Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Sealy Hambright, Scientist at the Center for Regenerative Sports Medicine at the Steadman Clinic
Dr. Sealy Hambright graduated from UT Health San Antonio in 2017 from the Biology of Aging track. He currently works as a Scientist at the Center for Regenerative Sports Medicine at the Steadman Clinic, part of the Steadman Philippon Research Institute.
When did you first become interested in science?
Certainly in high school. Like most students, my attentions were often drawn away from the classroom, but I always found myself engaged in my science courses, especially biology.
Why did you pick The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and your program?
By far it was the vibrant research ecosystem and opportunities. After receiving my Master’s degree in microbiology at a smaller university, I wanted to do research that was more impactful to human health with more translational training. Further, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio was home to the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies, a world renowned and heavily funded aging research center that would allow me to pursue my research interests in a state of the art environment.
Tell me more about your career path.
It was certainly not a straight path! I was interested in science but coming out of undergrad I still did not know if I wanted to pursue professional school or graduate school. I chose to get an M.S. in microbiology which made me realize a career dedicated research was the most fitting which led me to pursue a Ph.D. at UT Health San Antonio. While at UT Health San Antonio, I was interested in the downstream applications of aging research and how to increase the pace of treatments to patients. To this end, I helped develop a student led Commercialization Catalyst (ComCat) team working in the UT Health San Antonio Office of Technology Commercialization. From there, I did a postdoc in the Huard lab where I was able to apply the skills I learned as a predoc, which allowed me to quickly transition to my current position at the Steadman Philippon Research Institute.
Tell me about your current career, what do you do?
As part of Dr. Johnny Huard’s team at Steadman Philippon Research Institute, we are developing strategies that target fundamental properties of aging including senescent cell accumulation, telomere erosion, and inflammation to improve ortho-regenerative medicine therapies. We investigate interventions that encompass four primary pillars: exercise, diet, stem cell-based therapies, and anti-aging compounds. Our overarching goal is to provide a combinatorial treatment approach targeting these pillars to improve healthy aging and restore active living.
What is a day like in your job?
I wear several hats. I coordinate projects in our basic science lab, the Steadman Philippon Research Institute and help design and initiate clinical studies targeting age-related diseases such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. My team is currently working to translate and commercialize novel treatment strategies at SPRI through our on-site biologics company, ProofPoint Biologics, in order to improve our standard of care in our affiliate clinic, The Steadman Clinic. I oversee our aging-related pre-clinical findings to the clinic by negotiating the regulatory and scientific challenges that exist between.
How did the education you get at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio prepare you?
Three reasons: 1) The ability to design and execute projects autonomously. This was largely due to my Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Qitao Ran. Dr. Ran provided dedicated mentorship, but also allowed me significant autonomy in his lab. 2) In addition, UT Health San Antonio’s Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS) was very supportive towards students seeking alternative career paths outside academia. For example, I interned in the Office of Technology Commercialization which provided me with invaluable experience in the science commercialization process for which the GSBS allowed me to earn elective credit for. This supportive and open-minded training plan offered by the GSBS was incredibly beneficial for me. 3) The Biology of Aging Training Program at the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies. My training in the biology of aging has been paramount for my career. Through my training I was able to build a conceptual framework of the fundamental properties of aging driving disease phenotypes as well as engage with prominent investigators in the field.
What is the most challenging part of your work?
Without doubt the regulatory hurdles that exist translating from the bench to the clinic. They are incredibly important but can be difficult to navigate.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
Helping develop novel strategies to treat age-related diseases and assisting in directing them to the clinic.
What has been your proudest achievement?
Graduating with an undergraduate degree from UT Tyler.For a while, I did not even know I would attend college.
What would you tell a current student interested in your career? Any advice?
Get some intern experience as a grad student. Also, chose your postdoc lab wisely with a set timeline goal for your fellowship. While not completely necessary, a short but dedicated postdoc can prove very helpful.
What are some options that I can do to gain experience in this field now as a graduate student?
Start getting experience doing what you think you may want to do now. Do not wait until a postdoc. I think its easy to get caught up in your dissertation project, manuscript writing, and grant writing. While important, if your desired career path is outside of academia, get alternative experience now. This may include consulting, technology commercialization training, or teaching. UT Health San Antonio’s GSBS provides a very supportive environment for such extra-curricular preparation.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I love being outdoors, so Vail makes a great home. I ski, hike, rock climb, run, and fish.
Who has influenced you the most in life?
My grandmother Lillie. She owned and operated several independent businesses as a woman in the 70’s and 80’s. I think I inherited her grit and entrepreneurial spirit.
If you were stranded on a deserted island, what one band or musician would help keep your sanity?
Foreigner or Hall & Oats
What do you consider your favorite hobby?
What is your favorite quote?
“Comparison is the thief of joy” -Someone famous…I think T. Roosevelt.
If you could have dinner with one person, living or dead, who would it be?
If you won the lottery, what would you do?
What I am currently doing, but with nicer shoes.
If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
The bottom of the Mariana Trench
If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Tell us something about yourself that otherwise we wouldn’t know or guess.
I was in a band in college and we thought we were really cool