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Stars of Stanford Medicine: “Science touches every facet of the human experience”

Though he's a "romantic at heart," medical student Brandon Turner uses data to improve health care. He's featured in this Stars of Stanford Medicine Q&A.

Brandon Turner has lived in almost half the states on the East Coast and in the United Kingdom -- but for the last three years he's been at Stanford University School of Medicine. He's an MD student with a scholarly concentration in informatics and data-driven medicine, as well as a passion for cooking. I met up with him to swap recipes and learn more.

What brought you to Stanford?

I’ve lived in a lot of different places, mostly on the East Coast, but what drew me here was the community. It seems like when you’re here, in addition to rigorous science, it is presumed that taking care of yourself and being in a warm, comforting environment is a value.

Where were you before you came to Stanford?

Prior to this I was at University of Oxford, pre-Brexit. Before that, well, it’s complicated ­– I’ve lived in eight different states because of my dad's job. I was born in North Carolina, and then moved to Tennessee, then Connecticut, New York, Indiana, back to Tennessee, Nevada, California, and now I actually live in Ohio.

What kinds of projects have you done here at Stanford?

Like many Stanford students, I’ve gotten my fingers in a number of cookie jars. The underlying theme for me has always been trying to use data to better understand the state of health care in different dynamics. The biggest project I’m working on at the moment is looking at cancer genomics and trying to predict response to immunotherapy in patients with melanoma.

How did you first get into science?

I actually initially really liked math, and there came a point where I realized you could apply math to almost anything. I stuck with science because, one, it’s very cool to understand how the world works and on a personal level that’s fun. And two, you realize that science really touches every facet of the human experience and you have the capacity to improve the human condition in fundamental ways.

What’s something your colleagues don’t know about you?

I was part of a malaria trial where I actually got malaria. I wanted to do that to understand the experience of patients who are often on the other end of the research that people like me are conducting. The study was testing a new vaccine, but it didn't work for me, so I got malaria -- and it sucked.

What’s a favorite hobby of yours?

I love cooking -- it is one of my biggest pastimes. Right now, I’m working on grits. I also used to compete in online baking competitions. I never won, but I kept at it for a good while.

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading Brief Loves That Live Forever by Andreï Makine. I love the way he uses words and creates beautiful imagery without being overly flowery.

What’s your favorite movie?

My favorite is "Titanic" – I usually don’t tell that to people. For me it was one of the first movies where I was emotionally connected to and invested in the relationship. I feel like I felt every piece of it; I felt the terror as the ship is going down, the elation as the two are first meeting, I thought the score was so effective at creating the dramatic atmosphere. I’m a romantic at heart, so I love it.

Stars of Stanford Medicine introduces readers to standout scholars in the School of Medicine.

Previously: Stars of Stanford Medicine: "Are people getting the right care?", Stars of Stanford Medicine: In pursuit of the "Aha!" discoveries and Stars of Stanford Medicine: Amplifying signals to detect cancer early 
Photo by Nicoletta Lanese

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