How does your Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences education compare to previous education that you have received at other institutions?
I had the privilege to previously attend first-class institutions with very strong engineering schools. I found no difference in the quality of the coursework I took at Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Although, I felt a sense of more individualization at Mayo, since often I had classes with only three or five other students. This elicits much more interaction and pushes you to prepare better every time.
What opportunities have you been introduced to since being at Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences?
First, it is the availability of excellent resources for my research. For example, across from my office I have available the latest generation computerized tomography scanner, which is dedicated full time to research. It has been instrumental for my thesis project. Second, I have had a great deal of support from my mentor, Dr. Cynthia McCollough, and the graduate school to put together a successful application for a fellowship with the American Heart Association. Finally, I have enjoyed the opportunities to travel to several scientific conferences in the U.S. and abroad. For example, in 2010 I flew to Vienna for the European Congress of Radiology, where I not only had the chance to meet researchers from around the globe and learn about cutting-edge research in radiology, but I also got the chance to visit an amazing city.
Why did you choose Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences?
I was looking for a Ph.D. program with strong biomedical-imaging research. When I came for an interview, I was blown away by the facilities and learning that students can do their own CT, MR or ultrasound scanning. Moreover, you have the opportunity to work in close collaboration with world-class researchers and physicians. Besides, knowing that if you are accepted you have a guaranteed stipend for five years in your Ph.D. education is a big bonus. This means you are not making a commitment to a lab from day one. In fact, I found my thesis topic when I was working in MRI with a method to accelerate data acquisition and had the idea to translate those methods to CT, seeking to reduce radiation dose.
How would you describe the atmosphere of Mayo Clinic?
The atmosphere at Mayo Clinic is patient-centered and very collaborative. Ask anybody working at Mayo Clinic, and we all will echo passionately our primary value: "The needs of the patients come first." We are driven to work on topics with strong potential to impact patient care. As a student you are not on your own, since there is a strong sense of collaboration, which manifests itself in mentors and colleagues that are easily approachable and physicians that take the time to sit and discuss with you the significance of the research. As I accumulate more experience, more often colleagues come to me for discussion and ask me to provide feedback. This is something I enjoy very much.
What are your plans for the future?
I am close to graduation, so this is a quite important question for me at the moment. The training I have obtained gives me a lot of flexibility. I could continue on the typical research path to eventually become a professor. But the field currently has lots of opportunities to join research and development departments in industry, too. Further, there exists a specialized medical physics residency in diagnostic imaging, in which I could combine both clinical and research work. So, while my plan is keep doing research, I guess I will decide how to go about it depending on where the best opportunity arises when I graduate.
If you could describe Mayo Clinic in one word, what would it be?
At Mayo Clinic there is a strong integration of clinical practice, research and education to provide the best possible care and hope to every patient. People come to Mayo Clinic with the hope to get diagnosed, to get treated, to get better.
With what activities are you involved in Rochester?
I regularly play soccer and exercise at Mayo Clinic's Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center. I also spend time with my family and friends. In the past, I spent some time collaborating as volunteer of ACHLA, a non-profit organization that works to respond to the needs of Chicanos, Hispanics and Latin Americans in the Rochester community. More recently, I have started to be involved with a global health initiative with some colleague biomedical engineering students.
How does Rochester differ from your hometown? College community?
It is way too different. Medellin is a large city, within an even larger metropolitan area with nearly 4 million people. It has no seasons, and the coldest it gets is probably well above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, people from my hometown call it the "city of the eternal spring," which should tell you what nice weather we have. In contrast, Rochester is relatively small, and winter is quite cold. However, I enjoy Rochester's multiculturalism, and since I have a family now, it comes as a bonus that it is very safe, clean and has good schools. And, if you miss a large metropolitan area, Minneapolis and St. Paul are not that far away.