Faculty Spotlight: Mihail Mitov, PhD

Dr. Mihail “Mike” Mitov serves as Assistant Professor of Physiology at the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Dr. Mitov received a M.Sc. in Biology and earned a Ph.D. from the Bulgarian Academy of Science after completing graduate research focused on novel physiological approaches for treatment of parasitic infections. Fascinated by the scientific approach to understand how the human body works, Dr. Mitov pursued his postdoctoral training in the area of Muscle Physiology and Biomechanics at the Department of Physiology at the University of Kentucky’s College of Medicine.

During his 12+ years of research experience at the University of Kentucky, Dr. Mitov worked on numerous self-lead and collaborative projects involving various human diseases – heart failure, diabetic cardiovascular complications, aging, cancer and others. He had the privilege to train and mentor undergraduate, graduate and medical students, postdocs, residents and staff members helping them achieve their career goals. Dr. Mitov has several publications and serves as an editorial board member and reviewer of scientific journals.

Prior to joining ICOM, Dr. Mitov played a critical role in establishing, managing and supervising the daily operations at a unique core facility at the NCI-designated Markey Cancer Center at the University of Kentucky. He provided consultations and research services for investigators interested in cellular bioenergetics using Seahorse Flux technology, free radical biology and oxidative stress metabolism.

Following his passion for teaching, Dr. Mitov also served as Adjunct Faculty at the Bluegrass Community and Technical College teaching human anatomy and physiology labs and principles of biology lectures and labs.

Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in physiology?

A: As far as I remember in my childhood, I have always been fascinated by nature and living organisms that surround us – birds, animals, insects, plants. I was curious about how they interact with each other and with the environment. I wanted to understand how their bodies work and what makes them different from one another, and how and why humans are different from all other creatures. This fascination drove me to study biology and pursue a career in science. My interest in medical physiology as a discipline evolved during my postdoctoral training in the Department of Physiology at the University of Kentucky’s College of Medicine. Over the course of several years, I was fortunate to work in the area of muscle physiology. I received training by some most world-renowned physiologists whose work led to a better understanding of the mechanisms by which the human body and muscle work. I was deeply immersed in the craft of scientific research and discovery. My main focus was to study the different types of muscles in humans, their function, and their dysfunction leading to increased morbidity and mortality. Training graduate and medical students in the lab, interacting with them daily, and seeing them becoming independent and successful in their endeavors inspired me further to develop my teaching skills in physiology.

Q: What inspired you to work at ICOM?

A: During my enrollment in a specialized MBA program for leaders in healthcare at the University of Kentucky, I gained a better understanding of the current problems in the US healthcare system. Two of the major issues in the US healthcare currently facing (besides COVID19) are the shortage of physicians and the increasing gap between cost and quality of healthcare. When I heard about creation of ICOM as the first independent medical school to open in the state of Idaho, I was amazed by the fact that there are still states in the USA that do not have in-state medical schools. This sparked my initial interest in ICOM and the surrounding medically underserved area. As I become part of the founding ICOM faculty team, I was able to contribute to the creation of an innovative medical curriculum and participate in the education the future generations of physicians to fill the shortage in the five-states region.

Q: What is a memorable research project you’ve worked on?

A: In the last 20 years, I worked on a spectrum of 50+ research projects where I had a different degree of involvement (to some I was leading researcher, to others, I only participated by generating data as collaborator or core facility scientist). Some of the most interesting and memorable research projects were with Drs. K.S. Campbell and M. Bonnell at the University of Kentucky, where we were collecting cardiac tissue samples from patients undergoing heart transplants. It was an amazing experience to hold a piece of freshly explanted heart in my hands while the patient was receiving his new healthy heart. Being called in the middle of the night to present to the OR regardless of the day of the week or holiday, and collect the samples for further analyses was an exciting but somewhat stressful task.  Even though science and discovery often take significant amounts of energy and effort, I always viewed (and felt) it as a privilege to be part of that journey.

Another memorable experience is my contribution to the team efforts at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine to develop an application submitted to the NIH for establishing an NCI-designated cancer center in Kentucky. As a result of that colossal effort involving multiple large departments across several colleges, UK-Markey Cancer Center became NCI-designated CancerCenter in 2017. Since that great achievement for Kentucky (which ranks first in the nation for cancer rates), the Markey Cancer Center has been continuously ranked as one of the Top 50 Cancer Centers in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

Q: What is the best part of your job?

A: Nothing could beat the thrill of being part of a groundbreaking successful team. Seeing students achieve their goals is a great and rewarding experience. Making scientific discoveries and helping to push the frontier of our knowledge and understanding for human physiology in health and disease is an amazing and gratifying endeavor. Working together as a team with my colleagues at ICOM’s beautiful building and shaping and re-shaping the best osteopathic medical school of the future is a blessing.

Q: What advice do you have for ICOM’s student doctors as they prepare to become physicians?

A:Attitude is everything – and here I will quote one of my favorite authors (Victor Frankl): “For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it.”

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