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Basic Versus Clinical Focus

Posted on February 18, 2013

Susanne Ahmari (bio) describes how she combined her love of basic neuroscience with patient care.


And this was something that I have struggled with and actually feel like I have come to a good answer, at least for myself with, because my whole career trajectory, I did an MD-PhD. I did very basic neuroscience as a PhD student. I looked at synapse formation in the hippocampus with advanced microscopy techniques. I loved doing that. I love new tools and technologies to investigate the brain.

So that was great, but I always felt this pull toward what are the clinical applications for this and how can I actually use this to try to help somebody someday? So that's what pulled me back into the clinic. And then I did my psychiatry rotations and loved it. I absolutely loved it. Here's actually a place where we can intervene and do some good in real time as opposed to the long haul that we're going to see in the research.

So I decided to do residency. Then I was almost completing residency and trying to figure out what kind of research am I going to do, because I love basic neuroscience. I love treating patients. So maybe I need to do clinical research. Maybe that will be, I'll still be doing research, but it will be applicable to humans directly.

And so toward the end of my residency I started to explore that option by choosing a clinical mentor to go along with my basic science mentor, and they were actually already starting a collaboration.

So I thought, "OK. This is my chance. I am the bridge between the two of these people, and I'll see how that goes."

And what I learned over the process of this was that I actually am still more drawn to the basic neuroscience. That is my primary passion even though I actually still, I love treating patients. So the way I've managed that tension is to throw myself full force into the basic neuroscience lab, and I have that going.

And I have a private practice. And so I see patients a couple of nights a week. And then I still have the clinical research portion of that, but I'm stepping more into a little bit of a supervisory role. And so other people will be carrying out the studies, but then I can still help to direct them and use them in my mouse models.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher at the 2012 Career Development Institute for Psychiatry in Pittsburgh, PA.


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