WANT TO BE A NEW CHAPTER ALUMNI?
Apply online to share your accomplishments and endeavors.APPLY TO BE FEATURED
Clinical fellow, Allergy and immunology
National institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of HealthVIEW PROFILE
When Stella Hartono, M.D., Ph.D. (IMM ’17, MED ’17), was a child in Indonesia and later in California, her parents told her that girls didn’t go into science. Instead, they focused on when she would get married. She’d always liked science but heeded her parents’ guidance and pursued accounting in college and worked in finance for several years. She says she was paid well but didn’t feel like she was exercising all the parts of her brain. She went back to college, where she pursued chemistry and microbiology, and then to Mayo Clinic in Rochester for M.D. and Ph.D. degrees, followed by residency in the pediatrician scientist training and development program at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. Today, she’s a clinical fellow at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), investigating allergic responses to COVID-19 vaccines. Dr. Hartono looks forward to a career in research to provide answers for patients who have none.
“I recently saw a patient who’d been to Mayo Clinic who said, “I can tell you trained at Mayo Clinic.”
How did you become interested in medicine?
My family is from Indonesia, and we moved to Walnut, California — about 30 miles from Los Angeles — when I was a teenager. My parents told me girls don’t go into science; rather, they often asked me when I would get married. I put my interest in research on the back burner and pursued accounting in college. I worked in finance for a few years but didn’t feel fulfilled despite the good pay. I went back to college to pursue chemistry and microbiology. I like discovering new things, and science and medicine constantly change. Every patient is a mystery.
Neither of my parents graduated from college. They’re very impressed that I have dual-doctorate degrees!
Why Mayo Clinic for your training?
I completed medical school and a Ph.D. at Mayo Clinic. I like Mayo’s approach to treating patients as whole people. Also, graduate school at Mayo pays students a salary, which gives you more freedom to pursue what you’re interested in versus what your PI is interested in.
I loved my time in Rochester. It has a small-town feeling and is a great place to raise a family. I could send my daughter outside on her bicycle to visit her friends and not worry about her.
Who were your mentors at Mayo Clinic?
Karen Hedin, Ph.D. (PHAR ’95), Department of Immunology at Mayo Clinic in Arizona; and Joseph Grande, M.D., Ph.D. (PATH ’89, LABM ’91), Mayo Clinic Emeriti Staff, were my mentors.
What valuable lesson did you learn at Mayo Clinic?
To put patients first and treat them like they’re whole human beings. I recently saw a patient who’d been to Mayo Clinic who said, “I can tell you trained at Mayo Clinic.”
What are you most proud of on your CV?
When I decided to return to college to pursue science and medicine, my daughter was 4 or 5 years old. I was older than most of my medical school classmates by about a decade. Soon after I completed my training at Mayo Clinic, she graduated from high school. She’s now in her early 20s and an artist in Minneapolis. Successfully raising her during all of that time in school and training is my greatest accomplishment.
Tell us what you do now.
I’m a clinical fellow at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. I’ve always been interested in immunology, which needs basic science investigations, especially with recent advances in genetics. I feel lucky to be here.
My time is spent 80% on research and 20% on clinical duties. My research investigates allergic responses to COVID-19 vaccines, including recruiting patients who have had a reaction to a dose so we can give them a dose at the NIH under observation in the ICU. If their response is a true allergy, we need to determine if they’re allergic to a component of the vaccine.
Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to the President, is one of my attendings. He tries to talk to all of the trainees and keeps an open-door policy. He’s one of many great people at the NIH.
What’s your career goal?
When I complete my clinical fellowship, I’d like to stay at the NIH and continue research. I like helping patients who have no answers. Our research can give them better answers.
What’s your advice for trainees?
Keep your mind open, and take advantage of opportunities that come your way. When I started my undergraduate education, I did a summer research experience at Caltech (California Institute of Technology) that I heard about through the grapevine. I didn’t think I’d get picked for it but applied anyway.
Why did I think that? I didn’t think I was the right caliber of student, and I haven’t always seen people who looked like me – non-white older female with a kid. When you look at the people who went before you and don’t see anyone like you, you wonder if they don’t want people like you. We can — and are – changing the face of medicine and science.
What do you do in your spare time?
I like to read, hike, travel and try new foods. And spend time with my two dogs.
How do you integrate your work and non-work life?
I try not to do work at home. I go in very early and stay late to get things done. When I’m at home, I concentrate on home. It seems to work for me.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I was a semi-professional dancer in traditional Indonesian dance – jaipong – when I lived there.
See past New Chapter stories here.