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URMC / Education / Graduate Education / URBest Blog / November 2023 / "myHub Career Exploration Experience in Miami, Florida at the University of Miami School of Medicine

"myHub Career Exploration Experience in Miami, Florida at the University of Miami School of Medicine & Miami Cancer Institute"

By Esteban Avendaño-Fernández’; PhD Candidate in Translational Biomedical Science

Location: Miami, FL
Dates: January 26th to 31st.

Objective: Learn about the work environment, opportunities, and required and desired skills for a MD-PhD professional to successfully build a career in the field of research in Neurosciences and other areas of Clinical Research in Miami.

As an international PhD student, not all grants or awards cover my expenses for school-related or career advancement ventures. By actively participating in activities organized by student-led organizations at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry (UR-SMD), I learned more about myHub and the opportunities it constantly creates for all graduate students at UR-SMD programs.

One of my goals for doing a PhD, with the all the sacrifices it entails, was to have the option to work in both academia and industry. I am a firmly believer in partnerships, and in that science, and thus human evolution, can only prosper when most parties involved share common goals. At the same time, I understand that as humans, although we share many traits, we are also individually very different; it applies for a person, a community, a country, regions and beyond. With this in mind, during my career, I have sought to be knowledgeable in as many cultures and ways of thinking as I can, so that I can have the doors opened to work internationally.

When I came across the myHub Career Exploration Grant award, in a talk given by myHub representative Eric Vaughn last year, I saw an opportunity to start searching beyond our School boarders, what would be, what options are there, and what would be required, for me to work or continue with my career after graduating from School in UR-SMD in other geographical areas of the US and in fields not directly related to my thesis topic. I decided to apply for an award and organize a visit to Miami, in order to better understand working opportunities, current living conditions, skills required upon graduating and other related in the city. 

Organizing the visit was challenging, since I had to obtain permission from my Lab’s PI’s, the greenlight to from myHub, the money to complete the trip (because it is reimbursed) and the time-spots for the activities to be done while in the city.  I decided to start by organizing and securing a schedule for the visit, letting know the people I would meet, that my trip was contingent on receiving the award. I was positively surprised that all understood the situation, and after passing that first fear and barrier, the target in mind kept becoming closer to achieve. Finally, all pieces fell in place, and after about two months of preparation and working on the career exploration visit, I obtained all the permissions.  I am very thankful for the guidance received from Eric and myHub throughout the process, which was vital for succeeding in my goal.  

As part of the activities conducted in Miami, I was able to meet and shadow leaders from both, academic and non-academic institutions providing Health Care services currently in the city; to cite one of each, the University of Miami and Baptist Health South Florida. In order to keep track of my goals for doing the trip, and adjusting them, one of the requests from myHub was to do a daily dairy annotation of the activities conducted during the day, the goals for the day, the contacts done, what was learned from the experience and new goals envisioned, based on the day’s activities. The diary became a powerful tool for planning the remaining of the visit on a daily basis, being able to reflect upon my original ideas and goals, and how been there was making me aware of the knowledge I wanted to acquire, but at the same time, the new challenges ahead.

In summary, I learned that Miami has become an expensive city to live in after COVID-19, but at the same time that there are job openings in the Health Care and Academic Industry.  The city is growing mainly with migrants from Latin America, but also with US residents/nationals from the New York-New Jersey area. Because of the increase in its population, services are trying to catch up with demand, but since this has not happened yet, prices of all basic living needs have increased at a faster pace than National inflation. All institutions I visited indicated that they are growing. Because there is a very large and growing Spanish speaking population in the region, knowing Spanish as a Native Speaker and having excellent working knowledge of English provide a competitive advantage in the labor market.  Research and development are driving many industries in Miami as well, so having a PhD will provide leverage if looking for a job there.

In term of specific skills acquired and learned during this trip, I was able to conduct interviews with “multiple-level-personnel” in a satisfactory way, practically applying knowledge provided during some of the myHub meetings I have attended during my two years at UR-SMD. In this sense, I feel I am better prepared now to go into a formal job interview. Also, in understanding what are desired qualities of a research leader in their environment (in Miami), I was able to learn that both knowledge and kindness are important qualities sought in one. I was reminded that when recruiting a new team member, if qualifications are similar and met, the next most important characteristic is the applicant’s general attitude. Another relevant insight obtained was that salaries are negotiable.

I want to thank Eric Vaughn and myHub for the opportunity given. The visit to Miami was a great learning experience, and I surpassed the original goals for the trip.  I was able to make contacts, to apply the interviewing skills learned during the past two years and understand better what would be required from me, in terms of additional training, if pursuing a career there.

Katherine Bognanno | 11/9/2023

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