2020 Overcoming Barriers in Career Development and Progression

Ross Levine, MD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York, USA

Fellow Summary

Authored by Preetesh Jain

During my clinical and translational research activities in the field of leukemia and lymphoma, I was always interested in meeting and talking to Dr Ross Levine from MSKCC to hear about his experiences as an MD and his transition to become a very productive translational research scientist in the field of leukemia and myeloproliferative neoplasms.

At the recent STOFF meeting, I was delighted to meet and talk with him during the round table discussions we had; this was a great opportunity for me to understand the issues he overcame and what motivated him to turn towards the laboratory instead of doing pure clinical work. There are various knowns and unknowns while navigating the path in the clinical training and moving towards lab research. What I liked the most about Dr Levine was the simplicity with which he explained to us his academic journey from Boston to NYC and how he decided to pursue his inner mind and believe in his instincts to decide on his career goals, rather than listening to his peers and mentors. Discussion with him was extremely motivating and inspirational, since it shows how firm determination to succeed can circumvent various challenges in life.

Dr Levine also discussed and explained how he had generated questions in his mind while taking care of oncology patients and how he switched to benchside activities with help and support from his mentors and paved the way for translational research activities in leukemia. He felt that complications and challenging cases of leukemia, which he saw in the clinic, motivated him to transition to the lab; this quest led him to shift his focus from clinical medicine towards deeper involvement in conducting translational research. He also provided directions to us in understanding one’s own limitations and going by intuition but emphasized that we should always take advice from seniors, friends, and other likeminded people. I learnt a lot from his lifetime experiences, problems, and the dilemmas he has faced while transitioning from a full clinical career to a translational research scientist. He also provided us insight on how to run one’s own lab vs collaborating with a lab and the problems which one may encounter and how to resolve them. This was truly a unique opportunity to learn about these issues from such an experienced physician scientist. STOFF provided me this platform to interact and learn from him. This discussion certainly helped me understand more about the intricacies and practical aspects of pursuing translational research in oncology in today’s world.

I firmly believe that Dr Levine’s discussion on transitioning from a clinician to a translational researcher was a learning experience, and I think it is hard to get this type of firsthand experience from an experienced research scientist in any other forum; I am thankful to STOFF for this great opportunity.