Ana S. Salazar, MD, MPHS (2018 Graduate)

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Division of Public Health Sciences, Washington University School of Medicine

Why did you want to become a physician?

As a young girl, my mother was diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor for which no treatment could be offered in Guatemala. In hope of a better outcome, she made a tremendous effort to travel to the United States, where she was given treatment options and learned about her prognosis.

The fact that we did not have the resources to treat my mother in our home country made me aware of the desperate need for improvement in Guatemala’s health care system and ultimately inspired me to study medicine. This life-shaping experience also aroused my passion to help others. From the first years of college I began training as an outpatient primary doctor volunteer with a group of physicians from the U.S. in a rural community in Guatemala; and a few years later, I was in charge of coordinating the medical services trips with students to the community. Part of my growth was mainly academic, but I also learned to provide compassionate, ethical and patient-focused medical care. These were among the most rewarding experiences in my life, and they allowed me to catch a glimpse of the doctor I wanted to become.

Why were you interested in the MPHS program?

Early in my medical training, I was captivated by the intellectual challenge of conducting research on the causes and risk factors for cancer, as well as how they can be prevented. I realized that in order to succeed in my endeavors towards learning these disciplines, an advanced degree was essential to expand the scope of my medical training. I was certain the MPHS program would give me a unique education in research methodology and statistical analysis. I had no doubt that I would acquire the skills needed to implement equitable and cost-effective interventions for improving health services and develop sustainable health policies that would eventually transform and improve our current health system.

How has your MPHS degree impacted your current or future work?

Although I am in very early stages of my career as a researching, studying at Washington University in St. Louis has provided me with the knowledge and real-world skills required to address population health inequities on a local, national and global scale. The MPHS degree has strengthened my ability to approach problems logically and systematically, and has sharpened skills I consider necessary to succeed in the public realm. The program has taught me the core epidemiology, leadership and advocacy skills needed to conduct impactful research that will ultimately improve the care of patients beyond my practice. No matter where I ultimately practice, I am confident that with the skills I have acquired through the MPHS, I will develop the best assets to become a better clinician and improve the care of my patients.

What would you say to someone considering the MPHS program?

It is worth it! The program will provide you with the intellectual foundation and the skills to interpret, critically analyze and apply research findings to your current practice. Additionally, the strong mentoring and career development offered by this program will support and guide you through the challenges of conducting your own research projects, strengthen your CV with publications, and broaden your network.


William C. Chapman, Jr., MD, MPHS (2018 Graduate)

Department of Surgery Research Fellow, Washington University School of Medicine

Why did you want to become a physician? What are your professional goals?

I wanted a career that allowed me to provide a high-demand service that positively impacted others. After several years in politics, I decided that medicine would be a better route to reaching that goal. I plan to develop a strong clinical practice with an academic focus on clinical outcomes research. Most likely, I will specialize in colorectal surgery. In 10 years I hope to have an active practice at a large academic center with a portfolio of funded research projects.

Why were you interested in the MPHS program?

Based on my interest in policy and clinical outcomes, I knew that strong skills in epidemiology, statistics, and research design would be vital to achieving my career goals.  The MPHS offered the most efficient way to gain those skills while working on my ongoing projects.  There is a great synergy between the coursework and clinical research – which is why I’d highly recommend this program to any clinician who plans to pursue a career in clinical research.

How has your MPHS degree impacted your current or future work?

Without a doubt, the MPHS has jumpstarted my research career. Multiple projects have grown directly from the courses, and I now have the skills to take a project from the idea phase all the way to publication – something many of my colleagues cannot do. It has provided me an advantage that I cannot overstate.

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

Do some!

What would you say to someone considering the MPHS program?

Do it.  You will not regret the decision!


Roheena Panni, MD, MPHS (2018 Graduate)

General Surgery Resident, Washington University School of Medicine

What are your professional goals?

I have a clinical interest in surgical oncology with a focus on hepatobiliary malignancies. I plan to continue my work in translational and clinical outcomes research with the goal to bring novel therapeutic options to patients with pancreatic and liver cancers. The ability to conduct clinical research and understand population health sciences has always been critical for me. To facilitate this goal, I joined MPHS during my research years.

How has your MPHS degree impacted your current or future work?

This degree has provided me with a skill set that I can use to answer clinical questions, design projects and understand the strengths and limitations of data and publish clinically relevant and meaningful results. I am much more confident in my ability to write grants, including early career awards and clinical trials after completing the MPHS program.

What would you say to someone considering the MPHS program?

This program is designed to make a well-rounded clinical researcher. It is exceptionally well tailored to clinicians and focuses on research techniques and statistical methodology. The MPHS degree gives clinicians and medical students the foundation to excel in leading, designing projects, understanding and conducting clinical outcome and translational research projects. The faculty members are easily accessible, and masters in their specialties. Their input improves the quality of publications and makes research more rewarding.

The projects that I developed in class led to numerous presentations and awards at national and international meetings and several publications. I strongly recommend this program to every student and resident interested in pursuing clinical research. I feel grateful to have had this opportunity.

See her publications here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=roheena+panni


Susan Pitt, MD, MPHS (2014 Graduate)

Assistant Professor of Surgery, University of Wisconsin

What are your professional goals?

My goals are to improve the lives and experiences of patients with thyroid cancer and adrenal disease through patient care and research.

Why were you interested in the MPHS program?

I was interested in obtaining an MPHS to broaden my research skill set and gain experiential knowledge in population health that would help me better serve my patients.

How has your MPHS degree impacted your current or future work?

My MPHS degree has allowed me to expand my skills as a health services researcher and cross disciplinary lines.  The knowledge I gained with respect to shared decision-making has also made me a better clinician who is more adept at helping my patients make treatment decisions that align with their goals and values.

What advice would you give to someone in medical school about clinical research who may be considering the MPHS program?

Figure out what your passion is and go for it! Think about what types of research questions you will be asking and structure your classes and curriculum around that.


Adam Lewkowitz, MD, MPHS (2018 graduate)

Adam Lewkowitz

Obstetrics and Gynecology Fellow, Washington University School of Medicine

Why were you interested in the MPHS program?

I am interested in using health services research to improve public health policy, but I did not have formal research training upon entering fellowship. My department chair first told me about the MPHS, and I applied as soon as I looked into the program. The MPHS promises a one-year high-yield program that teaches enrollees concrete skills for physicians interested in public health. Having graduated from the program, I am well-aware that the degree has provided me with a firm foundation for a career as a clinician scientist focused on health equity.

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

The MPHS has already impacted my career. I learned how to conduct cost-effectiveness analyses, pragmatic trials, systematic reviews and meta-analysis and refined how I conduct cohort studies and RCTs. Because of the training I received during the degree, I am now serving as a research mentor/collaborate to colleagues interested in these types of research. In addition, after graduation, I continue to have access to the resources within the Institute for Public Health and mentorship from my Professors from MPHS courses. For a pure numbers standpoint, the courses from the MPHS will result in at least eight published manuscripts; these additional manuscripts strengthened my ability to successfully receive a research position as a new faculty after fellowship graduation. The research I completed as a MPHS student will also serve as the basis for my first NIH grant.

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

Research is challenging in general, but much less so when you have the tools and knowledge to streamline the process. Formal research training provides you the tools that set you up for success in grants and manuscripts, and I wish I had obtained this degree earlier on.

What would you say to a physician/resident/fellow considering the MPHS program?

The MPHS is a win-win opportunity—you can use protected time to take classes that will teach you tangible research skills, but because each elective course will result in at least one publication, you can still demonstrate productivity.


Pamela Samson, MD, MPHS (2015 graduate)

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.


Justin Vader, MD, MPHS (2013 graduate)

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.


Shane LaRue, MD, MPHS (2012 graduate)

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.