July 29, 2019

July APSA Meeting with Dr. Cam Patterson

For our May meeting, the UAMS chapter of the American Physician Scientist Association had the pleasure of welcoming Dr. Cam Patterson M.D., M.B.A., chancellor of UAMS, as our guest speaker. Dr. Patterson is a nationally renowned cardiologist, health care administrator, and principal investigator who has received more than $60 million in grants from the NIH, the CDC, and the American Heart Association for his ground-breaking work in angiogenesis and vascular endothelial growth factor signaling.

Dr. Patterson, a self-described “LA” (Lower Alabama) native, opened the meeting by detailing his journey through medicine, beginning with his formative years in medical school and an Internal Medicine residency at Emory University. Dr. Patterson’s time at Emory coincided with the emergence of Emory’s world-class basic science research program in vascular biology. Although his initial inclination was to become a clinical cardiologist, Dr. Patterson found mentors who inspired him to pursue a career as a physician scientist. In a prolific period spanning over two decades, Dr. Patterson completed a research fellowship at Harvard, acquired multiple R01 grants at UTMB-Galveston, and became the founding director of the McAllister Heart Institute and Chief of Cardiology at UNC-Chapel Hill. After acquiring an MBA at UNC, Dr. Patterson transformed the Division of Cardiology and his own laboratory into successful, innovation-based enterprises. His successes naturally led him to be recruited for the position of Chief Operating Officer at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and subsequently the chancellor of UAMS.

Dr. Patterson described himself as an introverted leader who would rather stay in and read a book but emphasized the importance of saying yes to every opportunity and being intentional when networking at conferences and national meetings. Having this mentality for networking and collaborating with other physicians and scientists has him led to career-shaping opportunities such as the position of COO at NYP. Additionally, Dr. Patterson stressed that while networking at conferences, you should keep in mind that well-known researchers and physicians are not worlds apart from us. If you reach out with questions, most are more than willing to have a conversation. To solidify their impression of you, send a follow-up email after the conference.

For medical students and MD/PhD students interested in conducting research during their careers, Dr. Patterson acknowledged that it can be challenging to align clinical and research interests. He advised us to find a supportive residency program that will provide dedicated research time. Additionally, he presented the potential of a fellowship to further align clinical interests with research trajectory. From his own experience of searching for an initial faculty position, Dr. Patterson emphasized the importance of having a pre-mentor at that program that can serve as your advocate and help you make a smooth transition into faculty.

In a good-natured attempt to rib his MD/PhD audience, Dr. Patterson described the MD/MBA as the “new” MD/PhD. All jokes aside, Dr. Patterson described his MBA degree as worthwhile and very helpful for the administrative portions of his career. “Healthcare is becoming a business more every day,” he explained. The business of medicine can be frustrating, but he described it as essential to support the academics of UAMS. Dr. Patterson stressed that understanding business is becoming more important in medicine, but that research will always be important to the future of medicine.

To conclude, Dr. Patterson wanted to let the meeting attendees and the readers of this article know that he is an ordinary person who appreciates students that come up and talk to him. He is active on Twitter (follow him @drcampatterson) and enjoys fishing, listening to a variety of music, and playing in his band, the Hip Waders.

Thank you for attending our meeting, Dr. Patterson!


As a reminder, we encourage all MD and MD/PhD students to attend these monthly meetings. If you are interested, reach out to Francesca LoBianco (FVLobianco@uams.edu), our current ASPA president, for more information.