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Alumni Profile James Purriccello

James Purriccello

2009-2011 Fellow
4th year medical student, Johns Hopkins Medical School

1. What impact did the Sarnoff Fellowship year have on your career?

Sarnoff has had four durable effects on my career so far. First, it introduced me to fantastic mentors and thoughtful scientists. These are people who continue to influence my thoughts about medicine, research, and life in general. Second, it gave me a chance to foster an interest in medical research, and to discover a particular interest in human genetics. I became so interested, in fact, that I asked for a second year to continue my research, and the Sarnoff Fellowship was generous enough to support that. Third, its timing was serendipitous. A month before the second year of my Sarnoff Fellowship ended, I got a chance to work at an education technology startup with my brother. This was ideal timing, allowing me to experience the business world for a year before returning to complete medical school. Fourth, distance makes the heart grow fonder. At least, it was true for me that after years away from clinical medicine, I was excited to get back to it.

2. Why should medical students consider the Sarnoff Fellowship apart from other programs?

Sarnoff is a society of lifelong mentorship and sincere mutual interest. This is the distinguishing feature of the Sarnoff Fellowship. This is not simply something that goes onto a resume; it is a living organization that takes an interest in what you do throughout your career.

For applicants, there is a valuable pragmatic difference between Sarnoff and most other programs. While your Sarnoff application does include a research proposal, you do not have to select a PI prior to applying. You get funded first, and get to search for a lab that will be a good fit second. This leads to a very pleasant dynamic on the interview trail.

3. What are your professional aspirations?

I hope to build a career blending cardiovascular medicine, genetics, programming, and entrepreneurship. Step one involves applying to Internal Medicine residency, which I will do as soon as I finish writing this, so I should probably stop being so wordy.

4. What is your greatest professional accomplishment?

Teaching at Math and Science for Minority Students (MS2) at Andover one summer, a colleague and I created a new programming course and taught it to our first batch of high school students. I think that the way for us, as a society, to get great physicians and research scientists (aside from encouraging immigration) is by generating excitement for science, technology, engineering, and math in people of all ages.

5. What is your most memorable Sarnoff moment?

Naturally, there are one or two, or perhaps a few dozen, but certainly under a hundred good-natured hijinks that I would love to tell you about but which should forever remain part of oral tradition only, so I am left with slimmer pickings. After my research presentation at the annual meeting, the Dr. Helen Hobbs asked a totally fair question about my lab’s work. I recall stumbling around, possibly repeating the words of her question back to her in a random order, and eventually emitting some semblance of an answer—never mind that I had prepared an answer for this type of question in advance. That was awesome, but maybe in the Biblical sense rather than in the Bill & Ted sense.

6. What are your hobbies?

I like to run for fun and to program for… fun? (Yes, it is fun, it’s just taboo to say it.) Snowboarding is a fantastic hobby when I live close enough to mountains. And if someone out there wants to teach me to sail, call me.

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