Study the Harvard / MGH Center on Genomics, Vulnerable Populations, and Health Disparities website and find out what Bobak Seddighzadeh was doing before he began his studies at the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV.
Bobak Seddighzadeh is an associate researcher at the Harvard / MGH Center of Genomics, Vulnerable Populations and Health Disparities. During his graduate studies at the Gallatin School at New York University, he studied population genetics and medical genetics and graduated as a class valedictorian. Since then, Seddighzadeh has focused his research at the intersection of genomics and health inequalities. Now, as project manager of the Jamaica Institute for Cancer Care and Research (JACCRI), his work includes assisting in the development of a prospective study on the genetics of prostate cancer in Jamaican men and establishing national guidelines on palliative care for the Jamaican Ministry of Health.
Yes, Seddighzadeh, now ready to earn his MD in 2022, already has an impressive resume. His research has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including: Epigenomics, BioMedicine, and European urology. As a member of the charter class of the medical school, he took time between his second and third year of medical school to pursue additional training in cancer genomics in Dr Franklin Huangfrom the University of California at San Francisco, a doctor-researcher whom he met at Harvard.
Fight against vaccine hesitancy
As Seddighzadeh focused in Huang’s cancer lab, at the height of the pandemic, Huang turned his lab’s attention to understanding COVID-19. “At the time, a trend emerged where both men and women contracted COVID at similar rates, but men died in greater proportions than women,” Seddighzadeh said. “We studied publicly available genomic datasets on human lungs to see whether or not there were sex differences between lung cells in males and females that would explain this phenomenon. Indeed, we have found that men have a higher percentage of lung cells that express the receptors that COVID-19 needs to infiltrate our cells. “
Huang and Seddighzadeh also studied the prostate to see if there is any potential for COVID-19 infiltration. “Surprisingly, we found that the prostate also has the pairs of receptors needed for COVID to infiltrate the cell, albeit in very small amounts. “
Seddighzadeh points out that much more research needs to be done before the clinical implications of the research done in Huang’s lab can be revealed. As part of his research, Seddighzadeh, with Huang as a mentor, designed a study to understand the genetic basis of aggressive prostate cancer.
“I am on an authentic journey to learn all I can,” said Seddighzadeh, who received a full scholarship at the Kerkorian School of Medicine in 2017 courtesy of Dr. Barbara Atkinson, Founding Dean, and Maureen Schafer, former team leader of the faculty of medicine. “I want to lead a determined life and for me that means taking the time to pursue meaningful projects that have great potential to help others through medicine.”
Concerned about the reluctance to vaccinate, Seddighzadeh wrote a piece for Men’s health magazine on the Safety of COVID-19 mRNA Vaccines. He also wrote a guest column for the Las Vegas Sun, arguing that the benefits of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine far outweighed the risk of blood clots.
A graduate with honors in biology and biochemistry from Loyola Marymount University in California, Seddighzadeh completed two years of research on health disparities at the Charles R Drew / UCLA Medical Education Program before going to New York University (NYU ) for his graduate studies. After graduating from NYU, he received a job offer at Harvard from a renowned researcher he met during his graduate studies, Dr Alexandra E. Shields, director of the Harvard / MGH Center of Genomics, Vulnerable Populations, and Health Disparities. At Harvard Medical School, he helped study how psychosocial stress modulates our stress circuit (also known as the HPA axis) to understand how it can influence chronic disease.
“Dr. Shields had a grand vision to help establish a world-class cancer institute in Kingston, Jamaica,” said Seddighzadeh. “She was inspired by their unusually high cancer rates combined with their dramatic need for research. and clinical ability. I had no doubts in my mind that this was an experience I wanted to be a part of. I wanted to help improve the fight against cancer, learn how to create organizations and start-ups. up, as well as participating in an international experiment. I was hired by Dr Shields to be the Cancer Institute’s first project director and to move to Kingston to help establish the institute from scratch. I maintained my role until my first year of medical school, after which I quit to concentrate on my studies.
The cancer center in Jamaica is now funded by the National Institutes of Health.
“I hope, in one way or another, to help UNLV establish its own world-class cancer center and research institute for the city of Las Vegas,” said Seddighzadeh, who believes the medicine’s future is in “precision medicine”, or the use of one’s genetic makeup to tailor treatments to that person.
Seddighzadeh, who lost his father to pancreatic cancer between his second and third year of medical school, said the experience with Dr. Shields and the cancer center “gave me the confidence to be a leader. in the field of cancer ”.
His parents immigrated to the United States from Iran to give their children better opportunities in life. They moved from California to Las Vegas four years before Seddighzadeh began medical school. “My father and mother were the yin and yang of my development. My father was a serial entrepreneur – very logical, meticulous and hardworking. From him I learned the value of discipline and perseverance. He instilled in me a mindset of growth – that I can accomplish whatever I choose as long as I continue to learn, work hard, and persist despite setbacks. My mother was a clinical psychologist. She transmitted to me the values of ethics, simplicity, benevolence, well-being towards others and generosity. She instilled in me emotional intelligence and awareness. I think it is the unique combination of their skills that has given me a foundation to hopefully make progress as a great physician for my patients and as a leader for my community.
Education has always been emphasized in Seddighzadeh’s family. “In college, I remember I almost made my mom cry when I brought home a ‘B’ because she knew I was capable of more.”
Seddighzadeh’s favorite question growing up was “Why?” “
“I remember when I was 8 years old, I wanted to understand how electricity works, so I read a book called, How things work. The book explained the physical principles and phenomenon of how various objects work, from light bulbs to nuclear bombs. In seventh grade, I read my sister’s physics book in high school during the summer to better understand natural phenomena. Then in high school, I read books on nutrition and learned about how the endocrine system and our health are affected by our food decisions.
To date, the medical scientist Seddighzadeh admires the most is the late Dr Jonas Salk. “I admire Dr. Salk’s ambition to use his training as a doctor and scientist to find a cure for polio and then help launch one of the most successful vaccination campaigns in history. Even more admirable was his decision not to patent the vaccine in order to make it accessible to the world. I am inspired by this intellect, this selflessness and this commitment to pursue medicine, and I hope to achieve it one day.
He plans to complete a residency in internal medicine in order to pursue a scholarship that will allow him to fulfill his dream of becoming a hematologist-oncologist. He said his father’s death from pancreatic cancer had a lot to do with his choice of medical specialty.
“I was called upon to become a doctor-researcher because, currently, we need better answers for many of our patients. For example, mesothelioma, pancreatic cancer and brain cancers all have five-year survival rates of less than 12%, ”Seddighzadeh said. “I want to use my clinical knowledge to treat my patients, their stories to inspire new laboratory research and the results of my research to help cure my patients more effectively. The future of medicine can only advance if we continue to take and shift the measure. “