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EU Alumni Perspective: Tim Wiltshire

Name: Tim Wiltshire

Graduation Year: 1996

Major: Biology

Current Position: Assistant Professor, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Consultant, Division of Transfusion Medicine, Mayo Clinic

City and State: Rochester, MN

 

Tell us about your career and what you do now.

Upon graduation from Evangel, my plan was to take a year off before returning to grad school. That plan turned into 6 years working in the biotechnology industry and included the addition of my wife and our first child. I continued my education at the West Virginia School of Medicine where I studied cancer cell biology and obtained my Ph.D. in 2007. After a 3-year fellowship at Vanderbilt University, I was recruited to Mayo Clinic to continue my research focused on novel therapeutics for difficult to treat cancers including triple negative breast cancer, ovarian cancer and pancreatic cancer.

My career took a turn in a different direction when the field of cell therapy began growing exponentially in 2017. I was recruited to the Immune, Progenitor and Cellular Therapeutics (IMPACT) Lab at Mayo Clinic to manage a novel treatment called Chimeric Antigen Receptor T (CAR-T) cell therapy. Mayo Clinic has a long history of using cells as “living drugs” to treat patients who have exhausted all conventional options. I have the pleasure of working on a team delivering cell therapy drug products for clinical trials across several indications aimed at healing the sickest patients in the world.

I hold multiple roles in addition to being on staff within the Division of Transfusion Medicine in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology. I am an Assistant Professor in the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Associate Program Director for the Cell Therapy Fellowship Program in the Mayo Clinic School of Graduate Medical Education and Section Director for the IMPACT Lab.

 

What is your favorite memory from Evangel?

The relationships built during my time there and playing intramural sports with my K3N brothers were some of my fondest memories. We forged priceless friendships hanging out and goofing around when we probably should have been studying. I still get together with friends from Evangel 25+yrs later to talk about the great memories and make new ones. I also got to attend Evangel with several of my cousins which afforded us the privilege of rhyming nicknames (Eddy, Freddy, Reddy, Teddy, Betty and Zeddy). To this day, very few Evangel classmates actually know our real names.

 

How did Evangel help you identify/develop your calling?

I already had a calling to do cancer research when I arrived at Evangel. My professors helped develop that calling by teaching a balanced view of science and Christianity. They didn’t just present the topics but made us consider how faith and science intersect as the foundation of truth.

My professors also challenged and encouraged me in my studies. I still remember how difficult Dr. Bohanon’s chemistry classes were for me. I was much more of a hands-on learner and less capable at times in the classroom. I worked as a lab assistant for him while I was struggling through his organic chemistry class. I didn’t bother signing up for that job the next year after feeling like a failure in his class. I will never forget sitting in his office and having him ask me why I hadn’t signed up and telling me that he needed someone with my knowledge and experience to help in the lab. It gave me the understanding of what my skills were and the confidence to maximize those skills through the rest of my education and life.

 

How did your experience at Evangel prepare you for life after graduation?

The value of my education went well beyond what my classes taught me. Developing social and spiritual maturity are just as important as anything that can be learned in the classroom. The foundation I acquired during a very formative stage of life helped set me up for success later. I can’t overstate the value of professors that care about their students and want to guide them to be successful in the classroom and in life.

 

What advice would you give a current student preparing for the workforce?

Earning a degree is a great foundation to start a career but focus on developing skills that will be useful in any job. It is unlikely a potential employer will ask you about what you learned in a specific class. They want to know that you can gather information, think critically and solve problems. I always tell my children that “leaders find solutions”, which is not something that comes from a textbook.

Also, learn what your strengths are and leverage those to further your career. Likewise, know your limitations and develop a plan to cultivate your weaker areas.

 

What would you look for if you were in a position to hire new graduates from Evangel?

The candidates I interview are graduates from medical school and/or a Ph.D. program, but the same principles apply for anyone looking to start a career. We look at experience, knowledge, potential and communication skills. I like to dig a little deeper to learn what level of troubleshooting skills an applicant possesses. I want to be confident that encountering an unexpected issue isn’t going to cause you to give up without exploring possible solutions. There is a common sense factor that can be just as important for success as your GPA.