MPHS Student Profiles

2017 MD/MPHS Graduate Profile 

Nick Karlow thumbnailNicholas Karlow - deferred 2019 MD/MPHS graduation 

Medical student, Washington University School of Medicine

Why were you interested in the MD/MPHS degree program?

Staying up-to-date on clinical literature within my field is a key component of the effective practice of medicine. The MPHS program offered a pathway for transitioning from passively encountering the research of others to actively analyzing and critiquing new medical findings for myself. Moreover, the MPHS also provides the additional expertise necessary to one day conduct my own well-designed population-based studies and thereby add to the always growing body of clinical research in my field directly.  Given that the MPHS program accomplishes all of this in a single streamlined academic year while simultaneously including abundant applied coursework which allowed me to participate in the clinical research process from day one of the program, pursuing this degree was ultimately a straightforward decision for me. 

How has your MPHS degree impacted your career and future work? 

Before the MPHS program, I had only a vague appreciation of how the body of clinical research progresses and what qualifies as a sound study or an important result. Not only was this a weakness in my clinical potential, but it also prevented me from appreciating the richness and complexity of the clinical research process and the incredible potential a population health scientist has for improving medical care on a national and/or global level. Throughout my MPHS year, my perspective has changed considerably for the better. Now, when I encounter a new clinical trial or study, I can critically analyze the study methods and form my own opinion about the validity of the author's conclusions and the relevance of these conclusions to my future patients. Moreover, this appreciation for the intricacies of the clinical research process has ignited within me not just an appreciation for the work of others, but a strong desire to participate in the clinical research process myself, now and throughout my academic career. 

What advice would you give to someone in medical school about clinical research?

In today’s era of evidence-based medicine, understanding the basic components of the clinical research process and being able to efficiently apply important results to the care of individual patients are key facets of providing optimum clinical care. Therefore, the choice for medical students is not whether to participate in clinical research in some form, but rather how and to what extent. Naturally, the MD/MPHS program provides an optimum setting for gaining this necessary experience.

What would you say to someone considering the MPHS program?

I have already highly recommended the MPHS program to my friends and classmates. I cannot stress enough how much the MPHS program has changed my perspective on population-based clinical research. Now I feel fully prepared to play an active role in conducting clinical research for the rest of my career. As importantly, when I finish my clinical training I will be much better equipped to confidently translate the latest clinical research into the best possible evidence-based clinical care for my future patients. I see no situation where a physician-in-training would regret gaining the skill set and experience that the MPHS program provides. 


2015 MPHS Graduate Profile

Pamela Samson, MD, MPHS

Pamela Samson

Resident, Department of Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine

Why did you enroll in the MPHS program? What are your professional goals?

It was actually at the recommendation of my mentor, Dr. Bryan Meyers. I was hesitant, but he was confident this program would help build me into a well-rounded clinical researcher. And he was absolutely correct! Having been through the program now, I can't imagine working on the clinical research projects I am currently doing without the skills I developed in the MPHS program. It is extremely well tailored to clinicians and is clearly on the leading edge of research techniques and decision science. I have had a consistent clinical interest in thoracic oncology since medical school. I plan to continue my work in clinical outcomes research when I return to residency and I am much more confident in my ability to apply for NIH grants, including early career awards, after completing the MPHS program.

What has been your experience with the MPHS program?

I was impressed with how many of the classes have you use your own data in class projects. There is minimal busy work; rather, there is a focus on concepts in class to develop projects with your current data and clinical questions. From the work I did in Decision Analysis, I was able to present two national abstracts and publish a manuscript. The project I developed in the Randomized Controlled Trials Class led to a presentation and proposal at an esophageal cancer working group meeting in Toronto. Not only do they focus assignments on productive goals towards abstracts, manuscripts, and grants, they are reviewed by faculty that are nationally and internationally recognized in their fields. This guidance is also invaluable.

Was there a specific area of study, skill set or course that you feel is imperative for all physician-researchers? If so, why?

I feel that within the program, there are several course options that would be imperative for physician-researchers based on their interests. For me, I am very interested in determining who will benefit from surgery for lung and esophageal cancer, and which subpopulations we may actually be doing harm in, and would be better served by non-operative management. From that perspective, the courses in risk modeling, decision analysis, administrative databases, and shared decision making were invaluable to help me structure these projects in a robust and meaningful way. A couple courses that are widely useful and applicable to all include the core courses of biostatistics and applied epidemiology, which focuses on grant writing. I literally now use the tools I gained from these courses every day!

How will your MPHS degree impact your career and future work?

Before this program, I thought clinical research mostly revolved around institutional retrospective studies. That was what I knew and my comfort zone. Now I have the confidence and knowledge to tackle these types of projects daily. I think this type of comfort and flexibility definitely makes me a more competent researcher.

What advice would you give to someone early in their career regarding research training?

Seek out mentorship early. When considering a master's program, talk to clinical graduates of that program and make sure it fit their needs and was ultimately productive for them.

What would you say to someone considering the MPHS program?

Do it! I cannot stress enough how well-rounded and thoughtful it will make you, regardless of your specialty. It gives you a unique research toolbox that I think few other programs offer. I feel grateful to have had this opportunity.

2013 MPHS Graduate Profile

Justin Vader, MD, MPHS

Justin VaderClinical Fellow, Cardiovascular Division, Department of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine

Why did you enroll in the MPHS program? What are your professional goals?

I plan on being an advanced heart failure specialist, and my fellowship training affords me a year between general clinical fellowship and advanced fellowship where I can pursue research interests or further training. The MPHS was a unique opportunity to acquire a number of important skills for clinical investigation within the span of a single academic year.

What has been your experience with the MPHS program?

Becoming proficient with statistical programming at the start of the program was probably the most fulfilling part of the training – like learning to speak another language, clumsily yes, but enough to have a meaningful conversation and unlock doors previously closed to me. In terms of overall benefit, the insights of Dr. Graham Colditz (MPHS Program Director) on how the various forms of research design are leveraged to answer clinical questions and the way that these forms are evolving was tremendous.

Was there a specific area of study, skill set or course that you feel is imperative for all physician-researchers? If so, why?

I think all physician-researchers should be able to do basic statistical programming, if for no other reason than to be able to tour their own data and better understand it or to engage a statistician in a more fluid way.

How will your MPHS degree impact your career and future work?

It will be a resource I can return to each time I have an important clinical question, and I need an approach to answer the question as completely as possible given the resources.

What advice would you give to someone early in their career regarding research training?

I can say that dedicated training in research methods and statistics is respected by those in the medical community engaged in research, and it improves your sense of agency in participating in criticism of the literature and in your own work and the work of others.

What would you say to someone considering the MPHS program?

This is a physician-friendly, concentrated program to maximize yield of time and effort for those who are planning on a career in academic medicine.

2012 MPHS Graduate Profile

Shane LaRue, MD, MPHS

Shane LaRueClinical Fellow, Cardiovascular Division, Department of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine

Why did you enroll in the MPHS program? What are your professional goals?

I enrolled in the MPHS to enhance my preparation for an academic career as a heart failure and transplant cardiologist. One of my primary goals in the MPHS program is to develop a greater understanding of clinical research methodology as well as the biostatistics and epidemiology involved. These skills will enhance my ability to interpret and apply clinical studies, improving the care of my patients. This knowledge will also further my capacity to design and perform methodologically sound clinical investigations and ultimately influence the care of patients beyond my immediate practice. 

What has been your experience with the MPHS program?

The program and classes have been very gratifying. It has been especially enjoyable getting to know and working with colleagues from various specialties at different stages of their training. The MPHS faculty work hard to help learn the material, while maintaining a collegial and relaxed environment. 


What class, area of study, or specific skill has been the most beneficial for you so far?

The Randomized Control Trials class has been the most beneficial individual course, to date. Working closely with Dr. Colditz is invaluable. His ability to supplement instruction in developing a randomized controlled trial with firsthand, real-world experience to highlight an important nuance or component is remarkable. Another very beneficial aspect of the program is that classes frequently cover similar topics from a different perspective, which hastens comprehension of the material. 


How will the MPHS degree and what you’ve learned impact your career?

The skills obtained in the MPHS program will allow me to effectively perform impactful clinical research. I will also learn to effectively manage database information, which will facilitate observational and quality studies in my institution's patient population. 

What is your future research focus utilizing skills gained from this program?

I plan to focus on outcomes and comparative effectiveness research in heart failure, mechanical circulatory support and heart transplant. I am specifically interested in evaluating pre-transplant predictors of post-transplant outcomes, as well as factors that influence transplant rejection and the development of transplant vasculopathy. Additionally, I am concerned with improving the treatment of decompensated heart failure, cardiogenic shock, right ventricular failure, and decision making regarding timing of ventricular assist devices implantation. Finally, I will investigate the role that health literacy plays in the outcomes of patients with heart failure, heart transplant and mechanical circulatory support.