MD/PhD Students Attend Colorado Physician-Scientist Conference

Three UConn Health MD/PhD students recently attended the 34th Annual MD/PhD National Student Conference at Copper Mountain, CO.

6th year MD/PhD Candidate Grace Kwon presenting her research on long noncoding RNAs in asthma.

Each summer, the UConn Health MD/PhD program sends a group of students to the 3-day conference that is exclusive to dual-degree MD/PhD students. The conference features student presentations, career development workshops, and keynote seminars from distinguished speakers.


This year’s keynote speakers included Nobel prize winner Dr. Peter Agre from Johns Hopkins University, accomplished neuroscientist Dr. Huda Akil from the University of Michigan, Acting Director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Dr. Douglas Lowy, leading oncologist Dr. Padmanee Sharma from MD Anderson Cancer Center, and UConn Health’s own Dr. Cato Laurencin.

6th year MD/PhD Candidate Michael Chung presenting his research on Prader-Willi Syndrome

“Hearing from someone like Dr. Peter Agre was a great opportunity. Listening to his breadth of work on aquaporins was absorbing, but it was also inspiring to hear about all of the trainees Dr. Agre mentored – he told a story about each individual and their work. It’s not common for a speaker to consistently mention all the individuals that led to seminal discoveries, and it was clear he was just as proud of the trainees he’s mentored as much as the resulting scientific discoveries.” Said Michael Chung, a GS4 (6th-year total) student in the program.



Along with scientific keynotes, the conference hosted residency program directors from across the country to speak with MD/PhD students about research opportunities during post-graduate clinical training. In particular, questions were answered of physician scientist training programs (PSTPs), unique training programs designed for recent medical graduates who are interested in a physician-scientist career. Many MD/PhD students go on to match into these residency programs.

5th year MD/PhD Candidate Victor Wang presenting his research.

“I found the PSTP Residency Planning Showcase to be particularly valuable. It provided a unique opportunity to meet with programs I was interested in to better understand what the programs had to offer as well as the qualifications they were looking for in an applicant. It was a very useful planning tool to map out the remainder of my MD and PhD education, even if that process is still a way off.”, noted Victor Wang, a GS3 (5th-year total) student in the program.



The well-organized conference is a fantastic opportunity to meet other dual-degree students across the country, and also allowed for some time to enjoy the Colorado outdoors.

MD/PhD Students enjoying the CO outdoors
Left to Right: MD/PhD Candidates Victor Wang (GS3), Grace Kwon (GS4), and Michael Chung (GS4).

UConn MD/PhD Students Present At National Physician-Scientist Meeting

Feria Ladha, UConn MD/PhD student and APSA Institutional RepresentativeSponsored by the Office of Physician-Scientist Career Development, seven UConn MD/PhD students recently attended the national meeting for physician-scientists, which was held in Chicago, IL. This annual joint meeting brings together some of the nation’s most illustrious physician-scientists from the Association of American Physicians (AAP) and American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI), as well as early-career trainees from the American Physician-Scientists Association (APSA), to celebrate advances in science and medicine.

Peter Larson in a suit and bowtie standing beside his poster.
MD/PhD Student Peter Larson presenting his ongoing research with the laboratory of Dr. Julia Oh.

There were also numerous mentoring sessions, where students had the opportunity to receive beneficial career advice directly from residency directors and established investigators. Victor Wang, a fourth-year MD/PhD student, said, “The mentoring events were extremely helpful, as they provided firsthand information from residency directors that you wouldn’t have the opportunity to hear elsewhere.” These sessions were multidisciplinary, enabling students to gather information regarding different specialties via the unique perspectives provided by physician-scientists of varying career backgrounds. Anthony Pettinato, a fourth-year MD/PhD student, said, “Meeting residency directors and professors at other institutions allowed me to get a better idea of the steps I could be taking early on in my time as an MD/PhD in order to support my interests and my career goals.”

Maria Xu standing in professional attire next to her poster
UConn MD/PhD Student Maria Xu presenting her ongoing research in the laboratory of Anthony Vella.

In addition to APSA-sponsored events, all seven UConn MD/PhD students attended the annual ASCI dinner and new member induction ceremony with Andrew Arnold, MD, an ASCI/AAP member and director of the UConn Office of Physician-Scientist Career Development. This prestigious dinner recognized the novel scientific contributions of new ASCI inductees, and attendees heard powerful career advice and perspective from Victor Dzau, MD, President of the National Academy of Medicine.  Dr. Arnold noted that “exposing our aspiring physician-scientists to the Joint Meeting’s diverse array of role models and exciting clinically-relevant science has long been a major priority for our office and the UConn School of Medicine, and the continuous enthusiasm and participation from our students makes it all worthwhile.”

Whatever the stage of training, MD/PhD students all derived inspiration and excitement from their interactions at the Joint Meeting and look forward to returning.

UConn MD/PhD students standing together smiling, nicely dressed in a fancy ballroom
UConn MD/PhD Students with Dr. Andrew Arnold at the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI) Dinner. Left-right) Maria Xu (GS2), Feria Ladha (GS3), Peter Larson (GS2), Victor Wang (GS2), Dr. Arnold, Katie Discipio (GS3), Grace Kwon (GS3), and Anthony Pettinato (GS2).