Two SMPH students become Sarnoff Fellows with guidance from Department of Medicine faculty

Lydia Buzzard and Sarah Ahrens stand outside wearing their white coats

Sarah Ahrens, MD, clinical associate professor, Hospital Medicine, commitment to mentorship helped guide Carmel Assa, MD, a 2022 UW SMPH graduate, and Lydia Buzzard, a third-year medical student, through the prestigious Sarnoff Fellowship.

The Sarnoff Cardiovascular Research Foundation Fellowship offers medical students the opportunity to spend a year conducting biomedical research in the cardiovascular field at an institution of their choosing across the United States. Dr. Ahrens, a Sarnoff Fellow alum, was happy to serve as a mentor and give advice to Assa and Buzzard as they navigated the application process and fellowship.

“I think it’s essential to help medical students interested in research find the best resources for themselves. Sarnoff is a leg up, and if you enter this fellowship, you are very well connected, very well mentored, and in some senses nurtured,” Dr. Ahrens says.

Assa, who was a Sarnoff fellow in 2020-21 at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, agrees with Dr. Ahrens’ thoughts on the fellowship and emphasizes her gratitude for her help.

“Dr. Ahrens was a hype woman. This is a really competitive fellowship, and she assured me that I could do this,” Assa says.

Assa found a great deal of success and support through Sarnoff. She researched novel non-coding RNAs relevant to ischemic myocardial disease in diabetes, and this year received an extension of funds to conduct similar studies in heart failure with preserved ejection fraction.

She credits Sarnoff for helping her find her passion for research as she starts her residency in internal medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin as part of a Physician Investigator Track into Cardiology.

As for Dr. Ahrens’ support, she explains that it was little things that made a difference.

“The week I submitted my proposal, she gave me her number and told me to text her with any issues, she made herself abundantly available to me,” Assa said of Dr. Ahrens.

When another medical student, Lydia Buzzard, became interested in the fellowship, Dr. Ahrens put her in touch with Assa, and others who could assist and support her, like Lee Eckhardt, MD, MS, associate professor, Cardiovascular Medicine, who became her sponsor and wrote her a letter of recommendation.

“Dr. Eckhardt was immensely helpful in helping with word choice and formatting of my proposal, and even had tips on reasonable timelines for each stage of a project,” Buzzard says.

Now, she’s eagerly preparing for her fellowship at Oregon Health and Science University to work on traumatic injury research.

“More than publications or a line on my CV, what Sarnoff offers is exploration to discover my research passions and guidance to make my goals reality,” Buzzard says.

Dr. Ahrens explains that she is excited to have UW SMPH students take part in the Sarnoff Fellowship, and enjoys helping them navigate medical education and reach their goals.

“It’s exceptionally rewarding to watch students grow into the role of physician, and help guide them in that process. Becoming a doctor is not easy, and helping students do it with a little bit more grace and success is an important part of my job,” Ahrens says.

Banner photo: Sarnoff Fellow, Lydia Buzzard, SMPH medical student, and Sarah Ahrens, MD. Credit: Clint Thayer/Department of Medicine