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MD/MS Program Meet Alyssa Calder
MD Program Class of 2022

Alyssa Calder: Drexel MD/MS Program Class of 2022

Hometown: Newington, Connecticut
Undergraduate: Bachelor of Science, Northeastern University
Student's next step: MS, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Professional Studies; MD, Drexel University College of Medicine

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

I graduated from Northeastern University in 2015 and spent two years working in the Laboratory for Drug Discovery in Neurodegeneration at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in which I performed organic synthesis of small molecules for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). SMA is an autosomal recessive neurodegenerative disease that affects the skeletal muscles of infants and children, leading to atrophy and muscle wasting. I really enjoyed my time in Boston before moving to Philadelphia to explore a new city and start medical school.

What drew you to the MD/MS dual degree program, and to Drexel, specifically?

I didn’t decide on the MD/MS dual degree program until later in medical school, but I always enjoyed research and the academic side of medicine. Coming from a research background and majoring in chemistry, I originally thought about pursuing a PhD, but my favorite parts of conferences were meeting families, teaching them about my research and hearing about their stories. I knew I enjoyed the patient aspect of research and medicine too much to give it up. However, spending a year back in a basic science lab allowed me to incorporate patient care from benchtop research. It was a great fit for me and will help position me to successfully pursue academic medicine.

Drexel was a great option for medical school for multiple reasons. I was ready to experience a new city with a diverse patient population. I would be able to rotate in different hospital and clinical settings to emphasize and strengthen my clinical experience. I also really appreciated Drexel’s emphasis on women in health care. Through Drexel, I was able to earn the title of Women’s Health Scholar, in which I learned about additional resources to support and advocate for my future patients.

What did a typical day in your program look like? What is something unique about your experience in the program?

My day varied based on my year. During first and second year of medical school, I was most commonly found at the Queen Lane Campus, attending class and studying. During third and fourth year, I was traveling throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania at different clinical sites. This past year, I completed my MS thesis work at Thomas Jefferson University in a basic science lab. I really enjoyed being back in the lab for the year. It was unique having mentors in both the clinic and science, so I was able to rotate in the operating room and clinic while working in the lab simultaneously. The first patient I saw was actually involved in the clinical trial I was working on and during the 20 minutes I was able to speak with him prior to surgery, we talked about my research project and how excited and grateful I was for the patient participation. Having the bench to bedside exposure really helped me to appreciate the impact of my work.

What research have you been working on during your program?

I have been working in Dr. Mỹ Mahoney’s lab at Thomas Jefferson University.

My project focused on head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), which is the sixth most commonly diagnosed cancer worldwide, often caused by chronic alcohol and tobacco use or human papillomavirus infection. Despite the difference in etiologies that drive mechanistic and clinical variations in HNSCC, the standard of treatment is the same and includes some combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Immunotherapy treatment is now being used to target underlying mechanisms of this cancer, and therefore, identifying predictive biomarkers of immune checkpoint inhibitor treatment is becoming more important.

Specifically, small extracellular vesicles (sEV) — membrane-bound particles that enable intercommunication between cells — and their cellular context including miRNAs, have gained increasing interest as potential biomarkers due to their involvement in disease development and progression. Dr. Mahoney’s lab has been working to isolate small extracellular vesicles (sEV) and identify a miRNA signature that is indicative of anti-PD-1 combination treatment.

What have you been doing since you completed the program? How did your time here prepare you for the next steps?

I will be graduating with my MD/MS dual degree on May 13. Next stop is Richmond, VA — a new city to explore! I will be starting my first year as an otolaryngology resident at Virginia Commonwealth University Health System, which I could not be more excited about!

What advice would you give incoming students in your Drexel program?

I would tell incoming students that it’s important to be confident, believe in yourself and continue to be your own biggest advocate. Sometimes, unexpected curves are added to your life, but it’s more important how you handle those challenges. If you are positive and confident, and believe in yourself, people will want to help you to succeed. Have mentors and a support system to help you along the way and always be your own biggest advocate.


Accepted Manuscripts and Presentations

"Multi-institutional study validates safety of intraoperative Cesium-131 brachytherapy for treatment of recurrent head and neck cancer"
Luginbuhl, A., Calder, A., Kutler, D., Zender, C., Wise-Draper, T., Patel, J., Cheng, M., Karivedu, V., Zhan, T., Parashar, B., Gulati, S., Yao, M., Lavertu, P., Takiar, V., Tang, A., Johnson, J., Keane, W., Curry, J., Cognetti, D., Bar-Ad, V.
Front Oncol. 2021. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2021.786216

"Computerized tomography of the implanted hypoglossal nerve stimulator and approach to device malfunction: a case series"
Urban, M.J., Calder, A., Jhaveri, M., LoSavio, P.
J Laryngol Otol. 2021;1-13. doi: 10.1017/S0022215121003996

"Symptomatic lingual thyroglossal duct cyst in children: a laryngomalacia phenotype"
Shumrick, C.M., Calder, A.N., Vecchiotti, M.A., Scott, A.R.
Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 2022. doi: 10.1177/00034894221075082

"Extracellular Vesicles as Prognostic Markers in HNSCC in Response to Immunotherapy"
Calder, A.N. and Mahoney, M.G.
Oral presentation given at Thomas Jefferson University Department of Otolaryngology Grand Rounds; 2022 January 19; Virtual

"Hormone therapy following menopause: effects on voice"
Calder, A.N.*, Azadeh Ranjbar, P.*, Alnouri, G., Sataloff, R.T.
Presentation Accepted to: The Voice Foundation; 2022 June 1-5; Philadelphia, PA. *Co-presenters

"Small extracellular vesicles (sEVs) as biomarkers in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC)"
Calder, A.N., Hill, B.L., Flemming J.P., Gilmore, S.L., Linnenbach, A., Harshyne, L.A., Curry, J.M., South, A., Luginbuhl, A.J., Mahoney, M.G.
Accepted to: International Society for Extracellular Vesicles Annual Meeting; 2022 May 26-29; Lyon, France

"Vesicular IL-8 and miR-146a correlate with response to immunotherapy in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma"
Hill, B.L., Calder, A.N., Flemming J.P., Gilmore, S.L., Guo, Y., Harshyne, L., Linnenbach, A., Martinez-Outschoom, U., Curry, J.M., South, A., Luginbuhl, A.J., Mahoney, M.G.
Accepted to: International Society for Extracellular Vesicles Annual Meeting; 2022 May 26-29; Lyon, France

Submissions

"Inpatient Otolaryngology consultations and COVID-19: the surge and lasting effects"
Urban, M.J., Calder, A., Owen, G., Batra, P.S.
Submitted to: Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery

"Blood-borne exosomes as biomarkers in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC)"
Calder, A.N., Hill, B.L., Guo, Y., Linnenbach, A., Martinez-Outschoorn, U., Curry, J.M., South, A., Luginbuhl, A.J., Harshyne, L.A., Mahoney, M.G.
Submitted to: Society for Investigative Dermatology Annual Meeting; 2022

"Desmoglein 2 promotes tumor development through miR-146a/IRAK1/IL-8 signaling axis"
Hill, B.L., Calder, A.N., Flemming J.P., Gilmore, S.L., Guo, Y., Harshyne, L.A., Linnenbach, A., Martinez-Outschoorn, U., Curry, J.M., South, A., Luginbuhl, A.J., Mahoney, M.G.
Submitted to: Society for Investigative Dermatology Annual Meeting; 2022

In Progress

"Hormone therapy following menopause: effects on voice"
Calder, A.N., Azadeh Ranjbar, P., Alnouri, G., Sataloff, R.T.
In process of submission: Journal of Voice

"Non-canonical signaling drives HPV-positive tumorigenesis in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma"
Hill, B.L.*, Calder, A.N.*, Flemming, J.P., Gilmore, S.L., Trofa, M., Daniels, S., Gleason, L., Harshyne, L.A., Linnenbach, A., Martinez-Outschoorn, U., South, A.P., Cognetti, D., Prendergast, P., Snook, A., Curry, J., Luginbuhl, A.J., Mahoney, M.G.
In progress

* Equal contribution


 
Contact Information

Drexel University College of Medicine
Office of Admissions
2900 W. Queen Lane, Philadelphia, PA 19129
   215.991.8202  |     215.843.1766 (Fax)

 
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