Carmel scientist’s dream to study at Mayo Clinic comes true


By Desiree Williams

After eight years in the Medical Scientist Training Program at the IU School of Medicine, Deborah Setter is moving on.

Setter graduated from the MD/PhD series May 10 and will travel to Rochester, Minn., to begin a four-year residency at Mayo Clinic. She will specialize in neurology.


“It’s a dream come true,” she said. “My whole clinical training, whenever you can’t figure something out, (Mayo Clinic is) where you send your patients. That’s where you send your most difficult patients, the problems you just can’t solve. Those are the types of challenges I’m really attracted to. I think that’s part of what inspired me to do the MD/PhD is that I love problem-solving.”

The MD/PhD program combines medicine and science to train physician-researchers who offer bedside care and uncover new treatments in the lab. The program’s first two years include medical school lectures followed by years of lab work to define and defend a thesis and, finally, two more years of medical school.

Setter was inspired to pursue the program because of her research into the body’s regenerative processes while in undergraduate school at Notre Dame University. She became fascinated with the immune system’s role in regulating astrocytes, star-shaped cells in the central nervous system which protect neurons. Setter discovered that astrocytes become toxic to neurons in almost every neurodegenerative disease, validating why neuronal-targeted treatments have not yet worked.

“If we can combine those neuronal-targeted treatments with an additional treatment that helps change that surrounding environment to shift it from that toxic to a nurturing environment, then we hypothesize that we can make real progress in treating these neurodegenerative diseases,” she said. “At least, that’s my dream for my physician scientist career.”

While at Mayo Clinic, Setter will have nine months of elective time, which she plans to allocate toward advancing her research.

After residency, Setter will pursue a fellowship to enhance her research abilities and then search for faculty positions at academic medical centers.

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