Irvine, CA –Since graduating from the University of California at Irvine with an M.D., Ph.D., Stanford Ophthalmologist Vinit Mahajan has built a successful scientific career that bridges the gap between laboratory research and surgery. He has been a mentor for junior faculty, fellows, residents, medical students, and graduate students. It’s this experience that brought him back to the UC Irvine campus for a unique mentoring event, the second annual Southern California UC-MSTP Symposium hosted by UC Irvine.
In 2017 the Medical Student Training Programs (MSTP) at UCI, UCLA and UCSD initiated the first Southern California UC-MSTP Symposium to brainstorm how best to use their collective resources to strengthen the programs across the UC system. The 2018 meeting focused on both traditional and non-traditional career paths. Mahajan, along with 14 other alumni, participated in a tri-institution panel and a rotating, quick moving, one on one question and answer session. Approximately fifty students attended from all three institutions.
Mahajan said, “MSTP students are specifically trained to solve challenging problems. They have a broad skill set that allows them to move between the clinic, laboratory, operating room, and administration. MSTPs solve problems in complex, mixed environments.”
This is apparent in the career paths of Mahajan’s former co-MSTP students. Kathy Gallardo, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.B.P.N., now works as the Deputy Director of Mental Health Services at the US State Department. And Gabriel Vargas, M.D., Ph.D., moved from UCSF to industry, first at AmGen and recently at a biotech startup company in the San Francisco Bay Area.
For those working in academic centers, Mahajan said, “Technological advancements have made it much easier to translate research between the lab and patient settings. The Molecular Surgery Program at Stanford is a good example of how this is being done. We can perform gene therapy in humans and analyze human biopsies with the most advanced mass spectrometry instruments. Our innovative approaches to finding new therapies for hard to treat eye diseases benefits from new proteomics technologies, crystallography, and bio-banked eye tissues used for molecular medicine research.”
He added, “It’s an exciting time, and I’m happy to share my experiences and expertise so that students coming out of Medical Scientist Training Programs can better tackle the challenges of balancing a career in research and medicine and take advantage of the opportunities this remarkable career offers.”