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Charles Hong, MD, PhD

1989-90 Fellow

Assistant Professor of Medicine
Division of Cardiovascular Medicine
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

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

It changed my career trajectory completely. I had gone to medical school with a vague notion of treating birth defects, but I wasn't sure whether I was cut out for research. My mentors during my Sarnoff year, Drs. Tom Quertermous and Ken Bloch, young physician-scientists who really loved research, were first teachers to encourage me to pursue basic research as a career. Also, that year I read Driever and Nusslein-Volhard's papers on the Bicoid gradient, which is involved in establishing the fruit fly anterior-posterior axis. The papers blew my mind, and I've been studying chemical signals that regulate development ever since.


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

That's easy. It's continuing mentorship that the Sarnoff community provides and lasting friendships with some of the most interesting and nicest people. Looking back, the Sarnoff Program had a singular impact on my career at multiple stages. First, the Sarnoff year turned me on to science. Second, I am convinced the Sarnoff connections helped me get my cardiology fellowship. It seemed at one time that half of the cardiology fellows that I trained with at MGH and Brigham were Sarnoff alums. Third, the Sarnoff Scholar program allowed me to hone in my grant writing skills. When I did get the Scholar award on my second try, the Scholar program provided the key bridge toward obtaining a K08. Finally, I wouldn't be at Vanderbilt today if Dr. Scott Baldwin, a Scientific Board member, didn't encourage me to look into Vanderbilt's great combination of chemical biology, cardiac development and zebrafish programs.


What are your professional aspirations?

Keep making neat discoveries, and hopefully some of them will be instrumental in development of new therapies.


What is your greatest professional accomplishment?

Discovery of dorsomorphin, the first small molecule inhibitor of BMP (bone morphogenetic protein) signaling, which has been useful for probing the role of BMP signaling in a number of biological and disease states. Hopefully, that's just the beginning.


What is your most memorable Sarnoff moment?

Going to Dr. Sarnoff's house for the first time, meeting Dr. and Mrs. Sarnoff and Dr. Sam Thier, a giant in academic medicine. And of course, Dan Friedman taking out his guitar and singing a tune.


What are your hobbies?

Going hiking with my wife and the kids. Kids love the exercise, and its good chance to be together without distractions. And best of all, it's free.

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