Last week I had the pleasure of catching up with an old alumnus, Ashton Shiraz.
Ashton was one of the earliest participants in our Rockefeller University Lab Animal Technician Program.
An opportunity he has taken as far as you can. Read his inspiring story below.
I graduated from MCN&DHS in June, 2005. Then, I went on to pursue my pre-health degree from Hunter College. I double-majored in Biology and Biochemistry and graduated in 2011. Throughout high school and college I studied animal health, husbandry, nutrition, disease and welfare. Working at Rockefeller University, I also had the opportunity to work with a variety of laboratory animals such as monkeys, hamsters, gerbils and rabbits, as well as amphibious bullfrogs and African frogs. After that, I conducted laboratory research at Weill Cornell Medical College, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, where I interacted with many physicians, scientists, and veterinarians. I realized that science and work synergistically giving a better understanding of disease mechanisms.
Currently, I am enrolled in the combined DVM/PhD program at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. My PhD thesis is identifying the role of tuft cells in human norovirus infection in gnotobiotic pigs transplanted with human gut microbiome. As a future veterinary-scientist, my goal is to practice comparative medicine and conduct laboratory research. This would afford me the opportunity to take cutting edge research from the laboratory directly to the clinic. As a veterinary-scientist, I want to investigate the molecular basis for enteric epithelial cells, and other diseases such as canine norovirus, to develop new treatment approaches. I want to be a veterinary-scientist that blazes the trail for others to follow and someone who discovers groundbreaking treatments.
Lastly, I want to mention that, my journey would not have been possible without the dedicated support of MCN&DHS loving and caring teachers and staff. I would like to thank all of you, who have worked tirelessly and encouraged me to be a better person.
Since my journey at MCNDHS, I have been presented with numerous wonderful opportunities. I went on to complete my undergraduate degree at Brandeis University, with the help of my high school college advisor, who helped me decide on this great institution. Post college, I served as a Research Assistant in the Microbiology and Immunobiology Department at Harvard Medical School, where I worked on the project: The Development of a Conjugate Vaccine for the Prevention of Tularemia.
After Harvard, I commenced my medical school journey at The George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and have remained very active in my medical school community. I have had several leadership roles serving as Co-President for the GW Chapter of American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA), and as Community Service Chair of the GW Chapter of Student National Medical Association (SNMA). I have also been actively involved in community outreach, serving as a Wellness Partner & Health Literacy Trainer at the GW Healing Clinic. My medical school summers have been spent serving a as the Lead Instructor at Emory University School of Medicine Summer Science Academy in Atlanta, and doing clinical research at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Medical Student Summer Fellowship in New York. At MSK, I worked on the project: Attitudes towards opioids in patients with cancer pain.
Last Spring, I was very fortunate to be pronounced a Biomedical Science Career Program Hope Scholar, an award granted by the Biomedical Science Career Program (BSCP) at Harvard Medical School. I also served as a panelist on “Getting into Medical School and Succeeding” at the 2014 BSCP Conference in Boston. More importantly, I was recently published as a first author for a research project that I worked on in medical school with my medical biochemistry professors and another medical student. Our article is entitled: Is There Pandemic Vitamin D Deficiency in the Black Population? A Review of Evidence. The entire paper can be found here:
As you can see, my life since Manhattan Comprehensive High School has been nothing short of wonderful, and I know that the dedication of teachers, college advisors and support staff there has assisted me on this amazing academic journey. I have two years left at medical school, and I aspire to be an interventional gastroenterologist. To all the students reading this I’ll like to encourage you to “never regard study as a duty, but as the enviable opportunity to learn.” Seize every learning opportunity, give your best at everything you do and success will certainly follow you. -Ria.