After a troubling week in lab (5 inexplicably failed trials, time restraints, and deadlines deadlines deadlines!), it’s certainly nice to reflect on other research being done at Duke, especially when that research involves my favorite buggers: viruses! I introduce Dr. Mary Klotman, Dean and Professor of Duke’s School of Medicine, and HIV specialist who has fought at both the clinical frontlines and the bench operations. For years, I have assumed my interest in STEM and medicine to blossom directly as a physician of some manner, not really considering the entire prospect of researchers even existing, much less being one. Thus, choosing from research and clinical work whenever asked by peers and advisors alike seemed entirely too daunting, but Dr. Klotman is an amazing example of stringing the two fields together through her translational research.
Thoroughly Duke-bred since her undergraduate years, Dr. Klotman entered research in a slightly unconventional route to other scholars. Marked by the concurrent AIDS epidemic, her rotations and residency at Duke drove her to seek more ways to help her bedside patients out of compassion.
After pushing herself into the world of HIV research, she began investigating the mechanisms and properties of the virus as the research remained relatively fresh. Developing techniques at the time rushed to fill the dire gaps of the crisis, leading to major discoveries such as the limited function of failure drugs like AZT as potential treatments and the entire sequencing of the HIV genome. However, Dr. Klotman’s research focuses mostly on a fatal kidney disorder related to the virus targetting the young African-American male community. By studying the behavior of this disease, Dr. Klotman would be able to investigate the infection methods of the virus and potential treatment targets, as the virus is typically associated with infecting T cells, yet the kidney lacked many traditional immune cells. Combined with her continued bedside activity, Dr. Klotman labored tirelessly to resist the terminal diagnoses given to AIDS patients, even leaving Duke to Mount Sinai to work as the chief of the Infectious Diseases division after determining that HIV evolved and behaved distinctly differently in the kidney.
Since the end of the AIDS crisis, Dr. Klotman has persisted and furthered the field of HIV through her work, investigating specific factors of the virus heavily tied to the virus’ pathogenesis in immune cells. Despite the subsiding of the urgency for a cure, her projects have transitioned back to Duke’s Medical School to work with the Viral Vector Core on a potential vaccine for HIV using integrase-defective lentiviral vectors to stimulate the immune system. Since HIV itself is a lentivirus, using a vector with mimicking properties/factors that is unable to reproduce would allow for the development of a vaccine. Now, she juggles both her previous responsibilites to the clinic and laboratory, while adding the administrative workload of a Dean of the School of Medicine, which is simply incredible. Plainly put, Dr. Klotman’s story is inspirational, as it evinces that one doesn’t have to really decide strictly between M.D. or Ph D., as in the end, she never chose to be either but became both out of her passion and interest in her work. It is quite relieving, as I was worried about the practicality of pursuing research if I were to choose the M.D. path, but Dr. Klotman’s extraordinary work in both paths despite technically belonging to one shows how arbitrary those divisions can be in the face of hard work (and probably a whole lot of skill).
“CRISIS CRISIS”-Dang as membranes dry up
“I’ll go get Huifang and take care of what she’s working on so she can help you”-Joan who leaves
*crisis immediately fixes itself*
“What’s wrong, I was feeding mice [an hour task]!”-Huifang
“…so, guess who doesn’t have to feed mice anymore?”-Dang
“Tell me when things are running low so I can buy them before we run out”-Joan
“Oh ok, um can you buy DMEM/F12 [$100], RSAD1 antibody from Novus [$400], West Femto ECL[$350], 6-well plates for cell culturing [$150], Stainless Protein Ladder [$100], anti-tag FLAG antibody [$300], 20x TBST [$100], 10x Tris/Glycine/SDS buffer [$40], BCA Reagant A [$60], and some precast Western gels.”-Dang
“So I put the marker in the well, and I was telling myself not to load the sample in that same well.”-Dang
“And then you did exactly that”-Joan
“Did you remember that you were supposed to present at the lab meeting today?”-Joan
“Yes, save meee.”-Dang
“Are you done preparing?”-Christine
“I mean, not completely…”-Dang
“Good, lab meeting cancelled!”-Joan
“Isn’t there a lab meeting today?”-Kendra who runs Mass Specs so you know these things are a journey
“Just the two of us have been sitting in the conference room for 20 minutes confused.”-Huifang
“Oh, uh, yeah we cancelled it, did nobody tell you?”-Dang
“Really? Oh I guess I didn’t, when?”-Kendra
“5 minutes ago”-Dang