Helen Jung ’18 started college with her heart set on a career in medicine alone. Not a month into her freshman year, however, a wrench was thrown into the works. That wrench? A newfound passion for laboratory research.
“During my first semester at Haverford, I took the ‘Inquiry Laboratory’ course led by Professor of Chemistry Alexander Norquist,” says the biology major. “This scientific experience got me interested in a full-time research internship at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center the following summer. One thing led to another, and eventually I found it hard not to be in lab during the summers and the academic years.”
When her senior year rolled around, Jung decided that she didn’t want to stifle her love for research, even if it meant reimagining what her future in the field of medicine would look like. In the fall, she applied to a slew of combined M.D./Ph.D. programs; in the spring, she heard she’d been offered a spot in her top choice, Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), and promptly enrolled.
“During the first part of the program,” she says, “I will take a mix of graduate and medical school courses and rotate through labs. After that, I will begin my Ph.D. thesis research. After my Ph.D thesis defense, I would then return to medical school to finish up my clinical coursework.”
It’s an intimidating amount of work, but Jung sees it as just another hurdle on the way to a career that boasts the best of both the professional and academic worlds. Interested in geriatrics since a young age, she hopes that earning both an M.D. and a Ph.D. will enable her to treat the elderly “both in the clinic and in the lab.”
“After my training, I would like to work at a medical research institution with an affiliated teaching hospital,” Jung says. “[That way, I can] study aging-associated diseases, as well as have the opportunity to provide healthcare for the elderly alongside medical students and residents.”
That prospect, however, is still a long way off: like most M.D./Ph.D. programs, the MSTP takes around seven to eight years to complete. Luckily for Jung, however, it is one of the few to receive federal funding, meaning that she will have access to tuition waivers, government stipends, and housing subsidies—all three of which accommodations will allow her to fulfill her professional dreams free of financial concerns—for the full duration of her studies.
“Receiving M.D./Ph.D. training will be the most effective way to engage in future discourse on medical research and to learn the interdisciplinary principles of medicine,” she says. “I am excited to be part of a program that will provide a solid foundation for my physician-scientist pursuits and will nurture me to work in such a dynamic career field.”
“Where They’re Headed” is a blog series reporting on the post-collegiate plans of recent Haverford graduates.
Photo: Biology major Helen Jung ’18, who is pursuing an M.D. and a Ph.D. at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, poses after her “white coat ceremony.” Photo courtesy of Helen Jung ’18.