I began blogging while I was applying to MD/PhD programs in the summer of 2012. As I was trying to learn more about these programs and what it was like to be a physician-scientist in training, I realized that there was a lack of personal accounts of this type of training. Wanting to help those who come after me and wanting to maintain a writing outlet during my training (yay self care!), I created this blog to share both the ups and downs of my experience. It is not exhaustive by any means, but I hope it can be helpful for you in whatever stage of training!
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Without further ado, let me introduce myself:
Hanna Erickson, at your service.
(Hope you get the Hobbit reference)
I am a MD/PhD student in the Medical Scholars Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). For more on the structure of this program, see my post My Next Eight Years. Currently, I have finished my first year of medical school classes and am working to finish my PhD in Molecular and Integrative Physiology by the summer of 2019. For my PhD research, I work in the lab of Dr. Sayee Anakk, which focuses on studying how bile acids (the detergent-like molecules made by your liver to help your body absorb fat) actually can affect protein signaling and ultimately the functions of cells and tissues. Specifically, I study a scaffolding protein called IQGAP1 that we think acts downstream of bile acids and regulates ketone body synthesis and the liver injury response. If that last sentence makes no sense to you, please check out the description of my 3-minute thesis presentation explaining just that in a way that I think a lay audience could better understand (with a beer metaphor!)
I’ve worn a lot of hats during my time here at UIUC. In addition to my research and medical training, most of my focus has been being involved in planning events to promote career development and community building and sitting on committees related to medical education and policy to provide the useful voice of a student. On campus, I’ve led multiple retreat planning committees and the internal medicine interest group. Additionally, I’ve served on a committee that compiled documentation for my school’s upcoming LCME re-accreditation and on our student government. However, I’ve also been able to get involved in national organizations the American Physician Scientists Association (APSA) and the American College of Physicians (ACP) . With APSA, I’ve served as events committee co-chair and vice president. With ACP, I’ll be serving as Vice Chair of the Council of Student Members in 2018-2019. These positions have allowed me to influence the activities of these organizations and help them better help students and patients. It is both an honor and privilege to serve. 😊
Before I came to Illinois, I grew up in a suburb of Minneapolis, MN and was a chemistry major at the University of Minnesota. As an undergraduate I did research and volunteered at a hospital like so many pre-meds do (though I wasn’t intending on being pre-med at the time), but I also kept the music alive by playing clarinet in the University of Minnesota Marching Band! Marching band was a highly time-consuming commitment, but I genuinely attribute a large portion of my creativity, time management skills, and leadership skills to the 4 years I spent working with the 320-person band to memorize performances and get people excited about the game and the state of Minnesota! I believe that the happiest of people are enthusiastic about all parts of their lives – not just work or school – and I point this out to encourage everyone reading this to follow your passions like this even if they aren’t directly related to your ultimate goal. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.
So what’s my end game? Honestly, I don’t know. And that’s OKAY. I went into this path to span the gap between basic research and medicine, and that’s still what I want to do to this day. But now the question is “How can I BEST do this?” There’s so many things I enjoy: seeing patients, learning about diseases, asking research questions, analyzing data, leading organizations, using social media for outreach, writing for popular audiences, advocating and influencing policy, and teaching to name a few. Though at times, I also find these unenjoyable, which is perfectly normal. Furthermore, who knows what kinds of unique opportunities may come my way down the road. Basically every career talk that I’ve heard to date from a physician-scientist has highlighted the serendipitous path they took to get there! But what I do know is that my training as a MD/PhD student is ideal to help me develop broad skills that will make me ready for whatever comes my way and will ultimately help me find my niche as a physician-scientist.
Oh and I have a cute cat named Smeagol (#AcademicsWithCats):
I receive no compensation for my writing on this blog, all of which is purely my own. While I do express my opinions, I emphasize that there is no guarantee that they represent those of my university or employers, and so should not be transferred onto them. Also, as a medical student, my work should not be taken as medical advice. I do not wish to allow advertisements on my blog (other than the ones WordPress puts on here), but I will find a way to give your website or product a shout out IF I personally believe it is something worth sharing with my readers.
While I am not compensated for my work with this blog, I have been compensated (barely!) for my work with The Almost Doctor’s Channel, DocCheck, and Lean On Admissions, which I may shamelessly self-promote on this blog.