Career Interview: Gail P. Jarvik, MD, PhD

Photo courtesy of Gail P. Jarvik, MD, PhD

As Head and Professor of Medical Genetics, Joint Professor of Medicine and Genome Sciences, Arno G. Motulsky Chair in Medicine, and Adjunct Professor of Epidemiology, Dr. Jarvik is a clinician-scientist who makes the most of every minute.

Dr Jarvik shared her advice on time management, keys for trainee success, and transitioning to a professional position.

ASHG: What are the challenges and rewards of working as a clinician-geneticist?

Jarvik: Clinicians who do research have both challenges and advantages. The major challenge is time. To do cutting edge research requires a large time commitment and physician-scientists are competing for progress and funding with scientists who can dedicate more of their time to research.

The advantages are numerous. They include insight into the most relevant translational questions, a background that allows synthesis of diverse areas of medicine, and interactions with patients.

ASHG: If you could go back to when you were a trainee, what is one piece of advice you would give yourself for your current career?

Jarvik: “The two things I would do differently as a trainee would be: 1) spend more time networking and looking for collaborative projects and 2) get my MS in Biostatistics, to have a credential for my significant statistical training. Study sections seem to want a degreed biostatistician, regardless of your training or experience.”

ASHG: Describe your training and first few positions.

Jarvik: I completed an MD-PhD program, 3 years of internal medicine residency, and 4 years of medical genetics fellowship. The fellowship was longer than usual because I was a Pew Biomedical Scholar for the latter half. As that ended, my husband and I looked for joint offers. We were successful in obtaining a number of joint offers, but stayed at UW, as it had strong programs in both of our fields.

However, I strongly recommend interviewing as widely as reasonable. I met colleagues in those interview visits that became collaborators, despite my not coming to their institution.

ASHG: Any final advice?

Jarvik: I have been lucky to have many mentors that complemented each other’s roles. Never stop looking for people who can advise you.

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