“Eat rejection for breakfast”

From left, Drs. Steven Mansoor, Christina Lancioni, Todd Korthuis, Susan Gurley, Deborah Lewinsohn

Physician-scientists share inspiration, build community at inaugural conference

First, she projected an image of a single unicorn.

The unicorn, said Jeanne-Marie Guise, M.D., M.P.H., director of the OHSU Physician-Scientist Program, represents the university’s physician-scientists, unique in their ability to deliver patient care and perform high-impact research but also rare in number, endangered by challenging research and clinical environments and isolated in their work.

Her next image was a herd of unicorns, galloping together in strength and purpose.

“My hope is that we will increase our population of unicorns at OHSU and create a strong community of support,” she said as part of her joint welcome with Dean Sharon Anderson to the first-ever OHSU Physician-Scientist Conference Feb. 3.

The conference, sponsored by the School of Medicine’s Physician-Scientist Program, served as a community-building event and complements the program’s Physician-Scientist awards, which provide institutional research funding support for exceptional junior physician-scientists during challenging phases of their careers. Meet the five awards scholars.

“Moving in the right direction”

Expanding support for physician-scientists is a priority for Dean Anderson.

“We’re not just talking the talk,” said Dean Anderson. “We know we have a long way to go, but, already, I believe our intensified focus is raising the visibility of our physician scientists, and conferences like this will continue the momentum.”

From left, Drs. Charles Thomas, Rajan Kulkarni

More than 60 physician-scientists – from students to senior faculty – came together at the conference for professional development and inspiration from speakers who’ve forged successful careers at the intersection of science and medicine.

Nationally recognized physician-scientist Nancy Andrews, M.D., Ph.D., former dean of the Duke School of Medicine, gave the keynote address entitled “Physician-Scientist Alchemy: Forging a Career in Iron Biology.”

She described the arc of her career from science and medicine to administration and national service and then gave a detailed scientific presentation about her research on iron biology and the role patients played in her research.

“Dr. Andrews’ talk was outstanding,” said attendee Deborah Lewinsohn, M.D., professor of pediatrics, vice chair of research, division head of infectious disease, OHSU School of Medicine. “She combined an interesting scientific presentation with valuable insights into how to develop one’s career as a physician scientist.”

Advice for Physician-Scientists from Dr. Nancy Andrews

  • Choose environments where you feel challenged to do your best.
  • Choose important problems that are truly worth your time and effort.
  • Unleash your curiosity. Be adventurous and courageous. Take risks.
  • When you’re doing science, do it as if your patient is depending on you. Be rigorous.
  • Seek out role models, confidantes, mentors and sponsors with connections.
  • Be generous and act with integrity.

“I really enjoyed the talk by Dr. Andrews and her integration of her scientific research in anemia and iron transport, experiences in pediatric hematology and her career pathway,” said attendee Gina Calco, an M.D./Ph.D. student. “She is an exemplary physician scientist and leader.”

Following the keynote, Dr. Lewinsohn moderated a career development discussion with the following panelists:

  • Susan Gurley, M.D., Ph.D., Division Head, Nephrology and Hypertension, Associate Professor of Medicine, OHSU School of Medicine
  • Todd Korthuis, M.D., M.P.H., Professor of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, OHSU School of Medicine
  • Christina Lancioni, M.D., Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Infectious Diseases, OHSU School of Medicine
  • Steven Mansoor, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine, Knight Cardiovascular Institute, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Department of Chemical Physiology and Biochemistry, OHSU School of Medicine

“Keep writing”

Dr. Gurley advised, “Your personal life matters. Pursue your career in bite-sized chunks.”

Dr. Korthuis advised, “Pursue the research you’re interested in, not the big topic of the day.”

Dr. Lancioni advised, “Eat rejection for breakfast. Ask people who you’re a little afraid of to read your grant applications. And get to know your NIH program officers. They can be very helpful.”

Dr. Mansoor advised, “It’s important to protect your research time, but help with clinical volume as you’re able.”

Attendee Amy Valent, D.O, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, OHSU School of Medicine, appreciated that the event brought physician-scientists together to share concerns and trade tips.

Her main takeaway? “Keep writing and working with your bosses to ensure appropriate support.” 

View a recording of the conference and the keynote by Dr. Andrews.