This past (year) I was fortunate enough to have been awarded a Newcomb-Tulane College grant through the David Cameron Taylor Memorial Summer Travel and Enrichment Program to conduct research at the University Hospital Zürich (USZ) Brain Tumor Center. There I worked in the Departments of Neurology and Neurosurgery under the direction of Drs. Dorothee Gramatzki and Michael Weller, world-leaders in the clinical study of neuro-oncology and colleagues of my US mentors, Drs. Terri Armstrong and Mark Gilbert of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Neuro-Oncology Branch. My clinical research project focused on glioblastoma (GBM), an aggressive and infiltrative brain neoplasm, and the role antidepressant drugs play in the disease course. I specifically focused on a large cohort of GBM patients from the Canton of Zürich, Switzerland who had been diagnosed between 2005 and 2014. From this work, I was able to present my findings to the laboratory staff in PowerPoint form and compile a first-authored manuscript which I will submit for publication in the Journal of Neuro-Oncology.
USZ was a unique institution to conduct clinical investigation at because of the multidisciplinary and highly collaborative culture there. Additionally, the USZ Brain Tumor Center consists of expert clinical neuro-oncologists, neurosurgeons, neuroradiologists, and radiation oncologists which allowed me to gain research knowledge as well as clinical exposure in a variety of relevant fields. During my 9 weeks in Switzerland, I was able to shadow in the neuro-oncology clinic and neurosurgical operating room to better understand the clinical care brain tumor patients receive at USZ.
Outside of the hospital, I was able to enjoy all that Zürich and Switzerland have to offer. From the Limmat River to Grossmünster, Zürich is a breathtaking European city with a rich history and culture which I was able to appreciate during my time abroad. Also, Zürich Hauptbahnhof, the largest railway station in Switzerland and a major tourist hub, is centrally located and allowed me to easily travel all over Switzerland, Germany, and Liechtenstein. From Geneva to Lugano and Vaduz to Munich I was constantly blown away by the beautiful European landscapes and architecture as well as the picturesque views. Personally, my most memorable trip was to Interlaken, Switzerland (pictured), a resort town located in the mountainous Bernese Oberland region of central Switzerland. Interlaken can be found in a valley, between the emerald-colored waters of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz which I was able to view during my 4,500-foot paragliding drop from Beatenberg. I was also incredibly grateful to have spent time in Bern, Lucerne, and Engelberg during which I dined on the Reuss and summitted the 10,623-foot Mount Titlis.
I am immensely grateful for the support the NTC Dean’s Office and David Cameron Taylor Memorial Summer Travel and Enrichment Program provided me with this summer. Not only did this award allow me to gain unique insights into international brain tumor management, network with colleagues in the field, and conduct novel research with the potential to directly impact clinical care but it also enabled me to explore parts of the world I never would have thought I could have. I believe this experience will help shape my future research and guide me during my career as an academic neuro-surgical oncologist.
Written by James Rogers, recipient of a David Cameron Taylor Memorial Summer Travel and Enrichment Program grant, 2018-2019. Photo courtesy of James Rogers, taken at Harder Kulm, Top of Interlaken, Switzerland.