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MedTalks is a program designed to connect current graduate students with School of Medicine Alumni who are working outside of academic settings to network and share advice. We are always looking for Ph.D. or M.D.-Ph.D. volunteerings.

To learn more, please email us at

Stay tuned for future MedTalks programming!

Past Events

MedTalk: Let’s Talk – Physician-Scientists in Academia, Industry and Beyond

Andrea Cox, M.D.-Ph.D. ’98, Director, M.D.-Ph.D. Program and Professor of Medicine invited current M.D.-Ph.D. and Ph.D. students to attend a lively, moderated discussion with a panel of distinguished alumnae currently working in the pharmaceutical industry and academia. This was a unique opportunity to gain career insights from successful alumni, socialize and establish ongoing connections.

MedTalks with Michael Kauffman, M.D.-Ph.D. '92

Dr. Michael Kauffman discusses his non-traditional career path, experiences as a Hopkins student and what led him to entrepreneurial success. Karyopharm focuses on the discovery, development and commercialization of first-in-class agents targeting nuclear transport for the treatment of cancer and other major diseases such as myelodysplastic syndrome, colorectal and prostate cancer, advanced solid malignancies or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This is a unique opportunity for students to gain career insights, network and learn from Dr. Kauffman’s experiences.


Past Presenters

  • Michael Kauffman, M.D.-Ph.D. ’92

    Dr. Kauffman is the Senior Clinical Advisor of Karyopharm Therapeutics. Dr. Kauffman co-founded Karyopharm in 2008 and has served as Chief Executive Officer from January 2011 to May 2021. Karyopharm focuses on nuclear medicine for the treatment of cancer and is the industry leader in oral SINE technology Prior to joining Karyopharm, Dr. Kauffman served as Chief Medical Officer at Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc. and as an operating partner at Bessemer Venture Partners where he led investments in biotechnology companies. Dr. Kauffman received his Bachelor of Arts in Biochemistry from Amherst College, his Doctor of Medicine and Doctor of Philosophy from Johns Hopkins Medical School, and trained in internal medicine and rheumatology at Beth Israel and Massachusetts General Hospitals. He is board certified in internal medicine.

    Michael Kauffman, M.D.-Ph.D. ’92
  • Lisa Dunkle Scheffler, M.D. ’72

    Lisa Dunkle Scheffler, M.D. ’72, is the Program Lead for Respiratory Infections in Clinical Research & Development with Protein Sciences, a Sanofi Company. From 2011 to 2018, she served as Chief Medical Officer for Protein Sciences following a 20+ year career in the pharmaceutical industry. The Lisa Dunkle Scheffler, M.D., Endowed Scholarship was established in 2016 by Dr. Dunkle Scheffler in appreciation for the medical education she received at Johns Hopkins. She is a member of the Johns Hopkins University Alumni Association Council and serves as Class of 1972 Representative. She and her husband, Richard, live in Connecticut.

    Lisa Dunkle Scheffler
  • Melissa S. Pessin, M.D.-Ph.D. '91

    Melissa S. Pessin, M.D.-Ph.D. '91, is the Chair of the Department of Laboratory Medicine at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. She received her B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from Princeton University and her M.D., Ph.D. from The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Pessin did a post-doctoral fellowship with the Nobel Laureate Dr. Paul Greengard and her residency in Pathology at the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Columbia University. She is board certified in Clinical Pathology, as well as Blood Banking/Transfusion Medicine and Clinical Informatics. Dr. Pessin is a Fellow of both the College of American Pathologists and the American Society of Clinical Pathologists.

    Melissa S. Pessin
  • Crystal Watkins, M.D.-Ph.D. '03

    Crystal Watkins, M.D.-Ph.D. '03, graduated from the University of Maryland Baltimore County as part of the Meyerhoff Scholarship Program with a B.S. in Biological Sciences. She received both her M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Molecular Neuroscience. Her thesis work was featured on the cover of the Wall Street Journal and led to a patented discovery and proposed clinical trial for diabetic nerve disorders. Dr. Watkins is currently the Director of the Memory Clinic in the Neuropsychiatry Program at Sheppard Pratt and an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Her research focuses on using brain imaging and blood markers to understand the aging brain and detect dementia at earlier stages.

    Crystal Watkins
  • Joshua H. Bilenker, M.D. ‘99

    Josh Bilenker is the interim senior vice president of oncology research and early phase development at Eli Lilly and Company and was the founding CEO of Loxo Oncology, Inc., which was acquired by Lilly in 2019. From 2006 to 2013, Dr. Bilenker worked as life sciences venture capital investor at Aisling Capital LLC. Previously, from 2004 to 2006, he served as a Medical Officer at the US FDA, in the Office of Oncology. Josh trained at the University of Pennsylvania in internal medicine and medical oncology, earning board certification in these specialties. He received his M.D. from The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and his A.B. degree in English from Princeton University. He and his wife, Stephanie Bilenker, J.D., are both graduates of Princeton University and reside in Stamford, CT with their three sons.

    Josh Bilenker
  • Chetan Bettegowda, M.D., Ph.D.

    Chetan Bettegowda attended Duke University as a Benjamin N. Duke Scholar, where he graduated with a double major in Biology and Religion. He went on to complete his MD and PhD degree in Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in the laboratory of Drs. Bert Vogelstein and Ken Kinzler. After finishing the MD/PhD program, Dr. Bettegowda completed his neurosurgery training at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. While a resident, he returned to the Vogelstein/Kinzler lab to finish a post-doctoral fellowship.

    During his career as a clinician/scientist, Dr. Bettegowda has garnered numerous accolades including being inducted into Alpha Omega Alpha honor society, winning the Sherman Award for Neurosurgery Achievement, the Helen B. Taussig Award at the Johns Hopkins Young Investigator’s Day Award, the David Klein Award from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, the Richard Ross Clinician Scientist Award, the Sanford Larson Award from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and Rienhoff Scholar’s Award. Most recently he was part of the team of scientists awarded the American Association of Cancer Researchers “Team Science Award”, where he and his colleagues were recognized for the development of liquid biopsy approaches in cancer. He has published in such journals as ScienceNature GeneticsProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Science Translational Medicine.

    Chetan Bettegowda
  • Harith Rajagopalan, M.D., Ph.D.

    Dr. Harith Rajagopalan is Co-founder and CEO of Fractyl, having started the company while serving as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at General Catalyst Partners. Prior to founding Fractyl, Harith was an academic cardiologist and physician-scientist. He received his B.S. in chemistry from Stanford University and went on to obtain M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. At Johns Hopkins, Harith did groundbreaking and award-winning research on intestinal cancers that was published in top medical journals, including Nature and Science. After medical school, Harith trained in internal medicine and clinical cardiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and completed a research fellowship at Harvard Medical School.

    Harith Rajagopalan
  • Saurabh Saha, M.D., Ph.D.

    Saurabh Saha, M.D., Ph.D. is Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Board of Directors of Centessa Pharmaceuticals. Most recently, as Senior Vice President of Research & Development at Bristol Myers Squibb, Dr. Saha led translational medicine across all therapeutic areas spanning discovery, early development through late development, and commercialization. In 2019, he led the Research & Development diligence in the acquisition of Celgene by BMS and subsequently managed key aspects of the integration across both organizations. During his tenure, Dr. Saha laid the foundation for the BMS Research & Development headquarters in Cambridge, MA, serving as site head and establishing a research focus on discovering new cancer treatments for immunotherapy resistance.

    Previously, Dr. Saha was a Venture Partner at Atlas Venture where he held leadership positions with a number of its portfolio biotech companies, including Chief Medical Officer of Synlogic, and Chief Executive Officer of Delinia until its sale to Celgene in early 2017. In 2008, he established the translational research and development organization at BioMed Valley Discoveries where he served as Chief Scientific Officer and later President and was responsible for leading the development and demonstrating human effectiveness of two first-in-class cancer therapies. Earlier in his career, Dr. Saha was a Management Consultant in the pharmaceutical practice at McKinsey & Company and subsequently appointed Director and Head of the New Indications Discovery Unit at Novartis. He is on the editorial boards of a number of medical journals and is an Associate member and Global Clinical scholar at Harvard Medical School.

    Dr. Saha holds an M.D. and Ph.D. in Cancer Genetics from The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where he completed his graduate studies in Bert Vogelstein’s lab. He is an alumnus of Harvard Business School and Oxford University, studying General Management and Biophysics respectively. Saurabh received a B.Sc. in Biochemistry from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

    Dr. Saha’s passion for advancing human health to bring novel medicines for patients has been the compass that has guided him in his educational and professional pursuits.

    Saurabh Saha
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