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Alumni Profiles

Robert Adams, M.D., Ph.D.
Robert Adams, M.D., Ph.D.

What sparked your interest to become an M.D./Ph.D. student?
In the med-school application process people would joke that M..D/Ph.D.s are for people who can't decide what they want to do with their lives. There is some truth in this, and during undergrad I was drawn toward caring for people, intrigued by the complexity of the human brain and body, and in addition I felt a commitment to academia and research (i.e. extending the sum of human knowledge). After my M.D.-Ph.D. training I better understand the important role of a physician-scientist, which is more than just a person who couldn't decide whether to do research or medicine.

How did you decide which lab to join​ for your Ph.D.​?
Generally speaking, advice for picking a lab that is often given to students interested in pursuing a Ph.D. is that you have to weigh 3 nearly equally important factors: 1) Interest in the current projects and direction of the lab, 2) Fit with the personality and communication of the PI/mentor, and 3) Current and future funding for the lab. Having all 3 is a perfect fit, and having 2 can lead to a successful and fulfilling Ph.D., but will have certain challenges. Having only one of those things is not recommended.

I am interested in physiology and rehabilitation of the nervous system. Additionally I have a background in engineering. The lab I worked with focused on the neurophysiology of synaptic transmission, mechanisms of peripheral nerve regeneration, and neural engineering of regenerative approaches.

What did you do in the lab?
During my initial summer rotation I joined a project looking at vesicle release for synaptic transmission. I published these findings in Biophysical Journal. I then joined the lab full time for my Ph.D. and shifted my focus on the use of electrical stimulation for affecting and improving neural regeneration. More specifically I studied the effect of electrical stimulation on peripheral neurons, and I studied approaches to optimize these effects.

What are your plans for the future?
Short term: I will be joining the neurology residency program at Case Western.

Long term: I continue to love and feel committed to both caring for patients and for performing original research. I plan to conduct neurological research, possibly in neural regeneration and rehabilitation, while continuing to care for patients.

What has been your experience at SLU?
My experience has been excellent and is too extensive to do it justice in a written response. I grew academically (becoming fluent in the languages of medicine and science), professionally (learning to function well in complex teams with many goals and interests), personally (getting married, evaluating life goals and personal purpose), emotionally (through structured wellness and mindfulness classes as part of the curriculum which extended to further extracurricular activities), and humanistically (volunteering in the community as well as working with and trying to understand patients from broad walks of life), to name a few.

Stephanie Jackson Cullison, M.D., Ph.D.
Stephanie Jackson Cullison, M.D., Ph.D.

What sparked your interest to become an M.D./Ph.D. Student?
As a child, I always dreamed about becoming a doctor. I pursued an undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering on a premed track to prepare me for this pathway. While I was in undergrad, I had several research experiences that I really enjoyed, including with physician scientists conducting both clinical and basic research. I really admired and respected the work that my mentors did. I was fascinated by their ability to ask basic questions and translate that knowledge for patient benefit. When I learned about the M.D./Ph.D. track, I thought it provided the best option to prepare me for a career in which I could become the physician I always dreamed of being, while also bringing in my newfound interest in research to expand my ability to help patients.

How did you decide which lab to join for your Ph.D.?
I thought a lot about what research was interesting to me when deciding what labs to rotate in. I also considered the reputation of the lab, the mentor, the department. In selecting a lab, I was advised that your relationship with the mentor is more important than the specific project that you work on, but I think the combination is important. After completing my training, I now know that to get the most out of your training, you want to look for a mentor with experience and a good track record of publication and funding. You want to make sure that the department has experience successfully training MD/PhDs. The productivity of current and former lab trainees (MD/PhD or otherwise) can be enlightening.

What did you do in the lab?
I employed a murine model of CD8+ T cell tolerance to explore the molecular pathways that dictate T cell fate after engagement of self-antigen. Understanding these pathways has implications for both autoimmunity and eliciting anti-tumor CD8+ T cell immunity. My lab experience involved a variety of techniques including in vivo and in vitro studies, flow cytometry and a variety of molecular techniques. We published our findings in The Journal of Leukocyte Biology, Immunotherapy, and PLOS One.

What are your future plans?
I am starting a Dermatology residency at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. I currently plan to do a fellowship after I complete my General Dermatology training, but am still reflecting on which subspecialty will be the best fit. After training, I hope to remain at an academic center and have a career that offers opportunities to be involved in teaching and research.

What has been your experience with SLU?
I found the training environment at SLU to be one of the most supportive environments I've ever been in! The leadership of the medical school were dedicated to ensuring that students not only learned the art and science of medicine, but also maintained well-balanced lives outside of the classroom/hospital. I found this support to be invaluable while navigating the challenging and stressful pathway of medical training. I also found the M.D./Ph.D. program leadership and my colleagues to be incredibly supportive. There was always someone keeping a close eye out to make sure I met my my milestones, remained on track to graduate in a timely manner, and most importantly, had a little fun doing it!

Alumni Placements

  • Otolaryngology - University of California-San Diego 
  •  Neurology - Case Western University 
  •  Pediatrics - University of Michigan, Washington University  
  • Dermatology - University of Pittsburgh 
  • Psychiatry -Saint Louis University 
  • Radiation Oncology - Emory University 
  • Pathology - University of Utah 
  • Obstetrics/Gynecology - Saint Louis University
  • Internal Medicine - Mayo Clinics, Rochester and Saint Louis University 
  • Anesthesiology - University of Colorado 
  • Pediatrics - University of California Los Angeles 
  • Surgery - Vanderbilt University 
  • Dermatology - University of Colorado 
  • Internal Medicine - Saint Louis University, Johns Hopkins University 
  • Radiation Oncology - University Texas Southwestern 
  • Obstetrics/Gynecology - Washington University 
  • Medicine/Pediatrics - Vanderbilt University 
  • Dermatologic Pathology -Saint Louis University, University of Texas Southwestern 
  • Radiation Oncology - Washington University 
  •  Pediatric Hem/Oncology - Stanford University 
  •  Anesthesiology - Columbia University
  • Internal Medicine - Washington University 
  •  Neurological Surgery - Cleveland Clinics 
  • Internal Medicine - Mayo Clinics, Rochester 
  •  Duke University