Sharing My Story: Connor

April 13, 2020

Sharing My Story: Connor

researcher in an office

Connor O’Hara is a third-year graduate student in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry, School of Pharmacy at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). Connor didn’t let his diabetes slow him down; in fact, he uses it as inspiration for his career! Calling diabetes a foundation for his pursuit of knowledge, Connor says “let us all be compelled to help drive and support the research and innovation that will bring new therapies and cures, and even turn #Type1 into #TypeNone.”

On April 23, 2007 I was rushed into intensive care at MCV Hospital at VCU in Richmond, Virginia presenting with diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and Kussmaul breathing. 

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and I thought it would impact my life in a powerful way. I was right.

Thirteen years later, I have defended a Masters of Science in Medicinal Chemistry and am completing year one of doctoral study. My diagnosis brought many new questions to me, and presented me the opportunity to pursue science as a means of answering what could not be answered, and helping others with chronic medical conditions.

About Connor’s research:

I work in the lab of Dr. Umesh Desai, and this past summer defended my thesis research successfully to complete my Masters of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences (Medicinal Chemistry concentration).  I have just completed year one of my PhD, and have submitted a predoctoral fellowship grant (F31) to the NIH to support my dissertation research. You can learn more about my research on LinkedIn.

Although I am a type 1 diabetic, my graduate research focuses on cancer. I have had personal motivations to put my research efforts here, although the training I am receiving and skills I am developing can be used toward drug development for any indication (including Diabetes Mellitus). 

My diagnosis prompted my interest in the development of therapies and even cures to aid those with chronic medical conditions, and the lack of knowledge as to why I became diabetic has transformed a juvenile curiosity in science into a pursuit of real medical answers. After graduate school, I hope to put all of my degrees into use for a small biotech or large pharmaceutical company in research and development focusing in Oncology or Endocrinology (or both).

Outside of my work, I enjoy spending time outside and interacting with a host of animals. I love to cook delicious (and healthy) food, and to spend time with my family and friends.

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