Tell us a little about yourself…Where are you from? What did you study in college? Where are you going to medical school and what year are you? Do you have any other degrees? Any hobbies you are passionate about?
My name is Matt Steritz and I am a second year medical student at the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I was born and raised in New Mexico and went to college at New Mexico State University where I studied biology and was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Undergraduate Research Scholar. After undergrad, I spent some time in Denver, Colorado completing a master’s program at the University of Colorado in Modern Human Anatomy and working as a research assistant in an ENT lab studying taste and smell and looking for rare genetic variants associated with a higher likelihood of chronic otitis media.
In my free time I enjoy spending time outside with my wife and our dog; playing golf, basketball, and grass volleyball; and traveling when I get the chance.
How did you get interested in a career in IR?
I was first introduced to the field of IR at a seminar during graduate school. The talk covered vascular malformations and I was captivated by how weird and intricate they are. I introduced myself to the speaker, Dr. Paul Rochon, after the talk and arranged a meeting to talk about a possible research project. I ended up doing my graduate capstone project on treatment of vascular malformations with Dr. Rochon as my capstone mentor.
Please describe what IR-related projects you have been involved in, and what those looked like on a daily basis (if you were doing them full time)?
My first IR project was creating a training model for learning ultrasound-guided needle therapy to treat vascular malformations. I took a CT scan from a patient, segmented it on a computer, and 3D printed it. The model was then embedded in an ultrasound matrix which was complete with bones to mimic true anatomy. The model was certainly not perfect but had some success as a training model. I worked approximately 10 hours per week during classes on this project and full time during summer break.
The next IR-related research project I was involved in was through the SIR summer medical student internship at the Medical College of Wisconsin. I created a survey to highlight the unique and beneficial collaboration between IR and vascular surgery that is in place at MCW. The survey showed that a collaboration between IR and vascular surgery is beneficial to both departments and increases job satisfaction unanimously. I worked full time at MCW for 8 weeks either participating in IR procedures or working on research projects. It was great to get first-hand experience at an institution where IR and vascular surgery work together as partners. Since school has resumed, I have worked intermittently on data analysis and submitted an abstract for the research completed this summer.
How have you incorporated research with your med school curriculum and responsibilities? (What percentage of your time is spent doing research? When do you fit it in?)
The majority of the research I have done has been over summer breaks. This semester I have worked on an abstract submission and some data analysis adding up to a few hours a week. I try to get research related activities done in the evenings and on weekends. I think it’s important to carve out ample time to for research projects that you are passionate about. By having it on my schedule, I can plan ahead to make sure I have time to finish my school work as well as make progress on research.
What research had you been involved in prior to medical school (if any)?
As an undergrad I worked in a lab studying mosquito-malaria interactions. I was involved in a project looking into the immune surveillance mechanisms mosquitos have against the malaria parasite and how to prevent the mosquito from acquiring the parasite. After graduation I was involved in an otolaryngology lab looking into taste and smell transduction. During my graduate school work I worked on a project looking into the competency of pathology residents in anatomical fields. This was following a nationwide trend that showed a reduction of anatomy contact hours in medical school. Also during graduate school, I created a 3D printed model that was intended to help people learn how to perform laryngoscopies. Following graduate school, I worked in another otolaryngology lab, this time I was working on identifying rare genetic variants that conferred a higher likelihood of recurrent otitis media.
What are some of the most rewarding parts about doing research, for those who may be considering getting involved in projects? The challenges?
There are many rewarding aspects of working on a research project. Contributing the greater knowledge base that will ultimately improve lives is what I found most rewarding. Even if the contributions are small, it is still a contribution to the general knowledge pool and can help in the long run. Research also allows you to broaden your own knowledge base. You must have solid background knowledge to ask the right questions. Another aspect that I enjoy about research is working in a team environment. Growing up playing sports I have always enjoyed collaborating with others and research allows me to do that in a professional setting.
How did you identify your research mentor(s)? And what tips do you have for those who are looking for one? What makes a great research mentor?
I’ve been very fortunate in working under excellent research mentors. Dr. Rochon at the University of Colorado and Dr. Sarah White at MCW have been instrumental in giving me invaluable opportunities and insights into the field of IR. For anyone interested in IR, I would encourage students to reach out to an IR physician and express to them your interest in the field. From my experience, being curious goes a long way.
What are some skills/assets that make for a good researcher as a med student? Stats? Comp sci?
I think it depends on what the project is. Stats and computer science could definitely be of use though. I think above all else would be the willingness to learn and try. Research rarely happens in a linear path and you have to be able to troubleshoot when things don’t work out.
Any recommendations for finding funding (or is it even necessary)?
Projects such as retrospective chart review or case report would not necessarily need funding. Projects more involved with basic science tend to be more reliant on funding from my experience. I have not been involved in many grant applications but some more realistic grant applications for medical students could be through your home institution. When I was working Dr. Rochon, we applied for a University of Colorado Department of Radiology grant.