Setty M. Magana, M.D., Ph.D.
Originally from Mexico City, Setty M. Magaña came to Minnesota at a young age and has followed a winding path in her academic career.
She started in a community college in 1995, but a serious automobile accident caused her to take much longer to complete her course work than she anticipated. After completing an associate degree, she began working as a part-time chemistry laboratory instructor at that same community college. Setty concurrently attended classes at the University of Minnesota, earning her Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry in 2002.
A year later, she was accepted into the university's medical school. Setty took a leave of absence in 2005 to pursue a master's degree funded by Mayo Clinic's Initiative to Maximize Student Development, a National Institutes of Health award. Shortly after being admitted, she transferred to clinical and translational science track in the Ph.D. Program.
After graduating with her doctorate in 2011, Setty returned to the University of Minnesota to complete medical school. She hopes to complete an adult neurology residency program and then begin her career in academic medicine.
Learning the impact of research
Setty's interest in clinical and translational research was ignited during the summer after her first year of medical school.
"I had the exceptional opportunity of participating in an eight-week research fellowship at Mayo Clinic," she says. "This summer research experience was the impetus for my decision to pursue a career in clinical and translational research."
During the experience, she worked with Bradley J. Erickson, M.D., Ph.D., and Claudia F. Lucchinetti, M.D., both of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., on a project pertaining to the prognostic use of MRI in people with multiple sclerosis. She also learned more about Mayo. "Mayo has a very unique environment that facilitates multidisciplinary patient care and research collaborations," she says.
When Setty began her two months at Mayo, she didn't immediately realize the impact of clinical and translational research — it only became apparent over time.
"As I've advanced in my medical and research training, it's become increasingly clear that the future of biomedical research advancements will be at the interface of scientific discovery and clinical application. This is the very essence of translational research," Setty says.
Demyelinating disease research
Setty's research was directed at understanding central nervous system (CNS) demyelinating disorders, with a special interest in neuromyelitis optica (NMO), a devastating disease that leaves young adults paralyzed and blind.
Mayo Clinic neuroimmunology researchers had discovered a disease-specific autoantibody, NMO-IgG, in people with NMO. Setty's project focused on elucidating the immune signature of brain astrocytes — the cells targeted by NMO-IgG — in response to this autoantibody, with the goal of discovering new therapeutic targets and eventually a cure for the disease.
A highlight of the clinical and translational science track in the Ph.D. Program is its emphasis on mentoring. Setty's mentors include Dr. Lucchinetti, a clinician-scientist, and Charles L. Howe, Ph.D., a basic neuroscience researcher at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. She finds great benefit from her interactions with both investigators.
"Both mentors are experts in their respective fields," she says. "This allows for a unique integration of research that is truly translational in nature, within the context of clinical relevance and observations."
Making an impact
"Having completed my Ph.D., I feel as though I've made noteworthy contributions that have the potential to impact patient treatment in meaningful ways," she says. "This is why I am devoted to a career in translational research and academic neurology — as a physician, I can impact an individual patient; as a researcher I can impact hundreds or thousands of people."
Setty's research has already added to the body of knowledge and impacted clinical care. She's published a number of times, and two of her articles have been highlighted in neurology publications because of their relevance to patient care.