A Foot in Two Worlds

Cancer survivor Alison Mercer-Smith is pursuing an M.D./Ph.D. at UNC-Chapel Hill.

“Alison’s unique drive and ‘translational mind’ make her the ideal person to move this project from discovery towards therapy,” said Shawn Hingtgen, Ph.D. “We are truly lucky to have her as part of our team.” According to Hingtgen, the therapies Alison is researching in his lab have the potential to combat aggressive and lethal cancers.

“It feels very personal,” Alison said. “We’re ultimately not trying to treat cells in a dish; [we’re] trying to treat people.”

Outside of the lab and classroom, Alison is involved with UNC Advocates for Inclusion in Medicine and Science (AIMS). Alison noted that women and other underrepresented populations often face barriers when applying and are less likely to apply to a program if they think they do not meet every requirement. Alison said she feels lucky to have had people support her as she pursues her M.D./Ph.D.

The Eshelman Institute for Innovation is made possible by a $100 million gift from Fred Eshelman to accelerate the creation and development of ideas leading to discoveries and transformative changes in education, research and health care. To learn more about the EII’s impact, visit unceii.org/impact.

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