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Life Experiences During Medical School in U.S. – Interview with Award Winning Medical Student


Update Medicine Editorial Team sat down with Gusthavo Candido to find more about his medical education and research experiences at various medical schools in United States.  He was awarded by The American Academy of Neurology last year for  his excellence in Neuroscience research at  Harvard Medical School. He has succeeded not just as a young medical researcher but also as a dreamer. He won a trip to Hollywood at the beginning of 2017 after getting first position in National Movie Competition.

Gusthavo was 18 when he joined medical school at Federal University of Uberlandia, Brazil in 2011. He moved to United States in 2014, through Scientific Mobility Program offered by Brazilian Ministry of Education to study at  University of Wisconsin, University of Madison,  Boston Children’s Hospital &  Harvard Medical School.



How did you become interested in Medicine?

As a young man, I saw medical school as a path of becoming capable to help the sick. Later on, I realized that medical school was also a place to look for answers, to solve ongoing diseases’ mysteries.

“ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ ”



Tell us about your life experiences in medical school.

In 2014, as a Brazilian sophomore medical student, I was selected by the Scientific Mobility Program, belonging to the Ministry of Education of the Brazilian Federal Government, to study at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and, thereafter, at the Boston Children’s Hospital and  Harvard Medical School.

I mostly spent my mobility program studying and doing research on Neuroscience, Neurology, Epilepsy, Clinical Neurophysiology and on Neurological Surgery.  I enrolled on courses related to Infectious Diseases, Immunology, Clinical & Public Health, Emergency Medicine and Neurological Surgery at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where I also was a Research Assistant at the Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)  and Neurological
Surgery Laboratory, working on novel interventions to aid in functional and sensory recovery after spinal cord injury.  At the same time I was  translating the findings to help spinal cord injured patients.

I was specifically working on the project on  “Peripheral Nerve Grafts & Controlled Therapeutic Protein Delivery to Promote Axonal Regeneration Following Spinal Cord Injury”. I was also an engaged student at the UW Peripheral Nerve Lab.


On my Clinical Observership at the Peripheral Nerve & Spine Department of the University Hospital, I mainly studied cases related to Syringomyelia Cyst in the Spinal Cord, Collapsed discs and foraminal stenosis (bilateral foraminal stenosis) with back and neck pain, Hyperostosis, DISH (Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis), Hyperostosis associated with Meningioma, Meralgia Parenthetic, Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, VP Shunt, Serotonin Syndrome, Neurological Radiology Studies (MRI, CT scan, EMG, X-rays and Myelography) and Neck Disability Index (NDI).

In 2015, I became a Summer Term Medical Student Intern and Research Trainee at the Harvard Medical School & Boston Children’s Hospital where I  performed 480 hours of activities in Neurology, Epilepsy and Clinical Neurophysiology, contributing to investigations related to the Autonomic Seizures Biomarkers and their identification to assess the risk for Sudden Unexplained Death in Epileptic Patients (SUDEP).


I also worked on studies regarding the  outcome in Patients with Epileptic Encephalopathy Spectrum Disorders including Electrical Status Epilepticus,   Benign Focal Epilepsy of Childhood. I attended multiple medical lectures and conferences on Virology, Bioengineering, Infectology, Biosafety, Nanotechnology, Neuroimaging applied to Law, Neurorehabilitation, and also shadowed physicians in the department of Neurology.


Tell us more about the Neuroscience award you received last year.

The American Academy of Neurology annually awards a group of graduating medical students who have excelled in the areas of Neuroscience and Neurology, from the US and Canadian medical schools. The selection of the candidates for the award takes place through a nomination which reflects their performance in Neurology. It also includes professor’s report and curriculum analysis.


In my case, my period of dedication in Neuroscience and Neurology happened while I was studying and researching at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and at the Boston Children’s Hospital at Harvard. The American Academy of Neurology’s Undergraduate Education Subcommittee (UES) is committed to promoting neurology as a specialty and as a viable career among undergraduate medical students. This prize is meant for graduating medical students who have promising career potential in neurology.



What do you enjoy the most about Neuroscience?

I quote Dr Stanley Prusiner to answer this question: “Neuroscience is by far the most exciting branch of science because the brain is the most fascinating object in the universe. Every human brain is different – the brain makes each human unique and defines who he or she is”.

What are your interests apart from Medicine?

Since before becoming a medical student, I’ve always been an admirer and spectator of the Seventh Art, of the good films… Besides learning about other people and realities while watching a good movie, it’s also a break time from school and a moment for reflection about myself and the society, harmonizing dilemmas and inspiring me to look at them with another perspective and to go further.


How did you manage to win a national movie contest while on medical school?

At the beginning of this year, I participated in a national movie contest about the 89th Academy Awards! I correctly answered almost 87% of it, getting first place in the competition. As a result I was awarded with a trip to Hollywood, including a visit to the Warner Bros Studios!


My feeling was that all of these years as a movie fan were simply (and outstandingly) paid-off!  It’s not just a hobby but a regularly and joyful activity that leads me to a personal growth as a medical doctor and human being! So “here’s to the ones who dream”!


What are your further plans?

Embarking my medical academic journey in three different universities, I was exposed to various learning scenarios, likewise, to a wide range of knowledge and technology, while I was living and learning with colleagues from all over the world. I went through the best positive brainstorm I could ever asked for as a medical student.

And now as a senior medical student, it’s mandatory for me to highlight the supreme importance of all of us to come together as global team working around the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) known as the Global Goals: “a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity”, spotlighting the third goal that proposes good health and well being to the people, together with the seventh goal, aiming us to seek partnerships to reach the UN goals!


A multilingual ability that fosters the global citizenship it’s also what we have noticed on international partnerships that seek solutions yet unfolded. In this way we serenely can accentuate the crucial and fundamental importance from these cooperating skills and salutary relationships that different communities and cultures share, disseminating and enhancing them, with the supreme goal to propose good health and well being to everyone.

Regarding the future, I’d like to continue studying the Neuroscience, searching answers for problems related to the mind and the human brain, that still permeate among us, scientists! In a timeline: to general practice in the Amazonia, assisting Native’s health as well as the Brazilian Army working in the jungle on extreme conditions. Then apply for a PhD school, specializing afterwards. My ultimate goal has always been to work for the
Doctors without Borders and deliver some help to the suffering ones. “Science is not only a disciple of reason but, also, one of romance and passion.”


What are your suggestions to newcomers considering a career in Medicine?

On your pre-med track:
1) Enroll on different courses related to basic sciences and human culture.
2) Go on your research initiation.
3) Do good! Think about helping other through Volunteer services.
4) Be passionated about your future.

“You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.”



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