Spotlight on Postdoctoral Fellows: Mohamed Jarraya

Mohamed Jarraya--12.8.11After growing up in Tunisia and moving to France to complete a Radiology internship, Mohamed Jarraya is no stranger to adventure.  A Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Radiology at Boston University Medical Center, Mohamed compares his transition to American life to walking in a jungle.  Navigating between cutting edge medical research and various opportunities through the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs at GMS, he finds ways to give back to the BUMC community, earning the respect and admiration of his colleagues.

What brought you to BUMC?

Originally I am from Tunisia, but right before coming to the United States, I was living in France completing a medical internship in radiology.  I have a MD degree from the University of Sfax School of Medicine.  When I decided to do a postdoctoral fellowship, I really focused on locations in the United States, a place I had never previously been.  I wanted to complete a research project and really experience America.  I found my current position in the BUMC Radiology Department, and I had to jump on it.  I love Boston.

What kind of research are you involved in?

Right now I am working in clinical research within the Quantitative Imaging Center at the BUMC Radiology Department studying knee osteoarthritis.  A lot of my work requires examining and reading MRIs of the knee. By studying these MRIs, lesions related to osteoarthritis can be scored depending on their severity. This information allows for an objective follow-up of patients with knee osteoarthritis, and helps for comparisons before and after special medical treatments.

Why did you choose radiology?

I have always been interested in architecture and the arts, which I initially planned to study in school. My father, who was physician, always encouraged me to pursue a career in medicine which I ultimately decided to do. When I took the residency exam, I only knew which specialties I didn’t want to practice, surgery being one of them. My sister, at that time was in her first year of radiology residency and I was curious about her specialty; I guess she is the one who pushed me in radiology!

How did you adjust to American life?

The only person I knew before moving to the United States was my PI, who had interviewed me for my current position. I viewed the move from France to the United States as an adventure, and I found Americans to be friendly and open to other people.  My colleagues are spectacular.

When I first arrived in Boston, any time I had outside of the lab, I spent going to the gym and becoming acquainted with the city.  It didn’t take me long to start meeting people, and now I am kept very busy with my research and my social life.  I also spent the recent Thanksgiving holiday with an American family in the area. They were awesome, and the food was delicious!

Besides your research, how else are you involved in the BUMC community?

I am a member of Toastmasters International, a group recently established by the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs at GMS.  It is a very interesting organization, and has been beneficial to me in many ways.  Arabic is my first language, though I have been studying English for seven years.  Since joining Toastmasters, I have been obligated to prepare a speech.  Though there have only been six sessions, I feel my English has drastically improved.  I am much more fluent, and my writing skills are enhanced.  Additionally, I have met many great people through the organization.  It is a very positive and friendly group. Besides Toastmasters, I also offer support for events sponsored by the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, including the Ice Cream Social we had this past fall, and an the recent Holiday Party.  The Office also sponsors career development luncheons I try to attend regularly.

What are your future goals?

I would like to acquire a clinical experience the United States and work as a Radiologist. Beyond that, I am not really sure what my long-term plans are.  When I came to America, my goal was to dive into research, and I have come to discover that research is something I really enjoy. I think a combined medical and academic environment will provide me with the benefits of working both in the clinic and in research.

What do you enjoy doing outside the walls of BUMC?

I spend most of my time outside of BUSM with my friends.  I have also traveled to New York City in the past six months of living in the country.  There is a Tunisian consulate where I was able to participate in a vote back in Tunisia.  The vote was for the constituent assembly who is drafting our new Tunisian constitution right now. That was the first democratic election in Tunisia for more than two thousand years!

What advice can you give other postdocs or GMS students?

Join Toastmasters, or other group activities, that will help you socialize.  Most importantly, take advantage of working or studying here at BUMC; it is an opportunity and a great experience.

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