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Sisi Zheng

Fourth-year MD-PhD student

Where did you grow up and where were you living immediately prior to medical school?

I was born in Guangzhou, China and immigrated to the U.S. with my parents when I was two years old. We settled in Vestavia Hills, a suburb about twenty minutes outside of Birmingham, Alabama, where I spent most of my years till college. My parents were both cardiologists in China, and both initially took a research associate position when we moved, but my dad eventually relicensed in the U.S. When I was fourteen, my father was hospitalized following a brain aneurysm rupture. While his initial prognosis was poor, my family was incredibly fortunate, and my father made a meaningful recovery. His physician was a model example of steadfastness and empathy and inspired me to impact others how he impacted my father, my family, and me, in our most fragile and vulnerable time. For undergrad, I attended New York University where my coursework and bench research introduced me to the elegant relationship between chemical and structural biology in therapeutic development efforts, and where my experiences in shadowing and volunteering continued to show me the extraordinary impact physicians have in comforting their patients. These led me towards a path to an MD/PhD where I hope to pursue work on disease-relevant research driven by what I see in my future patients.

Why did you choose Yale School of Medicine?

What solidified my decision for me was meeting my future potential classmates at Second Look Weekend. Every applicant I met at Yale was so friendly, kind, and wonderful to interact with. It was also clear to me that the current students I met, ranging from first to eighth years, all got along with each other so well. The students at Yale showed me examples of the relationships I wanted to cultivate during medical school. Additionally, the Yale System fosters a non-competitive atmosphere and a collaborative environment between its students, truly allowing for educational freedom as a student. It encouraged me to explore my interests in basic science, surgery, medical education, and leadership, and gave me time to enjoy my hobbies outside of school.

Can you briefly describe your schedule on a typical weekday?

As a fourth-year MD/PhD student, I have a little more flexibility in my schedule during my research years as compared with the first two years of preclinical and clerkships. Normally on weekdays, I wake up relatively early, go to the gym, hit my favorite breakfast spot, Whitney Donut in Hamden, CT, come home and shower, and then walk over to lab around 9AM. I am doing my PhD in Craig Crews’ lab, and we are in the Yale Science Building on undergraduate campus. Throughout the day, I spend most of my time doing experiments or computer work, but often have different meetings like group meeting, journal club, seminars, or lecture for the class I am a teaching fellow for. I usually try to leave lab around 4PM in the afternoon and go on a short run before the sun sets. Then, I have time to cook, go to trivia or dinner with friends, catch up on some reality TV, take care of some house chores and groceries, or wrap up any work from the day before heading to bed.

What neighborhood do you live in/near New Haven?

I live in East Rock with another MD/PhD student in my year. While it is fairly far from the medical school campus, I love how homey the neighborhood is, and for my PhD years at least, I live closer to my lab on Science Hill. Although it is not as bustling as downtown New Haven is, there are still great restaurants and breweries, some nice gourmet food markets, and good hiking trails, all within walking distance! It is also a little less expensive to live in East Rock as compared with downtown, and you get much more space and often the apartments come with nice outdoor spaces like porches and backyards!

What is your favorite thing to do in/near New Haven?

Especially when the weather is nice, I try to do something outdoors on the weekends, like a nearby hike with friends. After living in NYC for a few years, it’s wonderful to have access to great trails just a short walk or drive away. There are East Rock and West Rock which are both great hikes just in the New Haven area, Sleeping Giant and the Quinnipiac trails are a short drive away, and 30-40 minutes away are even more hikes like Castle Craig and Bear Mountain with higher elevation and waterfalls! If not a hike, I will often go on a long run or bike ride up the Farmington Canal, a pedestrian and bike path that starts on Yale campus and goes 100 miles into western Massachusetts!

Do you have any final thoughts or advice for prospective students?

Committing to a medical school can be a nerve-wracking decision, especially as an MD/PhD where you are choosing a place to spend the next 7 or more years! Every school has their own characteristics, and while there were several things that could have gone into my decision, I decided that there were a few that were the most important and I used those to guide my decision. As my family had moved to New York City and my brother was attending NYU, I wanted to stay local to the northeast. I believed that I would receive a quality medical education wherever I went, but the Yale System curriculum was unique and offered the type of learning environment I desired. As an MD/PhD, research also played a large factor in my decision, and Yale was home to labs that were doing the exact work I wanted to pursue in my PhD.