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MEMP Alum Profile: My Accidental Success

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

My accidental success: How I became Head Team Physician for the New England Patriots

Mark D. Price, PhD, 2001, Sports Medicine Orthopaedic Surgeon, Massachusetts General Hospital; Head Team Physician and Medical Director, New England Patriots

Mark D. Price’s colleagues will tell you that he is a top notch guy—a stellar student who earned both MD and PhD degrees from the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology program (HST) and an all-around fascinating human being who is a Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserves, received the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service in combat operations in Afghanistan, and in the past year became the Head Team Physician and Medical Director for the New England Patriots.

But if you were to ask Mark how he managed to create such an impressive resume, he would say it was by accident or pure luck. And he would say it with a chuckle and a smile.

HOW AN ENGLISH MAJOR BECAME A DOCTOR

Mark started at Northwestern University in Chicago as an English major, with the intention of going to law school. But he took a survey class called Introduction to Biomedical Engineering, where he learned about various applications in that field.

That motivated Mark to transfer to biomedical engineering, where he met Jay Walsh, an HST alum and faculty member at Northwestern. Mark recounts, “Jay was a great mentor . . . a prototypical HST graduate, sort of right on the edge between hard-hitting very fundamental research, but he had a direct clinical application. He was just super awesome.”

As graduation approached, Mark considered his options: “I’d thought about medicine, but I thought being a doctor would be too boring, because you’d do the same thing every day and I just didn’t think that I was cut out for that . . . but then when I saw that you can do medical stuff that makes a big impact and still lets you use your math and science and really try to develop new things, then it became much more exciting and interesting.” So Mark decided to focus on biomedical research and joined a startup in New York that made small MRI machines fitted to extremities such as the wrist, elbow, knee, or ankle.

After a few years in industry, Mark decided to pursue a PhD. He sought advice from his former mentor, Jay Walsh, who encouraged him to apply to HST’s Medical Engineering and Medical Physics (MEMP) PhD program. Then, as now, the HST admissions process was highly competitive; even with Walsh’s support, Mark was uncertain about the likelihood of acceptance.

Mark says, “I didn’t think I had a snowball’s chance in hell of getting in. I’m pretty sure that I got an interview purely as a courtesy to Jay. I’ve never been more relaxed in an interview in my life because I thought I didn’t belong. I could joke around . . . and I wasn’t nervous about saying the wrong thing . . . because of that I think I had a great interview.

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