Biomedical Education

JON VINCENT’S PURSUIT OF COMBINED DEGREE MEANS HE PURSUES TWO PASSIONS: CARE AND DISCOVERY

Jon Vincent, a second-year student in UK’s MD/PhD program, excels at juggling challenges that seem impossible to most. As an undergraduate at the University of Cincinnati, he majored in neurobiology and became deeply involved in neuroscience research while playing football for the UC Bearcats.

Concluding his career as a student-athlete with a tryout for the Cincinnati Bengals, Vincent joined the lab of Joe Clark, PhD, researching traumatic brain injury (TBI) as part of UC’s sports medicine team. After earning an MBA, he formed his own company to make the benefits of TBI research available to the public.

Now in UK’s MD/PhD program, Vincent is on a track combining medical school training and graduate studies to prepare physician-scientists for a career of health practice and research.

“I chose to go through that journey even though it was longer,” Vincent explained, “because I felt that the merging of the two fields was just what I wanted. I wanted training in how to ask an answerable question while keeping connected in actionable, clinical conditions.”

The combined degree, Vincent said, was also a challenge that intrigued him. “How do you bring your love for your patients to the bench and the innovation of the bench to the bedside?”

Impressed by UK’s capacity for research, its growth in the past 10 years, and its high success rate of F30 funding, Vincent is drawn especially to both the Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center and the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, where he intends to continue his research in TBI and neurogenerative diseases while earning his degrees.

This summer Vincent will transition from medical school to his PhD, training under Adam Bachstetter, PhD, associate professor of neuroscience, and will focus on the connections between the nervous system and the immune system, especially in the context of TBI. The exploration begins with “an understanding of how each system functions normally, and then what happens as a result of injury or disease.”

Vincent looks forward to work as a physician-scientist, perhaps teaching and directing a lab while caring for patients. But there’s another path that he may take up as well, one that could draw on his strengths in business. “For any quality care or cure, you have to have a scalable business process. Say we have a great treatment here at UK. What about patients in California? How can you bring it to them?”

With his energy, talent, combined with experience in UK’s MD/PhD program, Vincent will be ready to take on that challenge.

“I chose to go through that journey even though it was longer because I felt that the merging of the two fields was just what I wanted. I wanted training in how to ask an answerable question while keeping connected in actionable, clinical conditions.”

—Jon Vincent

GRAD STUDENTS, POSTDOCS PLAY IMPORTANT ROLE IN ALLIANCE RESEARCH INITIATIVE

The College of Medicine’s Alliance Research Initiative fostered collaborations among clinicians, researchers, and more during fiscal year 2021 to work on pivotal projects related to Kentucky’s most urgent health needs. But it also led to numerous mentorship opportunities for the College of Medicine’s graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. From shadowing to collecting samples and clinical research, these learners made important contributions to their teams and gained career experience along the way.

Read more about Hammodah Alfar’s experience. Read more about Dr. Martha Sim’s experience.

MD/PHD PROGRAM CONTINUES TO GROW

The UK College of Medicine’s MD/PhD program has been training physician-scientists for more than a decade, and program leadership has worked hard to develop the combined degree program to equip more trainees with vital medical and scientific knowledge. The program has reached 30 students (five first-years, four second-years, three third-years, four fourth-years, and 14 graduate students.)

In the last year, trainees have demonstrated the program’s strength and capability of preparing physician-scientists for prosperous careers in medicine and research. Learners produced numerous publications and presentations and won both local and national awards for their research, including four competitive F30 grants from the National Institutes of Health that are specifically for clinician scientists. A notable achievement, these F30 grants fund the last two years of graduate school and the third and fourth years of medical school.

The MD/PhD program also has recently implemented several learning opportunities to enhance career skills needed for success, including a monthly clinical case study.

FORENSIC TOXICOLOGY PROGRAM GRADUATES FIRST CLASS OF LEARNERS

An innovative new program in the College of Medicine Department of Toxicology and Cancer Biology graduated its first class in May 2021. The Master of Forensic Toxicology and Analytical Genetics encompasses two concentrations for graduate students, one primarily focused on chemistry and another related to DNA analysis. Most students who join the program come in with a bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry, or forensic science. The program prepares graduate students for a variety of prosperous job opportunities including in forensics, research, and the government sector.

THE YEAR IN NUMBERS

400+ Biomedical Learners

By the end of spring 2021, the College of Medicine was training more than 400 biomedical learners, including 300 graduate students and more than 100 postdoctoral fellows.

30 MD/PhD Students

More than 30 students are in the MD/ PhD program training to become exceptional physician-scientists.

20 Publications

MD/PhD trainees generated more than 20 publications and presentations in the last year.