Cedars-Sinai Names Award Recipient in Gifted Scholars Program

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Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, California, recently named Christine R. Carico the 2013 recipient of the Medical Center’s Pauletta and Denzel Washington Family Gifted Scholars Program in Neuroscience award. Ms. Carico will spend the next year researching brain disorders like the one that took the life of her father.

Calling in Academic Medicine

“My interest in neuroscience started when my father was diagnosed [with anaplastic astrocytoma], but it wasn’t until his death in 2007 that I realized academic medicine was my calling,” said Ms. Carico, who was 12 years old when her father’s cancer was diagnosed in 2003. “After witnessing the horrific course of the disease, I have made it my ultimate goal to find a cure for brain cancer. This scholarship will help propel me toward this goal by allowing me to learn from some of the most talented and renowned scientists in the field.”

Award Provides Support and Opportunity

Washington Scholars receive financial support and participate in cutting-edge scientific projects in Cedars-Sinai’s research labs. The Department of Neurosurgery began funding the scholarships in 2004 to support students who demonstrated the desire, initiative, and aptitude to make significant contributions in the sciences. Pauletta and Denzel Washington gladly lent their names and continue to take an active role in the program.

The scholarship has provided summertime positions for two students each year but recently was reconfigured to give one recipient more in-depth exposure to research techniques, enabling the scholar to make more significant contributions, said Keith L. Black, MD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurosurgery and the Ruth and Lawrence Harvey Chair in Neuroscience. The year-long internship provides a stipend of $30,000 to $34,000, and the awardee is expected to submit a research paper or abstract to a national neuroscience, cancer or neurosurgery meeting.

Path Forward

Ms. Carico, who was born in Mountain View, California, and now lives in West Hollywood, soon will earn her Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience at the University of California, Los Angeles. During her junior year of high school, Ms. Carico undertook an optional research project, working in Stanford University laboratories. She co-authored a journal article on cells and mechanisms involved in the development of leukemia and shadowed members of Stanford’s neurosurgical team to learn more about the field.

Ms. Carico was involved in basic research during a summer 2010 fellowship at UCLA through the Undergraduate Cancer Research Training Program sponsored by Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. Starting in January 2011, she worked more than a year in a UCLA lab studying a signaling pathway involved in the transformation of normal tissue into abnormal masses. At the same time, and while carrying a full academic load, she started working at the Center for Neurosurgical Outcomes Research in the Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai, where she continues today and has collaborated on six published studies.

Praise from Mentor

Chirag Patil, MD, Director of the Center for Neurosurgical Outcomes Research, has known Ms. Carico for more than 6 years, beginning when she was a high school student and she shadowed him at Stanford University Medical Center, where Dr. Patil completed an internship in general surgery, a residency in neurosurgery, and a fellowship in stereotactic radiosurgery. “Christine is the best and most dedicated undergraduate student I have ever mentored or come in contact with,” he said. “She is extremely bright and is very talented. Neuroscience and neuro-oncology have been a passion of hers since her father’s diagnosis with anaplastic astrocytoma. Her story of fortitude, discipline, and turning a big loss into a focused drive is inspirational. ■