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Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences alumna Dr. Hartono with Dr. Fauci and others
Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences alumna Dr. Stella Hartono pictured with Dr. Anthony Fauci and others at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

September 7, 2021

By Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science staff

As students prepare to graduate from Mayo Clinic School of Biomedical Sciences on Saturday, Sept., 11, 2021, we share the experiences of recent graduates as they reflect on the impact that medical research has on society and how their training led them to public service.

Growing up in Jakarta, Indonesia, with a love of math and chemistry, Stella Hartono, M.D., Ph.D., did not envision herself as a physician-scientist working at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases alongside "America's doctor" Anthony Fauci, M.D.

When it became time to apply to graduate schools, Dr. Hartono vacillated between pursuing a Ph.D. or an M.D.–Ph.D. degree. Her mentor encouraged her to pursue the latter because it offered broader options for a future career. Dr. Hartono defended her thesis in 2015 and graduated with her M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in 2017.

After a residency in Texas, she joined the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in 2020 as a clinical fellow in immunology, where she occasionally rounds on patients with Dr. Fauci. "He discusses our research interests and advises us on choosing a lab. It’s definitely a treat," she says.

The world is changing and so is the science

In addition to Dr. Hartono, other alumni have gone on to use their education, training, and skills in the public service sector. Ryan Donohue, Ph.D., a 2019 alumnus, got a taste of government as co-president of the Graduate School Association and then advocating for science on Capitol Hill while pursuing his doctoral degree at Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

After graduating, Dr. Donohue had an opportunity to pursue an American Association for the Advancement of Science fellowship. Now, he's in Washington, D.C., working as a policy fellow in the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy, whose mission is to advise the president and executive office members on scientific and technological matters.

After graduate school, Dr. Hartono decided to switch her research focus to align with her clinical interest in immunology. She then completed her residency in Texas studying food and drug allergy mechanisms and continued to her current fellowship at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Next, Dr. Hartono says she's planning on applying for the intramural early career-investigator track, which will provide her five years of funding under the guidance of a mentor and then transition to the tenure-track position at the National Institutes of Health. She credits mentors at Mayo Clinic with inspiring her research curiosity.

"At Mayo, my primary investigators Joseph Grande, M.D., Ph.D., and Karen Hedin, Ph.D., and mentors allowed me to explore and push the boundary of science. They allow me to develop my own research questions and pursue them while providing support whenever the experiment didn't go as expected or when I am unsure where to go next. This allowed me to develop the self-confidence that I think was necessary to move to the next step of my career," Dr. Hartono says. 

Dr. Donohue says one differentiator for Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences is its ability to train master students who follow the science. With constant advances, learning these skills is critical to the career scientist, he says.

2021 commencement

Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences commencement ceremony will be held virtually on Saturday, Sept. 11. This is the first time the school will hold graduation for only its graduates. Due to COVID-19, the school has invited 2020 graduates as well as master’s degree and M.D.-Ph.D. students to attend. More than 100 graduates will be recognized at the event.