May 15 , 2012

 

Just call her doctor, doctor

First graduate of MD/PhD program is a pathfinder

 

 

Hamilton, Ont. May 15, 2012Graduating from medical school is tough, and graduating with a PhD doctorate is hard too. To do both together in a condensed time takes organization and focus on what’s important, including family, says Lindsey MacGillivray.

 

MacGillivray, 29, will graduate as a physician scientist with both her medical degree and a PhD at McMaster University’s convocation on May 18. She is the first graduate from a new MD/PhD program of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine that allows students to achieve both degrees in seven years.

 

Physician scientists are a rare breed, simultaneously working to advance medicine through research while caring for patients. In 2007 McMaster introduced its combined MD/PhD program to help address what appeared to be a disturbing trend which indicated the career path for the physician scientist was in trouble.

 

“Medical science has exploded over the past 50 years as we know so much about what causes disease at a molecular level, but what has been somewhat slower is the translation of these findings into actual benefits for patients,” says Dr. Peter Margetts, director of the MD/PhD program. “The role of the clinician-scientist is to advance medical science but more importantly, to bring those advances back to the clinic.”

 

The 11 students enrolled in McMaster’s program are combining learning how to be physicians with research in such diverse areas as asthma, peanut allergies, microbial drug resistance and the treatment and prevention of clotting and blood disorders.

 

Margetts says MacGillivray is a “wonderful trailblazer” for the program.

 

Her focus is neuropsychiatry, and she intends to try and uncover the neurobiological underpinnings of psychiatric diseases, such as depression. At the same time, MacGillivray is going on to start her physician residency in psychiatry at the University of Toronto on July 1.

 

MacGillivray, a native of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, graduated with an honours degree in biology at St. Francis Xavier University in 2005, before moving to McMaster’s medical sciences program and then into the newly formed MD/PhD program.

 

As the program’s first graduate, she feels “very privileged. It’s been a very rewarding experience for me.”

 

She says she appreciated the support of her mentors, professors Dr. Michael Mazurek and Dr. Patricia Rosebush, but adds that patients have been her greatest teachers.

 

“It hasn’t always been an easy process but I have had a lot of help along the way from my family, my mentors and boyfriend. But patients provided me with the inspiration for my research.”

 

As a pathfinder for the program, she’s leaving a map for others. From her own experiences, and through discussions with other students, she is compiling a handbook for future students on what to expect.

 

MacGillivray says you just have to get it done. “You also have to have time for yourself, stay organized and take time with the people who support you.” A Highland dancer and avid horseback rider, she was able to get away by travelling up to Flamborough to ride her horse a couple of times a week.

 

Up to three applicants who demonstrate academic excellence and a strong interest in research are admitted annually to the MD/PhD program. Applicants must be acceptable to both the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine and to the PhD program in medical sciences, biochemistry, health research and methodology, biomedical engineering, or neurosciences. Three of the current students have the distinction of holding prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships.

 

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For more information:

 

Veronica McGuire

Media Relations, Faculty of Health Sciences,

McMaster University

(905) 525-9140, ext. 22169

vmcguir@mcmaster.ca