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Division of Laboratory Genetics and Genomics, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology
Mayo ClinicVIEW PROFILE
Alaa Koleilat, Ph.D. (CTSA ’20), is a laboratory genetics and genomics fellow in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Dr. Koleilat was chosen by her peers in the Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences to deliver the commencement address, which was delayed by a year in her case and was virtual. Dr. Koleilat encouraged her fellow graduates to be leaders committed to an inclusive environment. “The legacy we leave behind will dictate the future of science and medicine.” She also invoked her love of the Marvel Universe in her remarks: “As Spiderman’s uncle said, ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ As graduates from the best hospital in the country, we will be expected to lead the scientific community. However, I want to encourage everyone to lead with kindness. Lead with empathy. Lead with humanity.” Well said.
“The Mayo Clinic graduate school provides an environment that allows its trainees to develop into leading scientists, educators and innovators who will be the future leaders of their fields.”
My parents instilled in me a curiosity and love of science and encouraged me to pursue higher education. From when I was a child, they exposed me to all sorts of science-related activities and nurtured in me an investigator mindset. I was always encouraged to ask questions. Additionally, my father is a urologist, and my mother is a retired pediatric dentist. Their desire to serve the community through science and medicine sparked my interest in biomedical science and medicine.
After completing my undergraduate degree at UCLA, I decided to pursue a research masters at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities. During that time, I realized that I had a passion for research. I like to ask interesting questions and find the answers to them. I started looking into Ph.D. programs and was drawn to Mayo Clinic’s three-shield approach, which differentiates it from other places. I knew I wanted to be trained in the full spectrum of science, from discovery to clinical impact, and found that the Clinical and Translational Sciences track in the Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences does just that. I was really focused on obtaining a doctoral degree that takes an interdisciplinary approach to research and medicine.
As a graduate of the Clinical and Translational Sciences (CTS) track, my training included an interdisciplinary approach to science and included population-based, patient-based and laboratory-based concentrations for a holistic, encompassing approach to biomedical science.
My specific research focus was on developing novel therapies to treat genetic hearing loss and designing, validating and testing a unique hearing assessment tool that can broaden access to hearing testing. My CTS doctoral training gave me experience working with multiple aspects of science, from bench to bedside, which gave me a comprehensive perspective on biomedical science and medicine. My training prepared me to identify solutions for clinically relevant problems and understand how to translate research to health care to accelerate medical discoveries and impact patient care. My mentors encouraged me to think outside the box, be ambitious and keep pushing even when obstacles appear. The Mayo Clinic graduate school provides an environment that allows its trainees to develop into leading scientists, educators and innovators who will be the future leaders of their fields.
Lisa Schimmenti, M.D. (CGEN ’15) — now in the Division of Clinical Genomics at Mayo Clinic in Rochester — and Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences Dean Stephen Ekker, Ph.D. (BIOC ’07), were my mentors in graduate school. They instilled in me the idea that during my time at Mayo Clinic, I was building a team — my team. This team would help me achieve my personal and professional goals and guide me throughout the graduate school journey. My mentors made me feel the sky was the limit. I am deeply grateful for their guidance during my training and even after.
I’m a laboratory genetics and genomics fellow at Mayo Clinic. This is one of the few clinical fellowships that individuals with a Ph.D. can apply for. This fellowship is a three-year program that will prepare me to lead a clinical genomics laboratory. That entails performing and interpreting molecular genetics and cytogenetics testing and analyses relevant to the diagnosis and management of human genetic disorders in constitutional and oncology settings.
My career goal is to become a clinical laboratory director. I am committed to research, dedicated to educating the next generation of leaders and passionate about answering complex diagnostic questions about the influence of genetics in human disease. I envision myself working in an academic medical center after graduating from my fellowship.
Strive to do everything with excellence, and treat everything you do as important, giving it your attention.
Network, network, network. Mayo Clinic gives trainees the phenomenal opportunity to train at the No. 1 hospital with experts in every field. Reach out and meet with them. Everyone at Mayo Clinic is approachable and values education.
I’m proud to have been selected by my peers to give the graduate school’s commencement speech. I was truly honored to be nominated by my classmates and even more humbled that they felt I had something significant to share. I appreciated this opportunity to thank my parents publicly and to stand on this stage as a visibly Muslim woman and the daughter of immigrants, sharing with the audience my experience as a graduate student at the No. 1 hospital in the nation. It was a beautiful moment for me to reflect back on the last five years and recognize all of the success that came from this journey.
I try to be conscious and present in what I do. I also like to give my full attention to my family when I am with them, especially when I am with my husband and daughter. I just try to take it day by day.
I am an avid runner and enjoy hiking outdoors. My husband, daughter (age 3) and I try to get outside every day — at parks and on bike rides.
I was active in martial arts in high school, specifically taekwondo. I participated in local competitions in sparring, patterns, board-breaking and weapons. At one competition, I was the women’s all-around tournament winner.
See past New Chapter stories here.