I’m currently an M4 in an MD/PhD program at an American university. (I’m sure you can find it if you care, but I don’t want to drag their name into a blog about my personal opinions and experiences.)
In my undergraduate career, I worked in two different radiology labs, focusing on functional MRI of the brain and the application of radiologic techniques in the study of muscle physiology. I presented a couple of posters, but none of my work from that period made it to publication.
Since entering my MD/PhD program, I rotated through labs in physiology, radiology, and neurosurgery. I had originally settled on doing my PhD in Neuroscience with a focus on MRI and MRS analysis of rare genetic diseases, but the PI I was hoping to work with abruptly left the institution mere months before I was set to transition from the second year of medical school into the lab. At the last minute, at great expense, and in a completely different style, I settled upon the lab in neurosurgery, where I began studying novel methods for the detection of cancer in the cerebrospinal fluid. (The CSF and central nervous system in general is a dangerous hideout for metastatic cancer because the blood/brain barrier can protect the cancer from drugs delivered to the rest of the body.) At this point, I produced the review article that would become my first publication, and contributed to another clinical paper that has since been published as well. However, due to more political setbacks – the clinical lead on this work and the laboratory PI did not see eye to eye on research strategy and areas of focus – I ended up starting from scratch shortly before my comprehensive exam.
For the uninitiated, a comprehensive exam can consist of different things depending on the program and institution. At mine, I had to prepare a grant proposing the experiments I would do for my PhD and defend it orally before a committee of faculty members. I pulled this off despite my recent change in topic, and proceeded from there. Beginning there, my focus had turned to the relationship between a gene called HFE which is commonly mutated in humans and the progression of tumors.
Since then, I have pursued this topic from a number of angles and overcome a series of setbacks related to my original disease model. Starting in late 2012, I began to see promising results using a model of mouse melanoma that allowed me to manipulate the HFE gene in both the host and the tumor separately. This data carried me to the International Bioiron Society annual meeting in London in April of 2013, and has since been published here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4259395/
Following the acquisition of my PhD, I pursued additional training in a lab that combined neurosurgical topics with data science approaches. Despite multiple difficulties on my primary project, one of my secondary projects resulted in a publication: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0166593
After a year of that I returned to medical school and completed my core clinical rotations. I have since turned my attention to psychiatry and hope to evolve into a physician scientist in that field. My current interests include stress, pain, addiction, trauma, and psychedelics as therapeutic agents. I’ve matched into Residency as of March 17th, 2017, and will be proceeding to hone my clinical skills there while developing research connections and doing as much research as I can manage. My goal remains to serve as a physician scientist, although the specifics of my career remain somewhat of a mystery.