Annahita K. Sarcon, a fourth-year graduate student at UC Davis School of Medicine, was recently awarded a Fulbright Award to conduct cardiac stem cell research in Pamplona, Spain. She will be headed to the world-renowned Centro de Investigación Médica Aplicada, where she will begin her research in September under the mentorship of physician-scientist, Felipe Prósper Cardoso.
Sarcon hails from Oklahoma City, Okla., where her parents were university students. She was actually born on campus soil and “probably delivered by medical students.”
The Aggie talked with Sarcon to learn more about her research and her eventual goal of curing heart attacks.
The Aggie: Why cardiac stem cells?
Sarcon: I’ve always been interested in cardiovascular physiology and disease. Having a background in basic sciences and later caring for patients who suffer from heart disease – observing the quality of life after a heart attack – I became interested in research that not only deals with the symptoms but cures the problem. And that’s how I got interested in stem cell research as a potential therapy for heart disease.
How did you feel during the application process? Nervous? Excited?
A combination of the two! Overall, the application process allowed me to self-reflect and to be independent. For instance, in terms of selecting the topic and how I needed to initiate contacts with mentors in Spain, and solidifying my ideas into a research project, which was very exciting.
The most difficult part was waiting for months. Once I was selected as a semi-finalist by Committee of the Institute of International Education, I had to wait for the final response from the host country, which made the experience more nerve-wracking for me.
Besides your family and friends, what are you going to miss most when you are in Spain?
I will certainly miss working with patients, and I will definitely try to work in the hospital when I am in Spain. But one thing I will definitely miss, as far as the food is concerned, is the In-N-Out burgers. [laughs] I’ll try to find their closest match in Spain!
Any specific item from the menu?
[laughs] Animal style – first the fries, then the burgers, without a doubt!
What would you be doing if you weren’t in medical school?
If I was totally removed from sciences and medicine, I would definitely pursue my interests in culture, art and language. In fact, I will try integrating this into my practice as a future physician. [Note: Sarcon can speak, read and write in English, Spanish, French and Farsi.]
So what’s next after your Fulbright Award – do you have any designs on a Nobel Prize?
If I can make a difference, play my role in the scientific community and find a cure that can improve human life, I will be content. With stem cell research, there are a lot of possibilities. And in the process, if I am honored with receiving awards, the Nobel Prize being one of the highest in sciences, it will be truly remarkable.
For questions regarding the Fulbright application process, Sarcon can be reached at email@example.com.
EVA TAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clarification – May 19, 2011: In the above article, the
interviewee was described as a “fourth-year graduate student.” To be more
specific, Sarcon is a fourth-year medical student.