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David Zisa and Te-Chung Lee

David Zisa with mentor Te-Chung Lee

David Zisa’s mentor trained him to become an independent cardiovascular researcher.

David Zisa completed his PhD research in three years. Not only that, he had two first-author publications to his name.

“To see that my work was externally reviewed and found to be meritorious by the scientific community was a great moment,” Zisa says.

So, too, was receiving his PhD in a timely fashion. As a student in UB’s MD/PhD program, Zisa will finish medical school in 2012. After that, he’s looking at a minimum of three years’ additional training—six if he pursues a fellowship after residency.

“Studying to become a physician-scientist is both long and intensive, so any delays at this stage would have been amplified down the line,” Zisa says. “The biochemistry department was very good at keeping me on track to reach my goals.”

Zisa’s mentor, Te-Chung Lee, PhD, involved him in many lab projects so he could collaborate with other students and contribute to scholarly papers as first or second author.

“Practically, I want students to publish as much as possible,” says Lee, associate professor of biochemistry. “And when I train them, I make sure they become capable and independent so they can pursue their own research later.”

Zisa’s interest in cardiovascular research drew him to Lee’s lab, which studies heart repair using growth factors and mesenchymal stem cells. Another plus was his mentor’s open door policy.

“If I had questions I could just walk in and get the help I needed,” Zisa says. “Dr. Lee and I talked about my project daily, and that was the key to pushing ideas forward.”