The Next Generation of Transplant Professionals

To foster the next generation of transplant physicians and investigators, the AST is committed to providing opportunities to expose trainees to the field of transplantation. These include mentoring our young professionals and students through programs including the Fellows Symposium and the ATC Student/Resident Travel Grant program.

The ATC Student/Resident Travel Grant program, developed by Dr. Sharon Bartosh, is designed to inspire medical students and residents who have not yet committed to a medical specialty to consider a career track in transplantation. This year, we welcomed 12 students and residents to attend the ATC in Chicago

To highlight this program, I invited one of our 2017 ATC travel grant recipients, Nilay Donmez, to write a guest blog post about her experience.

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” A new chapter started in my life when I left the beautiful summer breeze of my comfort zone in Corpus Christi, Texas, and flew to ice-cold (at least to me!) Chicago on April 28th for the 2017 American Transplant Congress. As the only pediatric resident among the travel grant award recipients, I felt that I was representing future pediatric transplantation leaders. Meeting inspiring professionals in pediatric renal transplantation, learning about T-cells and B-cells and Donor Specific Antibodies (DSA), and becoming informed and enlightened about the reputable and fascinating research from all over the world helped reaffirm my determination to specialize in the field of transplantation.

Knowing someone's past is a must to better comprehend her future plans. Therefore, I would like to give you a glimpse of my background first. I was born in 1991 in Ankara, Turkey, but was raised by my mother and grandparents in the beautiful Mediterranean city, Izmir. While getting into college was one of the highest achievements, especially for a girl in the neighborhood I grew up in, I also made my way to the top medical school in the country in Istanbul Faculty of Medicine. I was a very active student, was on my medical school’s volleyball team, and was the local officer of International Federation of Medical Students’ Association. In addition, I was privileged enough to spend one month in Egypt and study one semester in Italy as a European exchange student. I also helped my mentors by translating textbook chapters from English to Turkish, gave presentations about career planning and self-motivation to other medical students, and delivered poster presentations in conferences abroad.

I was in my second year of medical school when I decided to pursue my residency in the USA; I was told at the time that getting a position was “impossible,” because nobody we knew had succeeded at that before. That only further ignited my desire and fueled my passion to pursue my dream. Because it was my dream, I was the only one who was going to determine how to make it a reality, and I wasn’t going to be stopped or deterred. I started my USA adventure all by myself, searching online for “how to study for Step1.” Then I passed every exam on the first attempt, finished medical school without gaps, and matched to pediatrics in Texas right after graduation. Meanwhile, I had to sponsor myself for my education, so I worked in plenty of part-time jobs until the clinical burden of medical school increased, when I stopped working in order to focus on my studies. I was lucky enough to be a winner on a popular TV game show, which helped me financially through my education, allowing me to fulfill my dream of coming to America as a pediatric resident. 

I am about to start the second year of my residency at Driscoll Children’s Hospital, which serves the children of South Texas and occasionally Mexico. Due to our large patient population and active renal transplant program, I had the opportunity to take care of many renal transplant patients during my nephrology block while working with inspiring doctors who introduced me to the AST world and encouraged me to apply for the AST travel grant.

I believe there is nothing one cannot achieve with determination, hard work, and making the best out of timely opportunities. I will always be grateful to AST for giving me the chance to get to explore and learn more about the field I am truly passionate about, as well as the chance to interact with the future mentors I will hopefully work with throughout my career. It also showed me that my journey did not end after coming to the USA; it actually has just started. I truly enjoyed and made the most of ATC 2017, and I am looking forward to be a part of AST in the near future. 

 Nilay is a second-year pediatric resident at Driscoll Children’s Hospital, Texas. She studied at Istanbul School of Medicine and rotated at Boston Children’s Hospital, Cleveland Clinic, and in Italy during her clinical years. She is also skilled in volleyball and has played on her school teams for 12 years. When she is not working or reading, she enjoys traveling or making plans for future travels. Nilay also enjoys running by the ocean, cooking, and learning new languages (including Spanish recently). Nephrology is her favorite medical science, and she loves kids; not surprisingly, she has aspirations to become a pediatric nephrologist.


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