A ‘goal-oriented super student’ is how a local newspaper described Manan Pareek when he became the top student at his high school Fåborg Gymnasium, with a grade point average of 11.1. He later became a physician with a grade point average of 11.2, and this year he became one of only 20 especially talented PhD students who received a travel stipend from the Danish Elite Research Initiative established by the Danish Ministry for Higher Education and Science.
For Manan Pareek this is all quite natural. As the child of an academic Indian family, the bar has always been set very high for him, and he always feels a little bit guilty if he does anything that does not improve his CV.
Manan became a physician—in line with the stereotype that this is what Indian parents want for their children—mainly because that is what he wanted. “Flexible job opportunities were important for me, and I have never regretted it”, he says. And he has set his own course: His wildest dream is to become a professor at Harvard or another large American institution. “That would be the ultimate goal”, he says.
He has taken the first step toward Harvard
He has taken the first step—toward Harvard in any case—and has used his Elite Research Initiative stipend to change his daily routine from that of a PhD student at Odense University Hospital and taken a job as a postdoctoral research fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School in Boston, United States.
He is conducting research under the supervision of Deepak L. Bhatt, Professor of Internal Medicine and one of the senior researchers in the Thrombolysis in Myocardial Infarction (TIMI) group, a research group which for over 30 years has conducted some of the most essential randomized clinical trials in cardiovascular medicine.
Manan Pareek himself is investigating whether blood tests can be used to predict who may ultimately be affected by a blood clot, an area which his mentor Professor Michael Hecht Olsen inspired him to pursue.
The goal of his spending time abroad is for him to network and have the opportunity of working under the supervision of the world’s leading researchers in the field, he says.
Initially, he will be working with his own data, but he later plans to extend his research to include other cohorts, in order to examine new biomarkers which are not currently commercially available. Specifically, with the help of these biomarkers, he aims to continue to investigate the effect of fasting blood glucose on the importance of other risk factors for the development of both asymptomatic and symptomatic heart disease.
“The results can hopefully be used to reveal why, so far, no one has been able to explain the increased risk of heart disease in patients with diabetes based on high blood sugar levels alone”, he explains.
At Harvard, Manan Pareek is dealing with a health and research system very different from that in Denmark. The doctor-patient ratio is more favourable, and there is, therefore, more time to complete research and to instruct younger colleagues. There is often so much time, that for the more complicated cases of certain patients, it is possible to study up on their diseases, be completely familiar with all the issues and develop a thorough plan before presenting it. Of course, this generally more protected environment also has to do with patient security. “We have all heard a few things about the American legal system and the branding of hospitals”, he says.
Interest in diabetes as a research topic
Manan Pareek’s interest in diabetes is primarily research-based, but as a clinician, he prefers cardiovascular medicine and ultimately hopes to work in interventional cardiology.
“Cardiologists must rely on endocrinology, more specifically diabetes research. After all, a large proportion of patients pass through this specialty before crossing a certain threshold and becoming patients with heart disease. Any good prevention strategy must therefore begin with the metabolic disorders preceding the cardiovascular changes which ultimately cause symptoms. The earlier we can identify these high-risk patients, the better the possibility of preventing disease”, he says.