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After 8 years, Mayo Clinic student graduating with M.D., Ph.D. to pursue his passion

Justin Maroun is graduating Saturday, May 21, 2022, with an M.D. from Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine and a Ph.D. from Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences before starting his residency at Mayo Clinic. Maroun said he wants to combine his degrees to not only think about the patient in front of him, but also the patient 10 years from now.

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Justin Maroun will be graduating with an M.D. from Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine and a Ph.D. from Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences on Saturday, May 21, 2022.
Contributed / Mayo Clinic
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ROCHESTER — For Justin Maroun, his love and respect for the medical field all began with his mother.

Growing up, he watched on days that his mom – an Army nurse in San Antonio – brought him to the hospital where she worked. What stuck with him was how people enter the hospital hurt and walked out of it perfectly healthy, along with how people viewed his mom.

“I just remember the reverence and the respect that people had for her, and her colleagues, and I was like, ‘Well they must be doing something,’ so I would say that was a pretty big impact on me,” Maroun said.

Those years planted a seed for Maroun’s views on the medical field, which have since blossomed into him graduating Saturday, May 21, 2022, with an M.D. from Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine and a Ph.D. from Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

Maroun, who did his undergraduate studies at Texas A&M, has spent the last eight years balancing his studies for the two degrees. It’s been a long and tiring process for Maroun, but ever since he finished his summer undergraduate research fellowship at Mayo Clinic in 2012, he knew he was pursuing a career in the right field.

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“I was crossing the street on Second Street between the medical school and the Mayo building, and I was just like, ‘I need to do human medicine,’” Maroun said. “I think I can contribute and help patients better here.”

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“What that did is it focused me,” Maroun said. “I had these broad interests. I knew what I liked, I knew what I wanted to do and how I wanted to help. I just didn’t know where to exactly apply it, and walking across that street I was laser-focused on human medicine, treating cancer patients with these novel therapies that there are only two or three places in the United States that do it and Mayo is one of them. So I knew I needed to work hard to get myself back here and finish. Luckily, I was able to do that.”

The realization of the long road ahead with pursuing two degrees didn’t quite hit Maroun till after his second year of medical school, he said.

He remembers watching as his fellow medical students walked to the hospital to begin their clinical training, and turned the other way to head to the laboratory for the next four years in pursuit of his Ph.D.

Midway through his Ph.D., he recalls how it wasn’t easy watching those same medical students graduate and begin their residencies while his medical school was on pause and he spent his days in the lab.

“It’s a long road, but luckily I’ve been fortunate to have mentors, good family support to always say, ‘Hey, you’re doing awesome stuff right now in the lab,’” Maroun said. “And I was always very fortunate to always kind of be very excited by the lab as well as seeing patients. That doesn’t mean you don’t miss the patients, but it means you can be a little patient.”

Maroun said if anything, those years spent in the lab reaffirmed his belief and passion for what he’s trying to accomplish in the medical field.

“It’s not infrequently in the clinic that you reach the end of the road with patients … and it’s not a good place to be. But for a lot of people who don’t kind of have that research mentality, they have other ways to cope. I’m not aware of it, but that would just be hard for me. I don’t accept failure very well, so it’s nice for me to take that, go into the laboratory and go, ‘Okay, these patients are at the end of their line, this is the situation. I know this about these viruses as novel therapies, what can I do to apply that?’

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“It drives you in ways that just keep you going.”

Maroun will now take this drive into his five-year general surgery residency at Mayo Clinic. In the last eight years, he’s seen his life drastically change. He’s become a husband, a father and now one step closer to becoming a physician where he’ll not only do what he can to take care of the patients in front of him but also the patients 10 years from now.

“The soil, the sun and the water are there, you just got to be that seed and be where you need to be and work hard to get it done,” he said.

Related Topics: MAYO CLINICROCHESTERPEOPLE
Erich is a digital content producer at the Post Bulletin where he creates content for the Post Bulletin's digital platforms. Before he moved to Rochester, Erich worked as a sports reporter for Rivals.com covering the University of Illinois' athletic programs in Champaign, Illinois. Readers can reach Erich at 507-285-7681 or efisher@postbulletin.com.
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