Research Spotlight: Dr. Clark Henegan

What is your professional background? 

After graduating from Ole Miss in chemical engineering, I worked both as a tutor and for the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality before going to medical school at UMMC.  After medical school I went to the University of Alabama Birmingham where I completed a dual residency in medical genetics and internal medicine.  Following that, I returned to UMMC where I was a Hematology/Oncology fellow before joining the faculty in 2016.

Briefly describe your research. Why is it important? 

The most consistent thread of my research is related to genomic contributors to renal cell carcinoma.  We have recently presented work describing an association between renal cell carcinoma and hematologic malignancies – which has also been reported among siblings in a familial hereditary cancer study.  I am also part of a group studying specimens in the UMMC Biobank to compare normal and malignant tissue from patients with renal cell carcinoma to determine if people who develop renal cell carcinoma at younger ages have a higher percentage of variants in particular genes. This is important in both understanding early drivers of kidney cancer as well as potentially identifying people with a higher risk of developing kidney cancer.

However, if I were to describe a dominant theme in my research at UMMC it would be intramural collaboration.  The above two projects were done with a medical student and members of different departments on campus, respectively.  Outside of these two projects, I am working with a team of residents and medical students to conduct a survey on cancer survivorship and I have worked with fellows and medical students on projects that have been presented in San Diego, Chicago, and Washington, DC.  I feel this is important in developing my own and our internal capacity at UMMC for clinical research.

What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing research?

I would recommend the following:

  1. Prepare yourself for a life of continuous learning.
  2. Don’t be discouraged by an early lack of success. Similarly, don’t think of problems as hurdles but as opportunities.
  3. Find both mentors and collaborators. You will need both and serve as both for others in the future since science is a team sport.

What do you like most about UMMC?

The thing I like most about UMMC is the opportunity to serve the entire state while working in my own backyard.  I love the chance to participate in impactful research, collaborate with highly specialized providers, and provide meaningful care from patients who hail from all over the state – all within 5 miles of where I grew up.

Tell us something about yourself that people may not know.

Last year one of my dear friends committed suicide.  His was the first house where I ever had a sleep over when I was a child, we played years of backyard basketball together, and he was a groomsman in my wedding. People may not know that I think about him every day – that I wish he could meet my daughter and I wonder what he would think about Mississippi State’s football season.  Most of all, I wonder if I could have helped him in some way.  We encounter a lot of people in a 24 hour period – loved ones and strangers; people in the mainstream and people who have been marginalized; patients and colleagues – and I wonder how many people I neglect to see are in anguish and I miss the opportunity to help.

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