Clare Murray: The South Texas Medical Scientist Training Program Let Me Choose Both Science and Medicine
Clare Murray grew up in Houston, Texas where her parents both worked in the oil/gas industry.
“Nobody in my family was in medicine or science so I chose chemical engineering as my major in school. I really enjoyed my major, but I did a one day externship at Exxonmobil and that’s when I realized oil and gas wasn’t for me,” she said.
She decided to try research, and joined the lab of Dr. Hal Alper.
“It was the first time that I considered research before and I was really drawn to finding something that no one had found before,” she said. “Dr. Alper was an incredible mentor and really inspired me to continue to pursue research in the future.”
She worked in his lab doing yeast-related research and also did a summer internship at Houston Methodist Institute during her junior year.
“The internship was really hard, but the work was super interesting. I was fascinated by the immune system and its interaction with cancer,” she said.
It was at this point that she realized that she wanted to do both research and medicine.
“I wouldn’t be happy doing research as an extracurricular. I wanted that dedicated time that a Ph.D. can give me.”
After graduation, she started looking for M.D./Ph.D. programs and learned about the South Texas Medical Scientist Training Program (STX-MSTP).
“Dr. Jose Cavazos really stood out to me as a program director because he really cared about us as people and not just a number. I wanted to be a person that was seen with a holistic image and at our exit interview during the interview process, he told me where I stood as a candidate even if I didn’t come to this school,” she said. “ He wanted us to be successful wherever we ended up.”
She was also impressed by the other candidates who she had met during the interview weekend.
“When you are interviewing, you get to see your potential classmates and I really liked every single person, beyond being in applicant mode. Everyone was very friendly, and I got a good impression from the current students,” she said. “I didn’t feel that at some of the other places that I interviewed.”
After being accepted to the South Texas Medical Scientist Training Program, she did a rotation in Dr. Tyler Curiel’s lab the summer before the beginning of medical school.
“I liked the lab because it’s a friendly, large lab that is on the frontier of tumor immunology. All of the students are extremely successful, and I’m confident that I can get excellent training from Dr. Curiel,”she said.
During her time in the lab, she was able to gather enough data to present at the Long School of Medicine Day. She won second place in the poster presentation.
Currently, Murray is in her second year of medical school and preparing to take the STEP1 exam.
“My favorite class so far has been anatomy because I learn with my hands. I’m an active learner, so when I see the cadaver then I understand quickly how it works, why it works and where it is in the body system. It’s super cool that we get to see this in first year because it really prepares you for clinical applications.”
In the future, she sees herself as a doctor with the ability to still do cancer research.
“My cousin has advanced melanoma, so seeing what my family has to go through and learning about the research and options that are out there drew me to cancer. It’s where I can make an impact in someone’s life. Maybe I can make an impact by discovering something that can turn into something used in the clinic.”
If she had to pick a speciality, she said it would be either surgical oncology or pediatric hematology/oncology.
“I still have a lot of time to figure it out, but I know I want to pursue something in oncology. I did a preceptorship at Texas Children’s Hospital and enjoyed working with children, but I also loved anatomy and think surgery is super cool. I guess I’ll make a decision later in the program.”
Outside of school, she loves hanging out with her two dogs Honey, a Lhaso Apso and Charlie, a Shih Tzu.