MHIF Helping to Grow the Next Generation of Health Care Professionals
For recent college graduate Chris Gitter, he’s known for a long time that he wanted to pursue a career in medicine. A native of Mendota Heights, Minn., Chris was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia at age 2 and underwent chemotherapy until the age of 5.
“The doctors and treatment teams did such a good job taking care of me — that’s always motivated me,” said Chris, who made a full recovery from his childhood cancer. “Medicine has always been an interest of mine and once I got to college and took a couple classes, I was like yeah, this is definitely the fit for me.”
While his journey to becoming a doctor is still in its early stages, Chris’ childhood experience, along with the learning opportunities he’s had at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation® (MHIF), have definitely helped position him for success. His path at MHIF highlights the strength of MHIF’s commitment to education and to leave a legacy of training future and global leaders in the field of heart and vascular health.
Chris was first introduced to MHIF in the summer of 2019 after his junior year in college when he was selected to be one of 10 interns in MHIF’s competitive annual Research Internship Program. The 12-week summer program provides undergraduates who are pre-med or evaluating a career in medicine an outstanding and unique opportunity to learn about and explore cardiovascular medicine and participate in research.
Chris enjoyed the experience so much that, after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in pharmacology and toxicology, he returned to MHIF to be the program’s lead intern in the summer of 2020. While the program was scaled back to three local interns working mostly remotely as a result of COVID-19, Chris provided valuable guidance. Then, in the fall of 2020, he jumped at an opportunity to spend his gap year working at MHIF as a full-time research associate while he applies to medical school. The work will allow Chris to continue learning about research and the innovations at the forefront of cardiology and hopefully position him as a stronger med school candidate.
As a research associate, Chris is excited to continue his work on a research project with Dr. Jay Sengupta and Dr. Robert Hauser examining Cardiac Implantable Electronic Device (CIED) Longevity and Reliability, and is especially looking forward to becoming more involved with MHIF’s large portfolio of industry-sponsored research.
Whereas the interns work with physician mentors on physician-initiated retrospective research studies that review and analyze past patient experiences and outcomes to improve patient care, MHIF’s industry-driven research studies are prospective; they help to test new drugs, devices and medical procedures from medical device and pharmaceutical companies. As a research associate, Chris will have the opportunity to talk with patients, determine whether they might be eligible to enroll in a research study for their specific condition, and assist with following and monitoring enrolled patients during the study process.
As he began his transition to his new role, Chris explained, “I’m so used to looking at former patients’ charts. They’re patients with unique stories, but I never got to meet any of them. I’m most looking forward to being a part of active care and the direct patient interaction … being able to help conduct follow-up visits and see firsthand how this research is actively saving lives.”
Like most students planning to attend medical school, he says it’s too early to know what specialty he’ll ultimately plan to pursue, but he’s appreciated all he continues to learn at MHIF.
“I’ve really enjoyed all of internal medicine and cardiology – especially because I’ve been doing research in cardiology for a couple summers,” said Chris. The mentors have been unbelievable and the opportunity to shadow all the physicians, especially last summer, always drew me back (to his decision to pursue medicine).”
Asked if he envisions research being a part of his future medical career, Chris said, “Absolutely, I can see that .. being an investigator or during my schooling being a part of that … I’m always really interested in research and clinical research specifically. I really enjoy it.”