Loyola University Chicago

Department of Biology

MAMS alumnus makes important discovery in contagious childhood disease

Vytas Karalius credits his successful entrance into medical school to the Master of Medical Sciences program at Loyola. "I was able to do really well in the science program and got that firm understanding of some of the core medical sciences that I didn’t have prior to matriculating," he said.
Used with permission: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. 
All rights reserved.

Alumni profile: Vytas

Master of Public Health, ‘12

Master of Medical Sciences (MAMS), ‘13

Now: Third-year medical student at the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine

Vytas Karalius took an untraditional path to get to medical school: He got two master’s degrees beforehand.

Now a third-year medical student at the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota, Karalius is exploring new medical interests, working on research, and plotting his next move as a future physician. 

Here, he talks about the Loyola professors who helped him get into medical school, his research on Bordetella parapertussis—a cousin of the bacteria that causes whooping cough—and the value of persevering. 

How did Loyola prepare you for medical school?

I would not be where I am at right now if it weren’t for both of my programs at Loyola. Leaving undergrad at another university, I didn’t really do what I needed to do to matriculate into medical school. So, I originally entered in the Master of Public Health program which really shaped me in terms of the way that I approach science and research. It also really helped me develop a lot of important personal skills and maturity. I walked away different from how I had started in that program, but I knew I probably was going to struggle with matriculating into medical school so I enrolled in the Master of Arts of Medical Sciences program, MAMS. That solidified some of the concepts that you need going into medical school.

Which class or professor helped you the most with what you’re doing now?
The mentorship that I found in the MAMS program through professors like Bryan Pickett and Erin Hayes was just amazing. They were really able to help mentor and guide me. Dr. Pickett was probably the biggest factor in my getting into medical school in terms of helping me with the application process. I’m incredibly blessed that I’ve had them in my life and to have been influenced by them.

Talk a little about your research on Bordetella parapertussis.
I began this project when I was a first-year medical student with my microbiology professor. The research is addressing an outbreak of Bordetella parapertussis, which is a lesser-known cousin of Bordetella pertussis—which is what everybody would immediately associate as the cause of pertussis, or whooping cough. Bordetella parapertussis can cause similar symptoms and is a similar disease to whooping cough. There was an outbreak in southeastern Minnesota, and we found that the outbreak also looked like a similar one across the United States. So far, this has been an ongoing project now for almost two years.

Any advice for someone looking to go to medical school?
If medical school is truly what you want to do when you wake up in the morning and that’s all you can really imagine that you are meant to do, then don’t quit. It took me four application cycles to matriculate into medical school, which is an untraditional path. Looking back, I am so happy that I continued to apply and persevered. Don’t let an admissions committee tell you that it’s not what you are supposed to do. Keep trying to get in and keep trying to make yourself a better student.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
Right now, I’m at the crux of making a lot of big decisions in terms of what specialty I will choose and then where I choose to do my residency. In 10 years, I hope to see myself as a physician, practicing at an academic center. I hope to find myself in a situation similar to where I am now at the Mayo Clinic: surrounded by like-minded individuals who are focused on the patient and in a place that helps me grow every day and pushes me to be the best physician that I can be. I hope to take that forward wherever I go.