MD/PhD student Sam Mackenzie has been busy this year. For starters, he:
* Received a three-year pre-doctoral fellowship from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
* Gave a keynote speech at the annual National MD/PhD Student Conference in Colorado, where he and his wife celebrated their first anniversary.
* Attended American Medical Association student gatherings in New Orleans and Chicago.
* Qualified for the 2012 Boston Marathon.
Sam’s research at Upstate with Principal Investigator Blair Calancie, PhD, focuses on repair of lower spine injuries. When there’s injury to a nerve, damaged motor neurons and sensory neurons can be misrouted as they go across the injury site. Sam’s research in the Calancie lab involves re-directing those neurons to the proper site.
“Blair really encourages independent thinking in the lab. He’s all about getting you to develop your own ideas early on in the process,” Sam said.
Before coming to Upstate, Sam earned a master’s degree in exercise science from the University of Delaware. For his master’s thesis, he examined therapies for improving arm and hand function in children with cerebral palsy. His interest in regenerative medicine is part of a larger perspective on health care.
“I’d like to use my research background to work on health policy delivery systems, ways to decrease health care disparities in cost and quality, and establish clinical guidelines,” Sam said. His years of research have given him an “appreciation for how hard it is to do science well.”
This semester at Upstate, in addition to his work in the Calancie lab, he’s working on a data-driven health care outcomes research project with Christopher Morley, PhD. For his clinical Grand Rounds course, his mentor is Nienke Dosa, MD, MPH, who works with children with spina bifida.
Finding time to run his usual 70 miles a week is a challenge. Sam ran competitively as an undergrad at Cornell University, and has continued serious training. He qualified for the 2012 Boston Marathon and later next year will attempt to break the 15-minute barrier for 5 kilometers (about a 4:50 mile pace), along with fellow Upstate MD/PhD student Steve Hicks.