MARCH 2019

To Be Women
by Tasfia Rouf, M1

I’ve been told




Is what it means to be a woman

Bear the burden

of the anger of men

of the abuse of men

Is what it means to be a woman

To be women is to forgive

To be women is to forget

To be women is to deny

To be women is to doubt

And to those who teach this

those who preach this

those who cry #notallmen

To those tired of all the feminism

Let me tell you

I’m tired too                                      

Shaping the Future of Stem Cell Therapies
by Tiffany Leong (U4), Andrew Haskell (G2), and Robert Rogers (M2/G5)

We’ve always heard from news sources and many an “expert” who have said something along the lines of “Stem cells provide a treasure trove of treatments and possibilities for the future of medicine!” They’re not wrong; stem cells present exciting opportunities for the medical field because of their unique ability to change into many other kinds of cells. Using specific biological paths, we can influence these special cells to differentiate or secrete factors in desired patterns. Afterward, we can treat a wide variety of afflictions such as tissue injuries, immune disorders, and cancers. But if stem cells are so great, why aren’t we using them more in clinical applications? Unfortunately, more widespread clinical use is hindered by inconsistency between stem cells from different donors, the costs of growing the cells, and the unwieldy amount of time needed to make them.

So now we ask, “What now? Your miracle cure comes with a catch, and there are too many bumps in the road!” Well, scientists haven’t given up! Although current methods are less than optimal, we can still try to find ways around the obstacles blocking the way to more prevalent stem cell therapy.

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Last year, Texas A&M University funded a project through its X-Grant program to establish our National Center for Therapeutics Manufacturing as a facility to manufacture mesenchymal stem cells, a specific type of stem cell that can build bone and other tissue. Ultimately, we hope that these cells will be good enough for widespread clinical distribution. We are designing a process to make microscopic beads capable of growing these cells in large bioreactors to allow us to culture cells in large quantities while reducing the need for expensive supplements typically used in culture media. Real-time monitoring of this system will allow us to run multiple units without the need for constant intervention. Although our method is being optimized for a single type of stem cell, it can theoretically be applied to any adherent cell type.

By eliminating the factors that interfere with widespread medical use of stem cells, we can pave a path toward more cost-effective measures, more efficient production, and a more consistent end product. In doing so, regulatory agencies would more readily approve stem cell-based methods and potentially improve many patients’ prospects. If successful, current medical students can realistically hope to see stem cell and other cell therapies as a cost-effective option for a wide range of diseases during a majority of their careers.

Adaptability Within Medicine
by Sara Benitez, M3

A family friend once commented, “I don’t know how you do it; it seems like every time you get used to one thing, you’re on to something else.” She was talking about organ blocks, and frankly, she was absolutely right. We take 1 month per organ system, each with its special set of pathology, pharmacology, etc., and each requiring a different kind of thinking. We adapt not only to different classes but different cities after our second year. A new rotation every 6 or 8 weeks. A 2- or 4-week elective. A different hospital or EMR on away rotations. Not to mention having to get accustomed to working with different people—whether that be attendings, residents, or classmates. We adapt to patient cases when the course of their treatment or disease turns out a different way than expected. We face challenges of adaptability day in and day out.  We push through because we have to in order to survive this process, and it becomes easy to underestimate how challenging these transitions truly are to the world outside of medicine. Even if we don’t adapt as gracefully or efficiently as we would like, showing resilience by continuing to accept and adjust to change within medicine is an accomplishment in itself, and you deserve to give yourself credit.

Dean’s Bookshelf
by Carrie L. Byington, MD, Dean

Books are very important in my family. We learn a lot about people by sharing books that are meaningful. Books give insight into how we see the world and what we value.

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Dr. Carrie L. Byington, MD

With our distributed campus model, and the inability to sit down with each of you as much as I would like, I started to think about other ways I could get to know students and for students to learn more about me. 

To help us get to know one another, I donated a selection of books to create the “Dean’s Bookshelf.” The initial home of these books will be in the Medical Sciences Library (MSL) on the Bryan campus in the Health Professions Education Building. Stop by to browse, or if you are on another campus, click a book link on the full listing of books found on the Medical Sciences Library Medicine Guide to request a library copy be sent to you.

I hope sharing books will become a tradition in the College of Medicine. I invite students and faculty members to make recommendations to me, and I’ll add your selections to the shelf for others to enjoy.

The Garden We Tend
by Neha Rao, M3

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We Are Not Making WHAT IF Possible
by ET1 Andrew Haskell, USN(RET)

The TAMHSC College of Medicine is proud of the impact we have on the community and the innovations our faculty and students contribute to the fields of healthcare and biomedical research. We boast of our impact on rural communities and our support to service members, veterans, and their families, and we went so far as to adopt “Making WHAT IF Possible” as our tagline. But WHAT IF this is just a facade? WHAT IF we are just using slogans and propaganda to mask the fact that we are not living up to our full potential? 

Before I left my home state of Virginia, I told my friends, colleagues, and family where I was going. I was met with only two responses: “What is Texas A&M?” and “Oh, they’re pretty good, but I would have gone with Baylor.” You can imagine my skepticism when I arrived in 2017 to hear how well-known we claim to be. Just to be clear, my skepticism about moving to Texas and beginning my graduate career in the College of Medicine was put to rest the day I first stepped foot on this campus. I have not regretted my decision once since I accepted the offer to join the Medical Sciences Graduate Program. I love my work, I love my program, and I love the College of Medicine. We are a powerful machine, but the cogs are spinning independently, and if nobody else is willing to put it in gear, I will give it a try.

I’ve heard the whispers, and I know you have as well. The snarky remarks from medical students and graduate students about each other, the accusations that students and faculty in one program forget the other exists, complaints about faculty not caring and reciprocal complaints from faculty about students not taking the initiative to gain exposure to the other program. As of this writing, two graduate students who volunteered to assist with our Disaster Day simulation are preparing to act as providers because despite being clear that they are PhD students with no clinical training, it was assumed that belonging to the College of Medicine meant they were medical students. Why can’t we communicate? How is any of this acceptable? How can we serve our community if we are failing each other?

If you’ve made it this far before dismissing my words, then you are likely a bit agitated because you care about the College of Medicine as much as I do, so that means you are probably amongst those who are interested in making a difference. I personally know many students and faculty in both programs who share my frustration and want to be involved in collaboration between programs as well as MD/PhD students who are somehow caught in the worst of both worlds. At the end of January, there was an email sent by the editorial board of The Synapse announcing plans to promote communication between medical and graduate students beginning with having both programs contribute to this publication. You probably deleted it or marked it as read and moved on, which is admittedly an odd thing for me to say as someone on that board in the very publication that email was promoting. There are enough of you who already agree with this, so let's do something to fix it.

I will try to kick it off. If you are a medical student who is interested in stem cell therapy, bone regeneration (I’m looking at you, aspiring orthopedic surgeons), or cancer (future oncologists and pathologists), then reach out to me. I will talk about work that is being done in these fields, and you can tell me about the current state of treatment in these areas from a clinical perspective. Let’s talk over coffee, because if there is one thing medical and graduate students have in common, it’s that most of us were only able to make it to the end of this page because of caffeine. 

Texas 2-Step CPR Training, Houston Campus
by Puja Panwar, M3


Title Gallery Images:,,,

Brianna Basinger, Copy Editor
Riti Kotamarti, Copy Editor
Alexandra Powell, Copy Editor
Steven Le, Social Media Manager

Luke Mascarenhas, Chairman of the Board
Andrew Haskell, CT(ASCP)CM, Managing Editor
Andrew Haskell, CT(ASCP)CM, Acquisition Editor
Michelle Won, Design Editor

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A special thanks to... 
Dr. Karen Wakefield for being our faculty editor,
Dr. Barbara Gastel for serving as editorial mentor,
and Dr. Gül Russell for providing support and encouragement.


The Synapse is sponsored by the Department of Humanities in Medicine at the Texas A&M University College of Medicine.