He was a very curious child. Reinier Alvarez, a third-year medical student at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, says he would take apart toys and devices to figure out how they worked, then put them back together. Alvarez will now put his lifelong curiosity to work at one of the world’s premier biomedical research facilities, the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Alvarez is one of only 50 medical students chosen to participate in the NIH’s prestigious Medical Research Scholars Program. He’ll get to spend the next year working with some of the best clinicians and scientists in the world doing cutting-edge research at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. No small feat for the son of Cuban immigrants who is the first in his family to graduate from college and attend medical school.
“I’m still kind of in a state of disbelief. Not sure if it’s real or not. I feel so honored. This is a life-changing opportunity,” he says.
It was during his years as an undergraduate at FIU that Alvarez first started doing research in the biology department and became interested in neuroscience. At the college of medicine he soon found mentors in neurosurgeon
Dr. Sergio Gonzalez-Arias, and researchers Jeremy Chambers and Arlet Acanda De La Rocha.
“It really takes a village,” Alvarez says. “I’ve had great mentors and amazing support from my family and fiancé.”
“Reinier’s focused approach to developing a career path in neuroscience was evident from the moment we met,” says Gonzalez-Arias, chair of the Department of Neuroscience and executive associate dean for Clinical Affairs. “His discipline and perseverance are attributes that reflect on him and his upbringing.”
Alvarez aspires to be a clinician and scientist because he wants to bring breakthroughs from the lab bench directly to the patient.
“It’s really the best way to advance medicine and improve patient care. It’s the best of both worlds.”
Because he is taking off a year to do research, Alvarez will have to delay graduating from medical school until 2021, but he feels that what he will gain in experience and relationships will be worth every minute.