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Born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Zhi Ven Fong spent his first two years of medical school at the International Medical University (IMU) in Malaysia before coming to Philadelphia to study at Jefferson Medical College. And while medical school alone would be enough to keep most students busy, Zhi, 23, has seized every opportunity to build his skills and knowledge as a physician scientist.

“I aspire to be a leader in an academic field like surgery, so I realized I needed experience in research,” Zhi says. “After consulting with senior students, I reached out to Dr. Ernest Rosato, who took me under his wing and introduced me to the rest of the faculty.”

Over the past 18 months, Zhi has contributed to numerous research projects. Dr. Rosato enlisted his assistance for a paper analyzing the outcomes of combined hepatic arterial embolization and liver ablation – two novel therapies for metastatic colorectal cancers to the liver. Together with Dr. Harish Lavu, Zhi is examining outcomes of extended resection involving other organs for advanced pancreatic cancer. With Dr. Jordan Winter, he’s working on a detailed study examining how CT scan findings of pancreatic cancer correlate with clinicopathologic outcomes. Meanwhile, he’s joining Dr. Jonathan Brody in studying biological receptors with the potential to therapeutically target pancreatic cancer.

“As you can see, the scope of my research is broad, but at this early stage, it helps me keep an open mind about where I eventually want to focus,” Zhi says, adding that the faculty members have served not just as academic guides, but also as invaluable life mentors.

“Research has helped me build relationships with my mentors and cultivate the mindset of the physician scientist,” he notes. “I’ve learned how to ask good research questions, collaborate, analyze data and write papers – skills essential for anyone seeking to advance the field of surgery and fight the good battle against cancer.”

On March 16, Zhi matched into the General Surgery Residency Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School.

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