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Current MD-PhD Student - Eric Fitts

Eric Fitts

Name: Eric Fitts

Year in Program: GY2

Undergrad University: Gustavus Adolphus College

Mentor: Ashok K. Chopra, CSc, PhD

Graduate Program: Microbiology and Immunology


    Research Interests

  • Pathogenesis and vaccine development for Yersinia pestis, as well as pathogenesis of necrotizing fasciitis mediated by Aeromonas spp.

    Honors & Awards

  • None at this time.


  • A non-invasive in vivo imaging system to study dissemination of bioluminescent Yersinia pestis CO92 in a mouse model of pneumonic plague. Microbial Pathogenesis, Volume 55, February 2013, Pages 39-50
  • Deletion of Braun lipoprotein encoding gene and altering the function of lipopolysaccharide attenuate plague bacterium. Infection and Immunity, December 2012.


  • "Inhibition of Inflammatory Mediators by Bacterial Signaling Molecules n-Acyl Homoserine Lactones in Murine Macrophage," presented at annual Sigma Xi Symposium, April 2010.

    Hobbies or just something about yourself in general:

  • I enjoy rock climbing and sailing.

Career Development

The career development of an MD-PhD student is critically important and extends out well past the date of graduation with the dual degrees. The UTMB MD-PhD Program carefully guides and nurtures students throughout the Program. Early in the Program, critical issues are mentor selection and choice of a graduate program. MD-PhD students meet regularly with a faculty advisor, a student "big sibling" and members of the advisory committee. Opportunities to be exposed to research opportunities are provided through Program activities as well as the scientific activities on campus. Most students do their initial laboratory rotation during the summer before starting medical school. Additional laboratory rotations can be completed during the summer before the first and second years of medical school and after the second year of medical school. Once students are established in their labs, they are guided through their research by a mentor and dissertation committee.

For MD-PhD students, selection of the dissertation committee is essential and our Program requires students to include a member who is an MD scientist who can provide guidance on career progress and residency selections. As thesis defense approaches, students design their optimal clinical experiences with members of the MD-PhD committee to maximize chances to obtain the types of residency training that will be most compatible with further development as a physician scientist. The Program runs career guidance seminars to alert students to many of the important issues, pitfalls and milestones that they will need to navigate in the future. These include the pros and cons of short-track residencies, the need for additional postdoctoral training, and how to select and negotiate a first faculty appointment. The UTMB MD-PhD graduate is thus well positioned to make the most out of the advantages that MD-PhD careers offer.