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Medical Science Program (MMS) and MD Program Meet Bryan Pham
MMS Program Class of 2020 / MD Program Class of 2021

Bryan Pham, Drexel Master of Science in Medical Science Student

Hometown: Little Saigon, Westminster, California (Orange County)
Undergraduate: University of California – Irvine, 2011, BS Pharmaceutical Sciences

Can you tell a little bit about yourself before you came to Drexel?

After graduating from UCI and before coming to Drexel, I decided to take a gap year to focus on my studies for the MCAT and to continue working on nanoparticles with the research team at BioTEL (Biotherapeutics Engineering Laboratory) over at UCI. During this time, I had the opportunity to learn more about clinical pathology by working as a lab assistant in a lab that analyzed various bodily fluids.

Importantly, this year allowed me to spend time with my family and friends. I knew that if I was fortunate enough to get into an MD program, it would be difficult to find time to do so in the future. Family has always been a big factor in my life, so I was hoping to be accepted into a nearby program. However, this was not the reality I faced, and by February, I had been rejected by nearly all the programs I applied to. I had already begun to prepare my applications for the following year and had gone to Australia for my cousin’s wedding when I got the invitation for an interview with Drexel. This being my last chance, I flew from Australia to Philadelphia and then back to Australia. When I was waitlisted, I was honestly crushed, until one afternoon I received a call from Drexel offering me a slot in their MD program. Everyone always says you only need one interview and one acceptance, but when you’re in those shoes, it can be a bit stressful. Nonetheless, here I am, counting my blessings with each day.

What do you like about Drexel's MD and Master of Science in Medical Science programs?

Drexel University College of Medicine was formed by the union of two medical colleges with rich histories, Hahnemann Medical College and Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania. These two colleges have been serving the communities in the greater Philadelphia area for decades, catering to a diverse patient population. I knew that being able to train here would afford me the opportunity to learn how to interact and work with a variety of different patients. The curriculum was designed to be innovative and incorporated the basic sciences and modern medicine with the use of simulation centers. I loved the idea of being able to have hands-on training during the first two years of medical school, where the basic sciences are emphasized. They welcome nontraditional students and strive to train a diverse group of physicians.

How has your experience as an MS/MD student been so far?

I’m currently doing the MS portion of the MD/Master of Science in Medical Science dual degree program. I’ve completed my first three years of medical school, so after I complete the Medical Science program in May, I will begin my fourth year of medical school. The experience has been humbling and inspiring. There has been a significant amount of support and guidance from the Student Affairs deans at the medical school and the director of the Medical Science program. They truly want you to succeed and will help you achieve your goals if you’re willing to put in the necessary effort.

I want to do research on a plant that I had found during one of my foraging trips in the woods around East Falls, Philadelphia. I had low expectations of being able to proceed with the project, and I was surprised that the idea wasn’t immediately rejected. Instead, I was met with a kind but pragmatic approach: I would be able to pursue the idea, but if it didn’t come to fruition and I had no backup plan, I would be behind in the program, with no research project. Through this, I was able to experience the whole process of going from an idea to actually being able to do scientific research based on that idea. I know I wouldn’t have been able to explore and progress with the project if it weren’t for the guidance and mentoring of the faculty here. Through the process I definitely feel like I have a grasp on how I would tackle a research project moving forward.

Please share what research you're working on.

I’m currently doing research on the bioactivity of Monotropa uniflora, a mycoheterotrophic plant that I stumbled upon during one of my foraging trips here. Initially I had thought the plant was some type of fungus, due to its ghostly white appearance, but was surprised to find out that it was a plant that had been used by Native Americans for a variety of ailments, including pain, fevers, epilepsy and neuropsychiatric disorders such as anxiety and depression. Interestingly, there has been no formal scientific review of the plant and its components, the medicinal value of the plant, or its toxicology, even though many alternative medical practitioners use it today. Our research is focused on proving that there are bioactive compounds in the plant and identifying those compounds.

Do you have any advice for someone who is considering doing the medical science program here?

If you have a keen interest in research and how to go about doing research, I would definitely recommend doing the Medical Science program here. The faculty and resources that are available to you are difficult to find in other programs. The program allows you to develop critical thinking skills that will help carry you in any field that requires research.

What is it like living in Philadelphia?

Philadelphia has been a blessing for me. I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors, and the environment here gives me the opportunity to do everything I’ve always wanted. Although I grew up in California, I feel right in my element here. There are rivers and streams for fishing, trails for hiking and taking my dogs out, and woods for foraging. I was always fond of fishing, but foraging became a hobby for me when I came to Philadelphia. The woods provide such a serene environment for me to de-stress and enjoy the bounties of nature. The vast amount of hardwood trees here gave me an opportunity to explore woodworking with a variety of trees that I wouldn’t have been able to find in California. All in all, the only thing that I find difficult to adjust to is the snow. It sure is beautiful when it falls but shoveling and driving in it is definitely not my favorite thing to do.

Drexel University College of Medicine Medical Science program graduate students participating in a group discussion.