Rochester Medicine

Department of Pharmacology and Physiology Alumni Through the Decades: 2010s

Jan. 6, 2022
Jesi Lee Anne To (PhD '18)
Jesi To

Occasionally while creating content for a digital medical communications company, Jesi Lee Anne To (PhD ’18) will be transported back to the lab of her Department of Pharmacology and Physiology advisor, Alan V. Smrcka, PhD.

“Sometimes when I’m writing, I think, ‘I remember doing an experiment like this,’” says To, whose work at INVIVO Communications in Toronto involves educating doctors, and periodically, patients, about diseases and pharmaceutical drugs.

To recalls appreciating Smrcka’s guidance and direction, a perfect blend of assistance and distant observation for a student who wanted a mentor “who was not hands-off, but wasn’t on your back all the time.”

In Smrcka’s lab, To focused on small molecule inhibitors. Through a collaborative project with an investigator in URMC’s Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Rheumatology, she used those small molecule inhibitors to study whether a drug was beneficial in treating lupus, an autoimmune disorder.

“All of that, from the basic science to the clinical side, was a good foundation for me as a medical writer,” she says.

To covers different therapeutic areas—writing copy to accompany animation, videos, augmented reality, and virtual reality—and finds her work meaningful.

“I convey the entire story, from when a drug started out in animal studies to the clinical findings,” she explains. “It’s interesting to get the whole picture.”

Knowing that whole picture provides opportunities for improvement.

Adds To: “What are the positive effects? What are the negative effects? Where are the loopholes? Knowing the whole story allows you to calculate the answers and think about the future.”