MPNRF first got to know Simran, who was diagnosed with ET at age 14, when she was 16. Now 19 years old and a sophomore at the University of New Mexico, Simran is one of 28 students in her class who were selected to study in the university’s combined BA/MD program. Simran is part of the honors college at UNM and has the distinction of being a Regents’ Scholar which includes a full academic scholarship.
Simran plans to start medical school at UNM upon graduation, with the goal of becoming a hematologist/oncologist. In the meantime, she’s enjoying being a regular college student. Simran enjoys playing intramural volleyball and is also the partnership and stewardship chair of UNM’s philanthropic group LoboTHON, a nonprofit organization that fundraises money for Miracle Kids at the UNM Children’s Hospital. Simran creates sponsorship packets and reaches out to various businesses to sponsor the group’s cause.
Two years ago during her senior year of high school, Simran suffered severe complications due to her ET. Simran has always been prone to headaches, but it was discovered she had blood clots in her brain, for which she was treated with Lovenox; however, shortly after she was hospitalized for pulmonary embolisms (PEs). Simran now takes a blood thinner regularly and has preventative lung scans every six months to check for PEs.
You wouldn’t know from speaking with her that these challenges affect her as she is very upbeat, positive, and hard-working. She maintains a 4.12 GPA despite a rigorous academic load and full social calendar.
This past summer, Simran elected to do an internship under Dr. Angela Fleischman whose lab at the University of California Irvine researches MPNs. Dr. Fleischman says, “The lab specifically focuses on why people develop an MPN in the first place, and what leads to the initial expansion of JAK2 mutation, the role of inflammation, and familial predisposition. People in MPN families tend to have hyper-active immune systems and an overly robust inflammatory response which may create an environment that is very conducive to MPN clones.”
The research was intriguing enough for Simran to spend two months of her summer studying in Dr. Fleischman’s lab doing everything from mice dissection to DNA extraction of fingernails. Simran says about her experience, “With ET, there isn’t really a cure. The clinical aspect of medicine takes knowledge that is already discovered and applies it, but I kind of like the research side. Part of me wants to find out something new. Dr. Fleischman does both research and clinical work and I think I’d enjoy this too.”
Dr. Fleischman says of Simran, “Her work ethic is excellent. She has good problem-solving skills, and I think she began to realize how slow the research process is. There was a lot of commitment on her family’s part and hers. Simran didn’t have lab experience prior, so she got a lot of benefits from learning general techniques. The lab experience had a personal context for her and it was nice for my lab to work with an MPN patient and have a personal experience understanding the people we study. But I was most pleased by how well she incorporated herself into the lab academically and socially. Wherever she goes she makes immediate friends.”
Dr. Fleischman went on to say that one unique aspect of an MPN is that the patients living with it are well enough to study it, unlike acute cancers. “Patients who are doctors are healthy enough to research. This is a significant enough problem that there is an incentive to dedicate your life to solving that problem, and yet you’re still healthy enough to study,” she explained.
Simran is proving to be one of those exceptional patients who is working hard to dedicate her life to the MPN problem.