Recently, thirteen graduate students, post docs and professors from ASU’s PSOC met face-to-face with the research crew at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, to present their work and to tour the research laboratories. This experience provided the ASU scientists with valuable insights as to how the clinic operates and also strengthened ties with the people actually treating cancer patients. “Face-to-face visits, with time to spare for conversation, can make all the difference in generating fruitful collaborations between researchers,” said Rory Staunton, a graduate student researcher with ASU PSOC.
“All too often our only chance to meet is on video conference calls focused around evaluating the degree to which we’ve met milestones. Our visit to the Mayo Clinic enabled everyone to get to know one another a little bit better and will hopefully foster better exchange of not only resources, but skills and ideas,” he said.
The discussions following the project presentations served as a testament to the pertinence of this unique collaboration of researchers from varied scientific backgrounds to conquering the mysteries of cancer. The clinical researchers were able to provide specific examples of how the research projects can be applied to certain types of cancer and how other cancers may resist project recommendations.
“The discussions with the Mayo scientific team were enriching and provided many important insights into the translational aspects of research and technologies stemming from our academic labs, especially in the context of a relevant real world issue such as the various types of cancer,” said ASU PSOC researcher, Vivek Nandakumar.
Likewise, it was apparent that the ASU researchers provided new avenues for the clinical researchers to explore in their work, illuminating how important it is for clinicians to be exposed to the front lines of research.
Joe Mikhael, consultant hematologist and associate professor at the Mayo College of Medicine, led a brief tour of the Mayo Clinic. From the entrance lobby to the clinic concourse we walked under a famous quote by William J. Mayo that summed up the clinic’s unique philosophy: “The best interest of the patient is the only interest to be considered.”
The Mayo’s approach of addressing the various aspects of patient care and overall well-being mirrors the collaborative approach of the ASU PSOC researchers. The Mayo provides patients with the convenience of a “one-stop shop” for health care whilst ensuring every patient gets the attention they deserve for optimal health and satisfaction.
Not only were the meetings between the ASU and Mayo researchers a great success, the opportunity to be immersed in the clinical environment was inspiring to many scientists from the ASU PSOC team, who gained a stronger understanding of the implications of their research while touring the lab facilities with the Mayo’s clinicians. The opportunity to speak with doctors who work with cancer patients put the researchers’ hard work in perspective, illuminating the importance of their findings and encouraging new ideas on how to attack cancer.
“The lab tours were very informative and we learned about the methodologies adopted in clinical research. Such forums are essential for non-clinical researchers like myself since they make us cognizant of the issues that our research or technology needs to address in order to be applicable in real life situations,” said ASU researcher, Vivek Nandakumar.
“During our tour we saw many patients in the lobbies and halls, and I couldn’t help but wonder which ones were suffering from cancer. To researchers entrenched in the universities, the reality of the disease can be obscured by the complications of our experiments and theoretical models. It was inspiring to be reminded of the higher purpose of our research, and I came back to the lab with a new enthusiasm for my work,” reflected Rory Staunton.
As a student myself, this meeting was an eye-opening experience that emphasized the importance of student researchers to understanding the conundrum of cancer. Seeing the influence of the ASU PSOC students’ research was inspiring to me as I will soon be working towards a Masters in Public Health. I am now confident that my projects will have the possibility of making a difference on a much larger scale than I ever imagined. I will follow the multitude of fresh ideas coming from this special collaboration and I look forward to seeing how the ASU PSOC research is eventually applied in the clinic to help patients overcome cancer.