Blake Montgomery, MS 5, is getting a jump-start on his dual career aspiration of becoming a neurosurgeon and working in translational research.
For the next year, Montgomery is taking a leave of absence from the School of Medicine to work with researchers in the Surgical Neurology Branch at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. The opportunity to work alongside some of the nation’s top researchers comes from Montgomery being selected earlier this year to participate in the second class of the NIH’s Medical Research Scholar’s Program.
“I am very excited for what this year has to offer,” Montgomery said. “All the scientists seem very happy about having scholars in their lab or clinic for the year.”
Montgomery said he would be working primarily with Prashant Chittiboina, M.D., a staff clinician, and NIH basic science faculty members Marsha Merrill, Ph.D., and Richard Youle, Ph.D., on pituitary tumor research with a focus on ACTH secreting adenoma, also known as Cushing’s disease.
“MRI is the current gold standard for localizing these tumors within the pituitary, however, many corticotroph adenomas are invisible to MRI,” Montgomery said.
His study at the NIH will concentrate on the in vitro metabolism of these tumors with the hope that gaining an understanding of their metabolism will lead to other imaging modalities, specifically PET scans.
Montgomery said his work at the NIH would include both basic science and clinical research.
The Medical Research Scholars Program is a combination of the former Howard Hughes Medical Institutes National Institutes of Health Research Scholar Program and the Clinical Research Training Program. It accepts only 45 medical, dental and veterinary students from across the country each year to participate in a 12-month research project at the NIH. After arriving at the NIH, students interview with potential mentors and select projects based on their own interest.
The program’s academic curriculum also offers lectures on basic, translational and clinical research topics, training in clinical protocol development and conducting human subjects research, participation in clinical rounds that focus on research patients at the NIH, and academic leadership training.
“I am still very open to the possibility of attaining a Ph.D. in the future,” Montgomery said. “This year will surely allow me to better assess my career goals.”