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The MuD/PhuD Mind Project

Jul 16, 2021

My very first podcast guest is a rockstar physician-scientist and also a dear friend, Dr. Zahra Ghiassi-Nejad. The title of this podcast was inspired by something she said “Wait a one needs to tell me what to do and I can do it however I want to...or however I want to decide to proceed - use both of the degrees or one of them”

“I get to decide” - those are very powerful words and words matter! Sometimes these words are forgotten along the way of this long training journey. 

She came to the US from Iran on an F1 visa to attend NYU for undergrad. Despite what others said about her visa status, she was determined to pursue a combined MD/PhD degree. She said it best: “You can’t get there if you don’t try.”


Zahra was there by my side in the lab during our graduate school years and we share many special memories. She is now an attending physician in radiation-oncology at Mt Sinai Hospital in NYC and enjoys helping her patients get the life-saving treatment they need to combat cancer. She has two beautiful children, a loving husband and is also on a personal growth journey. 


Some of the reflections we went through about our joint experience in the grad school years, dated more than a decade back. We spoke about our wiser selves and how we have a perspective now that we couldn’t see back then. We both share that with you here. 


Dr. Zahra Ghiassi-Nejad’s advice to MD/PhD trainees:



  • Never lose sight of the “why” you are putting yourself through an 8-9 year program when you are in the lab years pipetting and repeating experiments.
  • The lessons you learn in the lab are more valuable than the specific project you work on. 
  • It is always okay in the end and if it isn’t okay, then it isn’t the end. (John Lennon made popular, but likely an old Indian proverb)

I hope you walk away knowing that no matter how you do the path, it is the right way. The right way is the way you decide for yourself.

The opinions provided on this podcast represent those of myself and of my invited guests. They do not represent the opinions of any particular institution. This is not professional advice and for your entertainment only.