Spartan Showcase: Manav Midha

Year: Rising junior

Major: Economics, pre-med

Minor: Chemistry

Growing up, Case Western Reserve University rising junior Manav Midha found himself torn between focusing his career goals on medicine—having the humbling power to save lives—or economics—understanding how incentives shape our decision-making. 

When he found out you can actually major in anything and still go to medical school, he was amazed, and decided to focus on the latter. 

“I knew that I foremost wanted to be a doctor, and then a policy researcher,” Midha explained. “I’m driven by the idea that while a doctor can make a tremendous impact one patient at a time, policymakers can effect change on the order of millions. I want to help connect these worlds that feel so disparate right now.”

Midha recently completed a project that did just that. The pre-med student took his understanding of the biology of glioblastoma treatment, and his knowledge of health care economics, and posed a question: Considering quality of life and substantial financial costs, should certain patients with brain cancer—specifically, MGMT unmethylated glioblastoma—in the United States receive temozolomide chemotherapy?

“Not much research attention has been given to quality of life and cost considerations at the level of individual genes before, so I think we had a novel research question,” Midha noted.

Midha went to work to find an answer with the help of his mentor Mark Votruba, associate professor and chair of the economics department at Weatherhead School of Management.

What they found was chemotherapy may not be the best treatment for these brain cancer patients because it decreases their quality of life for very little survival benefit and considerable financial costs.  

“Our conclusion was that this group of patients would be particularly well-served by being enrolled in clinical trials, instead of receiving temozolomide chemotherapy,” Midha explained. 

Midha wanted doctors treating glioblastoma patients to know about their findings. He checked past years’ American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) archives for similar research, and with the help of Votruba, wrote an abstract to ASCO’s specifications. To Midha’s delight, they accepted it as a poster presentation at the Central Nervous System Tumors Session at ASCO’s annual meeting, held virtually earlier this month. 

The economics major went on to submit his pre-recorded presentation to ASCO—the world’s leading professional organization for physicians and oncology professionals treating cancer patients.

“No matter what the specifics of the future look like for me, I know I want to see patients,” Midha said. “It is easy to start thinking of each data point as just another dot on a plot. I never want to forget that each data point represents a person, who has a family that loves them, and who has passions and desires of their own.”

When he’s not focused on health care, Midha remains busy. He’s a member of the Academic Integrity Board; a representative in the Undergraduate Student Government; the finance chair for the Naach Di CWRU dance competition; and treasurer and dancer on the Spartan Bhangra dance team. He’s also currently in the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Cancer-focused Summer Undergraduate Research (CanSUR) program.

To learn more about Midha’s work, read the abstract he submitted to the ASCO.