Welcome to the University of Southern California-California Institute of Technology MD-PhD Program! My name is Abhik Banerjee, and I am a current MS4 in the training program applying into Child Neurology residency programs later this year. I performed dissertation research in the laboratories of Dr. Mitchell Guttman and Dr. Ellen Rothenberg at the California Institute of Technology, specifically examining the roles of RNA binding proteins in genomic imprinting and early T-cell development. In 2019 as part of the early pandemic response, I volunteered to perform research characterizing the mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2 viral pathogenesis and identified three, RNA-mediated mechanisms used by the virus for host-cell takeover and interferon response suppression. Outside of the laboratory, I volunteered with the American Physician Scientists Association and served as its national president from 2019-2020.
The USC-Caltech MD-PhD Program is an amazing training program, combining excellent clinical training in the greater Los Angeles area with cutting edge research opportunities at USC, USC-affiliated hospitals, and Caltech. When I was a prospective applicant, I remember being impressed by how incredibly supportive the faculty, administrative staff, and students were to each other. I could not have grown to the individual that I am today without the amazing mentorship and support I received in the program, as well as the privilege to learn the practice of medicine from patients at LAC-USC hospital and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. The program feels like a family, and I highly encourage prospective applicants to consider applying. It was one of the best decisions I ever made!
Dissertation Title: Diverse Roles of RNA-protein Interactions: From Viral Antagonism to Mammalian Development.
- Jachowicz, J.W., Strehle, M., Banerjee, A.K., Blanco, M.R., Thai, J., & Guttman, M. (2022). Xist spatially amplifies SHARP/SPEN recruitment to balance chromosome-wide silencing and specificity to the X chromosome. Nature structural & molecular biology, 29(3), 239–249. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41594-022-00739-1
- Quinodoz, S.A., Jachowicz, J.W., Bhat, P., Ollikainen, N., Banerjee, A.K., Goronzy, I.N., Blanco, R., Chovanec, P., Chow, A., Markaki, Y., Thai, J., Plath, K., & Guttman, M. (2021). RNA promotes the formation of spatial compartments in the nucleus. Cell, 184(23), 5775– 5790.e30. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2021.10.014
- Markaki, Y., Gan Chong, J., Wang, Y., Jacobson, E. C., Luong, C., Tan, S., Jachowicz, J.W., Strehle, M., Maestrini, D., Banerjee, A.K., Mistry, B.A., Dror, I., Dossin, F., Schöneberg, J., Heard, , Guttman, M., Chou, T., & Plath, K. (2021). Xist nucleates local protein gradients to propagate silencing across the X chromosome. Cell, 184(25), 6174–6192.e32. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2021.10.022
- Banerjee, A.K., Blanco, M.R., Bruce, E.A., Honson, D.D., Chen, L.M., Chow, A., Bhat, P., Ollikainen, N., Quinodoz, S.A., Loney, C., Thai, J., Miller, Z.D., Lin, A.E., Schmidt, M.M., Stewart, D.G., Goldfarb, D., De Lorenzo, G., Rihn, S.J., Voorhees, R.M., Botten, J.W., … Guttman, (2020). SARS-CoV-2 Disrupts Splicing, Translation, and Protein Trafficking to Suppress Host Defenses. Cell, S0092-8674(20)31310-6. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2020.10.004
- Deverman, B.E., Pravdo, P.L., Simpson, B.P., Kumar, S.R., Chan, K.Y., Banerjee, A.K., Wu, W.L., Yang, B., Huber, N., Pasca, S.P., & Gradinaru, V. (2016). Cre-dependent selection yields AAV variants for widespread gene transfer to the adult Nature biotechnology, 34(2), 204– 209. https://doi.org/10.1038/nbt.3440
- Arboleda, A., Lee, H., Parnaik, R., Fleming, A., Banerjee, A.K., Ferraz-de-Souza, B., Délot, E.C., Rodriguez-Fernandez, I.A., Braslavsky, D., Bergadá, I., Dell’Angelica, E.C., Nelson, S.F., Martinez-Agosto, J.A., Achermann, J.C., & Vilain, E. (2012). Mutations in the PCNA-binding domain of CDKN1C cause IMAGe syndrome. Nature genetics, 44(7), 788–792. https://doi.org/10.1038/ng.2275
Aloha! My first year in the USC-Caltech MD-PhD program has been an absolute privilege. My peers are extremely supportive, the administration is always available to help when I am in need, and the variety and impact of research opportunities at USC and Caltech is truly unrivaled. Mentorship is strongly emphasized here, from faculty to students as well as between students. The program has also done an extremely good job of connecting me with professors, physicians, alumni, and other professionals inside and outside of academia to explore and learn more about all possible career paths. In addition, the clinical opportunities at Keck, the emphasis on community and socioeconomic factors in healthcare, and the myriad clubs and service-oriented organizations have provided me with unique training experiences that will serve me well throughout my career. Finally, the program is based in the heart of Los Angeles –it has been extremely humbling to have all these experiences to the backdrop of the Rose Bowl and a sunny winter, but to also engage in the communities that Keck trains us to care for. As I enter my second year, I look forward to the transition to clinical rotations, further refining my research interests, and starting my PhD. I am excited for what the next few years have in store for me, and highly recommend the USC-Caltech MD-PhD program to anyone looking to integrate strong research with community-focused clinical training.
Welcome to the USC-Caltech joint MD-PhD program! While our program offers a plethora of unrivaled benefits, from having one of the most diverse clinical training settings in the country to the ability to conduct research under the mentorship of Nobel laureates, it is the program’s dedication to developing physician-citizen-scientists that makes me proud to be a trainee here. Only because of the incredible support by our program and institutions’ staff, faculty and administration have I been able to pursue my dreams in each one of these areas. As a medical student I have been able to see patients not just in the hospital, but on the streets of Los Angeles, learning from the most vulnerable folks in need of help. While many programs may offer opportunities to work with vulnerable populations, our program actually believes in the power of working with and learning from the communities we serve to fight health disparities. Thanks to the unending support of the program and my PI, I have been able to be deeply involved in advocacy and leadership development in the American Medical Association. This ultimately led me to serve in multiple leadership roles in the organization, including becoming the medical student member of the Board of Trustees. We often feel powerless as trainees, witnessing the innumerable obstacles our patients face to both receive care and have access to basic necessities to survive. Being able to work as an advocate during my training has allowed me to start making a difference before obtaining the title of doctor. Whether it is by lobbying local and federal governments, getting funds to those in need, or changing medical practice and education to right structural injustices embedded in our profession, we have the power to make a difference right now to help our patients by fixing our broken system. Our program has allowed me to do just that from day one. Finally, as a result of the incredible amount of collaboration and innovation across our institutions, I was able to successfully obtain an NIH F30 pre-doctoral fellowship based on my thesis project. This was the result of having access to state of the art core facilities, collaborators across the region within and outside our program, and the guidance of not just our program’s leadership, but also the multiple F30 recipients within our program who all helped me through the process. Thanks to our program’s support and resources, I have also been able to present my work domestically and abroad. We are truly a family here, I have always felt supported and cared for by my peers and our program. This journey to becoming a double doc is long and difficult, but because of my USC-Caltech family it has been an absolute joy. I cannot wait for the remainder of my training journey here and I look forward to welcoming you to our family soon!