(May 2017) During her
seven years at CU School of Medicine pursuing an MD and PhD, Veronica Searles
Quick occasionally daydreamed about an alternate life.
‘I could be scuba diving in the South Pacific instead of reading notes at 2 in
the morning,’” she says with a laugh.
entering the CU School of Medicine’s Medical Scientist Training Program in
2010, Searles Quick studied evolution – mainly of coral reefs. She’d become
intrigued with evolutionary studies in high school during a course in environmental
earning undergraduate degrees in 2007 in marine biology and international
relations from Brown University, she worked from 2007-08 at Brown’s Center for
Alcohol and Addiction Studies researching the genetics of mood and addiction disorders.
From 2008 to 2010, she worked at Stanford University with the Palumbi
Laboratory at Hopkins Marine Station, studying marine genetics to help inform
the design of marine protected areas.
in a marine laboratory, she maintained her curiosity about the genetic
influences on disease. This, and a desire for more patient interaction, drove
her to consider a career in medicine.
loved research but there wasn’t enough interpersonal interaction,” says Searles
Quick, 33. “The lab environment can be isolating, and while I wanted to keep a
hand in research, I felt I needed a better mix of lab and clinical environments.”
boyfriend (now husband) was looking for doctoral programs in neuroscience and
spoke fondly of his research experience at CU Boulder. To Searles Quick, a
native of Berkeley, Calif., Colorado was part of the “great swath in the middle
of the country between coasts.”
on a whim,” she says, “but during my interview visit I fell in love both with
the program and the city.”
Sikela Laboratory at CU, she joined ongoing research projects examining regions
in the human genome that are unique to humans and are linked to psychosis,
autism and disorders of brain size. “I came into lab at fortuitous time. It’s
been incredibly interesting.“
She has been
particularly interested in the potential interplay of human evolution and
psychiatric disease. “Many have theorized that the unique genetic changes that
produced the human mind may also contribute to psychiatric disease. These disorders,
in turn, may be thought of as the price we pay as a species for being human”.
She describes a quote from The Madness Within Us, by Robert Freedman, MD, former
Department of Psychiatry chairman, which suggests that individuals with schizophrenia
pay the heavy price for adaptive genetic variants to persist in the human
population. Such variants, while beneficial for the population overall, can
lead to disease in some individuals.
continues to work with the Sikela Laboratory to explore this interplay,
examining human-specific genetic changes in multiple psychiatric disorders.
Quick, who earned a doctorate from CU in 2015 in Human Medical Genetics and
Genomics, was active outside the lab and classroom and during her third year
became president of the Anschutz Medical Campus Student Senate while her medical
school classmates were busy with clinical rotations.
“I had more
flexibility in my schedule,” she says. “And I found representing the student
body, and making sure our interests were heard, extremely fulfilling.”
As senate president, her key focus was on Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the
basis of sex in any educational program or activity receiving federal financial
survey students in each of the Anschutz campus schools to determine the extent
of sexual harassment.
“I wanted to
come up with a better system for disseminating information to the student body
about what their options are if they encounter a problem, and I wanted to
highlight this as an issue on our campus.“
individuals among the school’s leadership were instrumental in improving students’
awareness of reporting procedures.
were wary of reporting because they didn’t know what would happen if they
brought an issue to light. They didn’t want unforeseen repercussions. The
administrative leadership on campus addressed this and has responded with
multiple campus initiatives to improve awareness.”
volunteered at several organizations including KIPP Academy, teaching classes
on Saturdays to underserved students in subjects like heart dissection, DNA
extraction, and psychology, and with the Latin American Publication Initiative
for Scholars through the Center for Global Health, where she wrote articles for
a magazine in Guatemala about health issues like marijuana use by adolescents,
blood donation, and breast feeding.
her husband, family and friends for keeping her aloft during hard times and recommends
incoming students pay attention to their health – both mental and physical. By
being honest with each other when they were struggling, she and her classmates
learned to depend on one another.
“Don’t be the
person who pretends everything is OK. This training program is challenging for
all of us, and by finding a good support network you’ll be better able to
withstand daily stressors and identify when you need additional help.”
for University of California, San Francisco to study psychiatry, Searles Quick
hopes to eventually have her own lab. When
she’s not doing research or seeing patients, she and her husband, also a
California native, plan to explore the inner coastal zone of the California
definitely kept the (marine biology) bug, but am grateful that I chose medicine
as a career path.”