CROPmarcelus

Upstate student is one of 29 nationwide to win honor from the American Society of Hematology

Christina Marcelus, a third-year medical student at Upstate Medical University, has been selected as one of only of 29 students in the nation to participate in the American Society of Hematology’s (ASH) 2018 Minority Medical Student Award Program.

“We congratulate Christina’s success and the pride she brings to Upstate with an honor that only few other students have attained,” said Julio Licinio, MD, PhD, senior vice president for academic health affairs and executive dean of the College of Medicine.

The program encourages underrepresented minority medical students to pursue careers in hematology by supporting their own hematology-related research project in the lab of a research mentor.

Marcelus, who hails from Spring Valley, N.Y., will receive case award $7,000 to will help cover her research project and travel expenses to the ASH Annual Meeting in December, where she will present her research. In addition, each student is paired with two ASH mentors: a research mentor who will oversee the research project and a career-development mentor who will guide the participant throughout his or her MMSAP experience and beyond. They will also receive complimentary ASH membership throughout medical school and residency.

The death of an aunt at the age of 36 from breast cancer motivated Marcelus to pursue her dreams to become a physician.

“I was upset that medicine could fail to heal someone who was ill,” Marcelus said. “I wanted to know, what made cancer different from any other illness? Or whether it is different at all? I was intrigued by the idea that prevailing medical practices were not absolute and that there were possibly new avenues to transform health.  As a first generation American, born to Haitian immigrant parents, I had no personal connections to anyone with experience in medicine or even college.

Accepted at Brandeis, Marcelus was selected to participate in the Dana–Farber/Harvard Cancer Center Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences (CURE) program aimed to introduce students from underrepresented populations to the world of cancer research by placing them in real research settings. Marcelus performed research in the laboratory of Harvard Professor James DeCaprio, MD, who is also affiliated with the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Marcelus kept a busy research portfolio through her undergraduate career, and continued postgraduate research thanks to funding from a NIH Research Supplement Grant.

“As a researcher, I have expanded my perception beyond what occurs at the bedside,” she said. “This has allowed me to understand the complementarity of medicine and scientific research. In particular, I have come to appreciate the application of scientific principles and knowledge in cancer treatment.”

While at Dana-Farber, Marcelus learned about the American Society of Hematology (ASH) Minority Medical Student Award program through a medical intern at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “I did not know much about hematological malignancies then, but I made it a personal goal to apply to MMSAP fellowship before I was even admitted to medical school,” she said.

Fast forward to today and Marcelus is working with faculty and researchers at Weill Cornell, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York (Omar Abdel-Wahab, MD; Melody Smith, MD), focusing on “targeting specific chromosomal arrangements in leukemias in efforts to produce more personalized therapy options.” This is the work that Marcelus will present at the ASH Annual Meeting in December in San Diego.

“Cancer is evolutionary in nature,” Marcelus said. “It is always adapting and creating additional barriers to treatment. Addressing this challenging aspect of cancer requires continuous learning and staying abreast of scientific discovery. As an aspiring hematologist/oncologist, I hope to continue to develop my aptitude as a scientist in order to expand the frontiers of scientific understanding in cancer medicine.”

Caption: Christina Marcelus, a third-year medical student at Upstate Medical University, is one of only of 29 students in the nation to be chosen to participate in the American Society of Hematology’s (ASH) 2018 Minority Medical Student Award Program.

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