Some people are born to be medical researchers like Ronald Koenig, M.D., Ph.D., an endocrinologist specializing in thyroid cancer at the University of Michigans Rogel Cancer Center. According to him, the excitement of diving into the unknown and potentially cracking the nut on a big, biological mystery is one of the medical fields greatest joys.
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To think about an unanswered medical question and then create a test to try and solve that, using my knowledge and experience, has been incredibly rewarding, he says.
Now, as he transitions into retirement after his 40-year career, Koenig reflects on his proudest medical discoveries, advice for new medical students and the future of thyroid cancer care.
I moved to Michigan in 1988, splitting my professional time between medical research and being a physician. Being in a lab, but also being able to develop relationships with patients has provided unique aspects of professional fulfillment that the other doesnt for me. It gave me balance in my career that Ive appreciated.
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Ive been drawn to the intellectual challenges of research since college. Often times, research can be frustrating, but the draw of solving a medical question yet to be solved is irresistible. The fact I can test a hypothesis because I find it interesting and important and take it wherever the data may lead that intellectual freedom is wonderful. Thats how science progresses.
On the other hand, I dont think Id be happy without patient care which is why Ill still do that part time at the Rogel Cancer Center. Its rewarding work. I get to see patients longitudinally, over years and years, and develop personal relationships with them.
The Medical Scientist Training Program is a combined M.D. and Ph.D. program consisting of 100 medical students. As director, I was in charge of defining the nature of program. I really enjoyed the relationship Id build with the students over the eight or nine years it takes to get both degrees and help prepare them for the field of academic medicine.
My own M.D. and Ph.D. training was critical in defining who Id become as a professional. The University of Michigan is an educational institution, and this program exists because the medical school recognizes its importance. Im grateful.
No career is perfect. Every career path has its pros and cons. Especially in medical research, there are times where you feel rejected or like you shouldve seen something and didnt. You have to learn how to adapt and move forward.
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Finding Your Place in The Medical Field - Michigan Medicine
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