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Myla Goldman, MD

Myla Goldman earned her bachelor of arts degree in Behavioral Neuroscience from Lehigh in 1994. She remained at Lehigh for another year as a lab technician for the Schneider Lab. Myla entered the MD program at Rush Medical College in Chicago. Following medical school, Dr. Goldman continued her education with an internship at Rush Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Hospital in Chicago and residency at University of Virginia. In 2002 Goldman became a Multiple Sclerosis elective resident at University of California San Franciso, followed by a neuroimmunology fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. She is currently an assistant professor in the department of neurology at the University of Virginia, serving as chief of the MS/Neuroimmunology division and director of their fellowship training program. Dr. Goldman graciously responded to our request to answer a few questions.

Myla Goldman, MD, MS
Myla Goldman, MD, MS

Why did you attend Lehigh University?

I was looking for a school that was of a smaller size. I had a friend recommend Lehigh to me. When I visited, I was taken by the beauty of the campus and the area. At the time, there were not many established Neuroscience programs. I really liked that Lehigh had a dedicated program in Neuroscience.

After my first year, I was thinking of transferring to another school. It was harder to be so far from my family (in Chicago) than I thought it would be. However, during my sophomore year, John Nyby recommended I work with Dr. Jill Schneider to get some lab experience. This opportunity became critical in my development. Dr. Schneider’s mentorship kept me at Lehigh and laid the foundation for my research career.

Please describe your research.

I am currently funded by an NIH NINDS mentored patient-oriented research grant (K-23) in the area of multiple sclerosis (MS). This project, entitled, “Validation of a motor fatigue measure in multiple sclerosis” is a 2 year longitudinal study of outcome measures of MS-related motor fatigue and ambulation impairment. This specific project focuses on the validation of the 6-minute walk by assessing three important aspects of 6MW validity- criterion validity, potential confounders, and sensitivity of the measure over time. In addition to having a tool to adequately test therapies for MS-related motor fatigue, this work will expand our understanding of motor fatigue, by studying its relationship to disability, subjective fatigue measures, cardiac fitness, and disease progression over time. This K-23 research project will confirm and extend my previous work validating the 6MW, which is a reliable, accessible, inexpensive, and promising outcome measure. My immediate career interests lie in the validation of the optimal outcome measure for ambulation in MS, which can be used to design therapeutic trials of this disabling and ubiquitous aspect of MS disability and progression. My long-term career goal is to become a leader in MS clinical research, with specific expertise in outcome measures and MS therapeutic trial design and execution.

Hands-on lab experience is a strong component of our curriculum today, both through our instructional lab classes, as well as individual research with faculty mentors. Can you share how this had an influence on you – both while at Lehigh and later in medical school and in your career?

I began my research career while completing my undergraduate degree in Behavioral Neuroscience at Lehigh University. I spent a total of 4.5 years working in Dr. Jill Schneider’s laboratory studying the relationship between metabolism and estrus cycles in a Syrian hamster model. My three years of mentored lab work culminated in an Honor’s Thesis that was presented in 1994 at the completion of my degree. This work was presented as a poster presentation and included as part of a larger publication in the American Journal of Physiology. I spent an additional year working full-time in Dr. Schneider’s laboratory and continued to work during the first two summers of medical school. My post-graduate research was published in Hormones and Behavior. These experiences laid the foundation for my critical thinking and interest in neuroscience research. I attended medical school with plans to pursue patient-centered research.

The value of my experiences with Dr. Schneider’s lab was not about the specific research question or animal model, as I went on to do clinical research. But more generally- it provided me with mentored experience in developing a research question, executing a scientifically sound research protocol, and learning how to write/communicate my research findings. For example, I had the opportunity to present my research at regional and national meetings. This provided me with experience in articulating my research and networking with others. Finally, working with a scientist who was a mother- provided me with a model for true life balance. Dr. Schneider is an outstanding and relevant example of how to be successful both professionally and personally. This is something that all young scientists need to learn- Life/Work Balance.

Looking back, is there any advice you can give to today’s generation of Lehigh students?

The best advice I can give is to talk to as many people as possible about your potential career goals. Talk to people doing what you want to do. Talk to people who decided not to do what you want to do. And any other variation. I have always found it helpful to hear about the journey’s taken by others to help me find my best path forward.

Be open to opportunities that may not have direct or linear benefit to your life plan. My research with Syrian Hamsters did not directly translate to a research career – in terms of the animal model or research questions. However, it did inform my research career by giving me the fundamental tools need to be a good scientist. These are universal and not directly tied to the lab or research that you do early in your career.

Is there any specific advice you can give our educators to better prepare their students for their careers?

When mentoring students, I will really question them and listen to what their likes/dislikes are professionally and what is important to them personally. When able, I also observe what they uniquely excel at and enjoy most. The right path is not always the most obvious or most often traveled. It is important to help students avoid the trappings of others expectations (even your own). Without this, they may go down a road that will prove to be professionally or personally disappointing.

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2012 Newsletter designed by Maria Brace
Department of Biological Sciences
Lehigh University