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It’s a Match: Ciersten Burks

Ciersten Burks at Match Day 2018

Ciersten Burks, MD, holds her letter on Match Day in 2018. Burks is in her first year of residency at Harvard.

NAME: Ciersten Burks
SPECIALTY: Otolaryngology
RESIDENCY MATCH: Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Boston, MA
REACTION: “I am just ecstatic. I am so overjoyed. I am so surprised and so happy to be able to celebrate with family and all of my classmates.”

During her third year of medical school, Ciersten Burks was presented with an offer she couldn’t turn down: a funded year of research with IU School of Medicine’s Department of Otolaryngology. Now, Burks is presented with another offer she can’t turn down. This time, it’s an otolaryngology residency position with Harvard Medical School.

It probably won’t come as a surprise that the Harvard residency program was among Burks’ top picks for her next phase of training. But it isn’t just the prestige that attracted Burks – it’s the focus the program places on research. Burks will have opportunities with the program to pursue various types of research during her clinical residency experiences.

Diving into research

Burks first realized she had a knack for research the summer after her first year of medical school. Through a research project at IU School of Medicine, Burks studied multiple sclerosis with Maureen Harrington, PhD.

“When I first began in Dr. Harrington’s lab, I had absolutely no research experience,” Burks said. “She made sure I learned the foundational basics as well as how to understand and think through the way I carry out research projects. Dr. Harrington is someone I really admire and want to emulate – she was very influential in developing my interest and skills in research.”

From bench to bedside

Burks’ next research opportunity came along after she’d picked otolaryngology as her specialty. Initially interested in pediatrics, Burks realized during her third-year clinical clerkships that otolaryngology was the right fit for her.

“I just love the variety of cases in otolaryngology,” Burks said. “For me, it checked off all the boxes I had. I get to work with a diverse patient population, use surgical techniques with medical treatments, and be a part of cutting edge research and technology.”

After hearing Burks’ decision to pursue otolaryngology, Marion Couch, MD, PhD, the chair of otolaryngology-head & neck surgery, offered her a yearlong funded research position. Even though it meant putting off graduating by one year, Burks excitedly accepted. She then began to delve into laboratory work with Wade Clapp, MD, that she knew would be important for her future as a physician.

“My research experiences – especially my yearlong otolaryngology-focused projects – transfer well into my future clinical career,” said Burks. “I feel as though I have a responsibility to my future patients to try my best to answer questions and solve problems they have. I believe research is a unique and powerful way to do that.”

Still true to IU

Soon, Ciersten will have two IU diplomas hanging up in her Boston apartment. An avid soccer player since age four, Burks completed her undergraduate degree and played soccer at Indiana University Bloomington. Continuing the IU trend for medical school was an easy decision for Burks. Especially after receiving the Eli Lilly Company scholarship.

“My parents, sisters and I all attended IU Bloomington – my older sister is also an IU School of Medicine Class of 2012 graduate,” Burks said. “I guess IU kind of runs in our blood. I applied to many medical schools but with the scholarship I received and my sister’s great experiences with the school, IU School of Medicine was a perfect decision for me.”

There’s no doubting Burk’s excitement to begin residency in Boston, but the Indianapolis native will not soon forget the impact her mentors and experiences at IU School of Medicine had on her.

“I can’t thank the otolaryngology department at IU School of Medicine enough, Burks said. “The department is a major reason why I pursued this field. Dr. Couch, Dr. Yates – so many of the faculty members and residents have been such phenomenal mentors. I also can’t thank Dr. Wade Clapp and his laboratory staff enough. There are so many faculty members at IU School of Medicine who invested in my growth and learning. They provided me with opportunities to show my commitment to research in otolaryngology and to future patients. It’ll be bittersweet to leave Indiana, but I am excited to spread my wings and I will always be a Hoosier at heart.”

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
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