Neurologist Adeel Memon, M.D., touches on the importance of finding a mentor, “To become a successful physician-scientist," he said, "it was essential to have a good mentor. I had never heard of such a thing. I didn’t have a mentor as a medical student in Pakistan; it is a very American concept. But I started looking for one and found Dr. Amara.”
Getting training in research was always part of Memon’s plan, although he had more enthusiasm than preparation on his CV. In Pakistan, students go straight into medical school from high school, so Memon did not have the required classes — or the funding to pursue a Ph.D. — when he first got to UAB. But that did not stop him. After he started his residency in 2015, Memon took to heart Standaert’s answer to a fellow trainee who asked about his path to success.
Amara is another clinician-scientist in the neurology department, with a research focus on the effects of exercise on sleep, cognitive function and other non-movement symptoms in Parkinson’s. “She knew I had no experience with research, but she still decided to take a chance on me,” Memon said. “She knew I was interested in a physician-scientist career, and I became her first graduate student. We started with baby steps, such as how to write an abstract and come up with a hypothesis. The three years I spent in Dr. Amara’s lab made me competitive to be successful in my R25 application, and I defended my thesis with data collected in her lab.”
It all started in 2016 when David Standaert, M.D., Ph.D stopped by Memon’s research poster at the American Neurological Association annual meeting and asked about his career trajectory. When Memon said he was interested in becoming a world-class expert in deep brain stimulation, Standaert told him he needed to work with Lori McMahon, Ph.D., an acclaimed electrophysiologist and longtime director of UAB’s Comprehensive Neuroscience Center. Then, in 2017, when Standaert met with principal investigators and the NIH program manager in charge of the R25 program, the first person he encountered outside the meeting room was Memon, and Standaert suggested that he apply.
“He was also awarded scholarships from the American Neurological Association and Movement Disorders Society for presenting his research, as well as serving as the consortium chair for residents and fellows at the American Academy of Neurology. After being inspired by Dr. McMahon’s leadership skills, he has continued to serve as a leader and is currently serving on the Executive Board of the Pakistan International Neuroscience Society. As a result of his professional achievements, he was selected as a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society.”
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