, I was granted an American Society of Clinical Oncology/Conquer Cancer Foundation Rotation Award which allowed me to conduct research at Duke University Medical Center under the direction of Dr. H. Kim Lyerly and Dr. Michael Moore. During this experience, I studied immune checkpoint inhibition in murine breast cancer models and wrote a review paper on microsatellite instability, colorectal cancer and immune checkpoint inhibitors.
For extracurricular activities, I served in several medical and graduate student leadership roles, including becoming vice president of external affairs for our university’s Council of Graduate Students during which I advocated for benefits and representation of graduate and professional students at the university, state and federal level. Additionally, I volunteered to be a site staff advisor for alternative spring break trips during which I led groups of undergraduate students on volunteer projects involving HIV/AIDS prevention and patient activism.
In applying for residency, I knew that I wanted to find a program that would support my future goals to be both a tumor immunotherapy researcher and an oncologist. The James Comprehensive Cancer Center at OSU houses the newest cancer technologies and experienced clinicians. The James and the surrounding medical campus also employ many accomplished researchers who are transitioning novel therapies from the laboratory to clinical trials.
After interviewing at OSU, I was impressed by all the opportunities offered to residents, including reserved time for career development and flexible work schedules. After arriving here, I also greatly appreciate the friendly and approachable learning atmosphere that OSU provides for its residents. Moreover, Columbus is a fantastic place to live. There are always plenty of events going on and lots of great places to eat and drink – you will never be bored!
DO: Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, May 2016
PhD: Cell and Molecular Biology - Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, October 2014
BS: Physiology, specialization in bioethics, humanities and society - Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, May 2007
Dissertation: Enhancement of recombinant adenovirus vector vaccine efficacy by innate immune modulation
Advisor: Andrea Amalfitano, DO, PhD
- American Society of Clinical Oncology/Conquer Cancer Foundation Rotation Award, 2015 - 2016
One of seven students nationally to receive fellowship funding for a two-month clinical research rotation - work will specifically involve patients receiving therapeutic cancer vaccines (including the vector utilized in PhD dissertation) at Duke University
- National Institutes of Health NIGMS Ancillary Training Program Travel Scholarship, 2015
One of two students nationally to receive this scholarship to present their translational research at “The Modes of Action of Vaccine Adjuvant” Keystone Symposia in Seattle, WA
- American Medical Association Seed Grant Recipient, 2013 - 2014
Competitive scholarship in which 28 total medical students, interns and residents were selected to receive funds for initiation of novel research projects in the areas of cardiovascular/pulmonary disease, HIV/AIDS or pancreatic cancer
- Michigan State University Rasmussen Doctoral Recruitment Fellowship, 2007
Incentive fellowship received upon enrolling in the Michigan State University Physician Scientist DO/PhD program for medical and graduate school training
- American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) member, 2015 - present
- American Medical Association (AMA) member, 2009 - present
- American Osteopathic Association (AOA) member, 2007 - 2016
- American Physician Scientist Association (APSA) member, 2007 - present
- APSA Public Relations Committee member/Newsletter Editor, 2008 - 2009
- American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)/Science Program for Excellence in Science Member, 2008 - 2009