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Alameh Starts Career Path as Researcher and Medical Student

CLAREMONT, Calif. – In August, Saleem Alameh, PPC ’17, MS ’18, put on a white coat as a medical student for the first time, the mark of his official entrance into the Michigan State University College of Human Medical School (MSU). It is a moment in his life that this first-generation college graduate from an immigrant family couldn’t have imagined just a few years ago.

“I wasn’t exposed to higher education when I was younger,” says Alameh, who earned a BS in kinesiology at Temple University in his hometown of Philadelphia. “I put medicine on a pedestal, so it took awhile to see myself in it. Going into college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Then my interest in fundamental science started to grow. The idea of medical school crossed my mind, but it seemed like a stretch.”

Alameh started volunteering at a local hospital, where he talked with doctors about their career paths. He eventually decided to commit to medicine and came to Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) for the Postbaccalaureate Premedical Certificate (PPC) program. With his eye on admission to medical school, Alameh also investigated research opportunities at KGI.

“I started reluctantly,” he says. “I appreciated the value of research, but I did it because it was part of the expectations for medical school.”

Alameh approached Professor Anastasia Levitin, who had taught the summer microbiology class he took at the start of the PPC program. She directed him to the lab of Associate Professor Mikhail Martchenko Shilman, whose research focuses on identifying potential therapies to treat infectious diseases. Soon Alameh was looking at the relationship between flies and the spread of Anthrax disease.

Once he completed the PPC program, Alameh decided to enroll in KGI’s Master of Science (MS) in Applied Life Sciences program while continuing his research with Martchenko. When their work led to a significant discovery, Alameh wanted to contribute for another year.

“It’s amazing to see his transformation from having no experience in research and not being sure he’d like research to staying on for an extra year to continue with it,” says Levitin.

“He became very passionate about research and has the skills to be a good scientist. I’m sure this will help him in medical school because he is capable of reading the scientific literature and keeping up with advances to better serve his patients.”

Alameh sees the change in himself as well, saying, “By the end, I loved it. It has transformed the way I think about science and made me think more deeply about medical treatments. I’ve learned to question everything.”

Adding that he now understands why medical schools value research experience, Alameh expects that it will be advantageous going forward.

“The primary benefit is the tool and perspective that research provides,” he says. “I will probably never tap into my understanding of Anthrax as an infectious disease to treat a patient. For me, research is a tool to be more critical of the facts in front of me. Hopefully that will give me a step up in medical school.”

Making the move to Michigan to begin his medical studies, Alameh is once again sorting through potential career directions but keeping an open mind. He is also grateful that he encountered many familiar faces when he arrived.

“I’ve been able to see some of the people who went through the PPC program with me,” says Alameh, explaining that they started at MSU last year while he continued his research. “When I came to KGI from the East Coast, I didn’t know anybody. For this cross-country move, I already had friends to connect with.”

Interested in learning more about KGI’s Postbac Premedical Certificate program? Visit

KGI Graduates at Michigan State University

MD Program, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Currently enrolled

  • Carlos Damas, PPC ’13
  • Maria Santana, PPC’16
  • Shane Jones, PPC’16
  • Jeffrey Elliott, PPC ’16
  • Caitlin Staat, PPC ’16
  • Brittany Herron, PPC ’17
  • Andre Girgis, PPC ’17
  • Donita Barrameda, PPC’ 17
  • Aram Derbedrossian, PPC ’17
  • Irene Lieu, PPC ’17, MS ’18
  • Kathleen Dinh, PPC ’17
  • Eunice Im, PPC ’17
  • Eunice Lee, PPC ’15

Entering fall 2019

  • Christina Kang, PPC ’16
  • Matthew Tiacharoen, PPC ’16
  • Saleem Alameh, PPC ’17, MS ’18

DO Program, Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine

  • Darryn Wong, PPC ’16