Jennifer Streeter, MD, PhD, keeps finding good reasons to stay at the University of Iowa. For more than 15 years, the first-year fellow in cardiovascular medicine has completed one degree after another, all as a Hawkeye. “What’s kept me here,” Dr. Streeter says, “is the feel and the environment. I don’t think you’ll find the spirit of collaboration that is here anywhere else in the country. Everyone wants to see you succeed.”
Originally from Sioux City, Iowa, Dr. Streeter says she always knew she wanted to go into medicine. After a couple years of community college, she moved across the state to enroll at Iowa. During her undergraduate years, she got a taste for research and was encouraged to pursue a graduate degree in cell biology. It was then that she learned she did not have to choose between that and medical school, and she enrolled in the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP).
Iowa’s MSTP has been funded with stipends from the NIH for more than 40 years and is one of only about 30 such programs in the country, allowing students with an interest in medicine and research the opportunity to pursue both an MD and a PhD simultaneously. Though the prospect may seem daunting, Dr. Streeter praised the program’s well-crafted structure. “There’s a lot of support and overlap between them. There’s research rotations while you’re in medical school and clinical rotations while you’re in grad school.”
Dr. Streeter also exemplified that spirit of collaboration when she helped launch ASK ME during her graduate work. The Anatomy and Cell Biology Student Knowledge and Materials Exchange was an online series of graduate student profiles describing their projects and areas of focus, the materials they were using, and particular skills and techniques. “If I was doing a project that required me to use a new technique, I could look on this website and say, ‘Oh, this person knows how to do it and has the reagents for it.’” Dr. Streeter said that, once contacted, the other researcher always lent a hand.
Her decision to enter cardiovascular medicine as a subspecialty was first seeded during medical school. While working with cardiac patients on an internal medicine rotation, she was astonished by the impact interventions could have. “I had a patient in severe heart failure causing multi-organ failure. He told me that before he came to our hospital he was sure he was going to die. We were able to use medications to restore him to a state of health that allowed him to walk out the door happy and joking.” After that, Dr. Streeter says, as she began working with Dr. Francis Miller (now at Duke University), whether in the cath lab or on cardiac inpatient rounds, she realized it was something she was really interested in. She focused her research on developing a peptide to block activation of an enzyme involved in plaque formation in blood vessels.
Now, halfway through her first year in the cardiovascular fellowship, Dr. Streeter has found the spirit of collaboration still holding strong. Colleagues continue to go out of their way to make sure she has the support she needs. “I have learned an incredible amount of information and I am surrounded by amazing co-fellows who love teaching.” As she continues to get her bearings in the program, she is holding off on decisions about next steps, whether it is further specialization in cardiology or where her career might take her next. “I love Iowa, I know I could be happy if I stayed here for everything.” But she also sees the potential value in gaining experience outside what she calls “the nest.”
Plenty of colleagues would be sorry to see this Hawkeye leave the nest, though. Second-year resident Dr. Tyler Rasmussen started in the MSTP after Dr. Streeter. “She helped me navigate the intricacies of the program,” Dr. Rasmussen says. “She is compassionate, wickedly smart, inquisitive, a team player, and an astute clinician.” Another first-year fellow, Dr. Pulkit Chaudhury, calls her a “natural leader” and that her attention to detail makes her an excellent clinician.
When not pulling marathon shifts in the CVICU or planning her next research project, Dr. Streeter spends time with her husband and three children. The family makes regular trips back to Sioux City to see extended family when they can or hosts them here on football weekends. One year, Dr. Streeter’s dad won University of Iowa Father of the Year. The family was hosted at a tailgate and the game, which they watched from the president’s box. He was nominated for the award by Dr. Streeter, evidence yet again that she understands how everyone benefits from collaboration.