• By Dana Sparks

Science Saturday: Where future cures come from

November 18, 2017

researcher and neurosurgeon Dr. Kendall Lee in his medical scrubsA new director brings wisdom and passion to training bilingual physician-scientists.

For Kendall Lee, M.D., Ph.D., being bilingual starts with language and extends to the training of physician-scientists. Born in a South Korean fishing village, he learned English only after moving to the United States at age 10. Dr. Lee is now a neurosurgeon and director of Mayo Clinic’s Neural Engineering Laboratory, where he leads the study of deep brain stimulation for treatment of Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, chronic pain and psychiatric disorders.

In January 2017, Dr. Lee became director of Mayo Clinic’s Medical Scientist Training Program, which prepares physician-scientists to lead a dual life of treating patients and pursuing scientific advances in patient care. Through the program, offered by Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, students earn both an M.D. and a Ph.D., learning  to connect the discovery of scientific knowledge with clinical problems.

In an interview with Discovery’s Edge, Dr. Lee shares his vision for Mayo’s M.D.-Ph.D. training program.

DE: Why did you want to be director of the Medical Scientist Training Program?

Dr. Lee: I’m at a point in my career where I know the importance of training the next generation of medical leaders. M.D.-Ph.D. training is for people who love to ask the question, “Why?” Why does something work? How does it work? What is the mechanism? In my case, the question that has dominated my career is: How does deep brain stimulation work? How can implanting an electrode in a human brain be used to repair brain function? And now we’re working on stimulating the spinal cord to reanimate paralyzed limbs.

Ultimately, this program is about serving our future patients. What I’m doing as a surgeon — implanting people’s brains with tiny computers — did not exist when I finished medical school. By training these highly gifted individuals, we will discover the cures we can’t imagine today. Read the rest of the article on Discovery's Edge.

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