Charissa Kim

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?

I was born in Los Angeles, California, moved to Richmond, Virginia for a few years, and then went back to Southern California. For undergrad, I studied biology at California State University Los Angeles as part of the Early Entrance Program. I am currently an MS4 in the MSTP program at The University of Texas McGovern Medical School and MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in Houston, Texas.  Between graduating college and starting the MD/PhD program, I completed a master’s degree in Physiology, Development, and Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

As for hobbies – it’s hard to find time for hobbies in med school and grad school, but I generally enjoy traveling and photography.  In the past eight years since I started the MD/PhD program, I’ve been to Switzerland, Portugal, England (again), Mexico, Norway, Taiwan, and Japan!  I’m also a big fan of my rescue cat, Picatsso.

How did you get interested in a career in IR?

I learned about IR through interventional oncology during my PhD, which was conducted at a laboratory in MD Anderson Cancer Center. I further consolidated my interest during my trauma surgery rotation at Memorial Hermann.

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)?

I’ve been incredibly lucky to have access to IR departments at MD Anderson Cancer Center and  at McGovern Medical School. I have participated in clinical IR projects at both institutions – a pathology/biopsy-related project at MD Anderson and a trauma-related project at McGovern. I also had the fantastic opportunity to complete the Society of Interventional Radiology summer internship at Becton Dickinson in Tempe, Arizona, which allowed me to learn about the IR and vascular device development pipeline from beginning to end.

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?)

My experiences may be a bit different – because I am an MD/PhD student, I had four years of dedicated research time for my PhD. My PhD was in cancer genomics, and it gave me an in-depth understanding of how to design, trouble-shoot, and execute a hypothesis-driven project. I also spent some time during MS3 and MS4 to participate in clinical IR projects that had more flexible timelines.

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 think it’s always important to have a good sense of lab direction – to communicate with your research mentor what they envision for the research and for the lab. All my memorable research mentors have been accessible and knowledgeable but have also given me the independence to pursue avenues of personal interest.

What advice do you have for getting more medical students involved in IR and knowledgeable about what the field has to offer?

I’m applying to IR this year (class of 2020) so my advice here would be a bit limited. I have broadly found that IR doctors, residents, and fellows are approachable and excited about their field! Don’t be afraid to reach out to them.