This year, UAB had the pleasure of hosting the Southeastern Medical Scientist Symposium (SEMSS) and ROCKED it, if I do say so myself. The 7th annual conference hosted between UAB, Emory, and Vanderbilt MSTPs was partnered for the first time with UAB’s new Physician Scientist Development Office (PSDO) and attracted a slew of undergraduates, medical students, MD/PhD students, graduate students, and residents/fellows to the shiny new Hill Student Center for the weekend. Things kicked off Saturday afternoon with keynote speaker Dr. Steven Rowe from UAB who delivered an inspiring address to budding and blossoming physician-scientists, alike. MS-1 Emily Hayward was especially impressed by his talk.
“Dr. Rowe was proposing that chronic smoking leads to the same changes as cystic fibrosis. In his novel model of COPD, he found that smoking led to acquired disruptions with CFTR function, and he sees both bronchitis and the issues with mucus clearance that are typical of both smokers and CF patients. Side note: he used ferrets as a model to study this, so he showed some videos where he put ferrets in these huge tubes with smoke and they got addicted to it (so they would get really mad when the smoke was turned off) and then they developed the smoker’s cough as well… so that was pretty crazy!” -Emily
The day continued with breakout sessions, including a student panel of current MSTP students representing multiple universities that fielded questions from a room full of curious undergraduates, and later a panel of MSTP/SOM directors from UAB, Emory, and Vanderbilt to give students an insider’s scoop on prepping for, applying to, and choosing an MD/PhD program. There were also breakout sessions targeted to those further along in their training. A particularly stellar session I attended was an interactive session with residents and residency directors that took the form of an informal round-table discussion with top-notch doctors from fields such as Pediatric Critical Care, Internal Medicine, and OB/Gyn. It was an awesome opportunity to ask questions directly to program directors about how they chose their field, why they love their job, and what they look for in a residency applicant.
Other notable events on Saturday were two poster sessions, highlighting the ongoing research of students at various levels of training and from a diverse array of scientific and clinical fields, and a second keynote with none other than Dr. Robert Satcher – whose resume casually includes things like being an MD/PhD at MD Anderson, performing orthopedic surgeries, and being an astronaut (really). His talk included his current cancer research AND videos from space training alongside other insights into living that space life. The night ended in style with a swanky reception at the Florentine building in downtown Birmingham where the networking was even better than the hors d’oeuvres (and let me tell you, those were hard to beat).
The party continued on Sunday with a breakfast spread fit for a king for attendees to enjoy while listening to Dr. Anna Han from the NIH speak on the ever-present and ever-important topic of implicit bias and how we can prevent workplace bias in our future careers. After listening to oral presentations given by students on topics such as cardiovascular health and disease, an additional round of breakout sessions provided students with professional development for dayz. A rather unique session (at least for scientists and medical professionals) brought in a representative from UAB’s theater department who led an interactive practice highlighting the “art” of public speaking. This hands-on session had students open their minds and their mouths to learn how to effectively engage and audience and even untangle themselves from the tried and true human knot. Closing out the conference was an awards ceremony recognizing the undergraduates, MD and MD/PhD students, and residents/fellows who won awards in their respective categories for posters and oral presentations (and cash prizes!).
SEMSS 2016 was definitely worth the weekend trip, whether it was down the road or across state borders. Shout-out to the SEMSS leadership and student committees who made this conference a reality and I look forward to seeing many of you at next year’s event!
(pictures coming soon)