Camila “Cami” Odio ’11 is a people person and a science jock who wanted a career in medicine but didn’t want to give up the joys and challenges of research. She found exactly the right place to earn her M.D.
Odio is entering her third year at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, which plunges students into a unique five-year program combining clinical experience with research and basic science. One aim of the school—a partnership of the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University—is to address the national shortage of physician investigators, doctors who incorporate research in their practices.
During the summer after her first year at medical school, Odio researched the possible links between a cytoskeletal protein and the development of leukemia and lymphoma, working in the lab of Neetu Gupta in the Cleveland Clinic Department of Immunology. For her second summer, she moved to the Department of Infectious Disease, working with Jorgelina De Sanctis on carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae, one of the dangerous, antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” that are causing concern in the medical community.
The 2013-14 year will be devoted entirely to research. She will be working at the National Institutes of Health in the laboratory of Steven Holland. Holland studies infectious diseases using a “bench-to-bedside” model that brings fresh insights to treatment by probing the molecular genetics at work in in pathogens and hosts. “We’ve tentatively agreed that I will be working on a clinical project involving a newly discovered genetic mutation that results in severe immune deficiency,” Odio said.
Odio, who grew up in a Spanish-speaking home in Gahanna, Ohio, majored in molecular biology at Kenyon and spent eight hours a week in the lab. She worked with Professor of Biology Wade Powell, studying the binding properties of a protein toxin receptor as part of an investigation of disease-causing dioxins. The lab experience has proved invaluable in medical school—as have Kenyon’s small classes and the emphasis on writing and presentations.
The first two years at Lerner entailed “small-group learning and highly interactive seminars,” Odio said. “We spent a lot of time creating presentations to teach each other concepts, which allowed us to really understand the mechanisms of the diseases rather than just memorizing. We were expected to prepare for each seminar so that we could participate, much like Kenyon classes.”
Outside of classes and the lab, Odio volunteered in a neighborhood clinic that serves Medicaid patients and refugee populations. She also spent two hours a week playing the guitar and singing with children in the epilepsy and oncology units at the Cleveland Clinic.
Looking ahead, Odio is considering a career in internal medicine with a specialty in infectious diseases. “I’ve greatly enjoyed my research in infectious diseases, and the patients I’ve seen are incredibly complex and interesting. It also seems to be a rewarding field because many of the illnesses can be treated and cured."
“Plus, with the constant evolution of microbes and acquired antibiotic resistance, I figure I will always be on the job.”