Melissa Loja, MD, MAS
At a Glance
• Integrated Vascular Surgery resident at UC Davis, inaugural class
• Completed the CTSC T32 program in 2011 with a research interest in
head and neck cancer
• Current research interests: outcomes in vascular surgery
• Research mentors: Nasim Hedayati and Misty Humphries,
Department of Surgery, Division of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery
Who or what inspired you to seek a career in medicine and research?
In the fourth grade I had an inspiring teacher who encouraged me to think about being a physician. From an early age my interest in research led me to attend science fairs. This interest was rekindled as an undergraduate when I worked in the UC Davis Department of Entomology under Edwin Lewis, studying the behavior of entomopathogenic nematodes. His mentorship helped spark a new passion for science and discovery.
How has the T32 program enhanced your life and career thus far?
The T32 program helped expand my vision of what research can encompass, allowing me to find my own research interests. I worked with a variety of mentors and fellow researchers across disciplines, and gained a network of colleagues to collaborate with and help guide my career. I gained fundamental knowledge in the conduct of research from the ground up, with invaluable lessons in ethics, biostatistics, grant writing and more.
My experience in the T32 program continues to influence the type of projects I choose during my residency, and gave me the background needed to undertake these projects. Because there is not a lot of time to complete research projects during a surgical residency, having a solid foundation certainly helps.
Are you working on any research projects?
I’m currently working on a few projects with the Division of Vascular Surgery, one investigating differences in treatment of peripheral arterial disease between races. Also, I am still continuing work on optical imaging of oral cancer with D. Gregory Farwell in the Department of Otolaryngology, which I started during my T32 year.