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Medical student receives two prestigious fellowships for T-cell research

| Author: Kate Worster

A combination of intense grief and a driving desire to understand how and why diseases occur led a first-year CMU Headshot of medical student Alex Dills in white coat.College of Medicine student down a path of research now supported by two distinguished fellowship awards.

The Alpha Omega Alpha national medical honor society and the American Society of Hematology have each recognized Alexander Dils ’25 and his research investigating how T cells partake in inflammatory and pathophysiological processes. A 2022 AΩA Carolyn L. Kuckein Student Research Fellowship and an ASH HONORS (Hematology Opportunities for the Next Generation of Research Scientists) Award will provide financial assistance for Dils’ summer research at the University of Michigan with Shannon Carty, M.D., University of Michigan assistant professor of internal medicine. The Carty Lab’s research focuses on the role of protein regulators in normal and malignant T cells.

As a teenager, Dils planned to attend a college in his hometown of Saginaw, study chemistry and work as a researcher in the business sector. However, at the end of his senior year of high school, a diagnosis of T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma changed the course of his education and his life.

Dils attended the University of Michigan where he could receive medical treatment and attend classes. When a fellow student, cancer patient and close friend passed away without a bone marrow transplant match, Dils says the grief galvanized him. “Passively waiting for others to make discoveries while patients died from resistant hematologic neoplasms was not an option,” Dils wrote in his ASH HONORS fellowship application.

As an undergrad, Dils studied graft-versus-host disease with his mentor, Ivan Maillard, M.D., Ph.D., a hematopoietic stem cell transplant physician-scientist. Dils credits Maillard, now at the University of Pennsylvania, for encouraging him to shadow physicians for a better understanding of how research translates to bedside care and to explore his growing interest in medical school.

The CMU College of Medicine was well known to Dils because his brother, Anthony Dils ’20, now an internal medicine resident, graduated from the College of Medicine two years ago. The college’s mission aligned with Dils’ personal and professional goals.

After graduation from medical school and residency, Dils hopes to work at an academic medical center. “I’m accustomed to being in the bed. That experience combined with knowing the direct impact of research on care motivates me to become a compassionate physician-scientist.”