About Sharon Loa

Sharon Loa was born in Puente Piedra, Peru. She was raised in a warm, multigenerational household that maintained Quechua heritage. At six, Sharon and her mother arrived in Missoula, Montana, where icy winds and heavy snowfall greeted them. The struggles of culture shock and language were accompanied by family obligations—throughout middle and high school, Sharon helped her mother learn English, study at the University of Montana (UM), and raise her two younger brothers. These formative years led her to see education as a beacon of hope.

At 16, Sharon structured and completed a certification course that led her to become the youngest pharmacy technician at St. Patrick’s Hospital. As she searched for the correct prescription, her mind teemed with questions about how these drugs behaved in cells and what effect they had on the patient’s body. This experienced kindled her passion for medicine and led her to enroll at UM to study biochemistry.

During her undergraduate years at UM, Sharon went from never having heard the term “research” to discovering three novel protein structures using X-ray crystallography in Professor Klara Briknarova’s lab. Her patient interactions at the St. Patrick’s Hospital Cancer Center combined with her investigations of proteins critical for acute myeloid leukemia solidified her passion and dedication to translational research. Furthermore, she restructured and transformed her university chemistry courses by creating training programs, mentoring, and eventually becoming an adjunct professor at 21.

Sharon graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Montana, with a degree in biochemistry. She went on to receive the National Institutes of Health Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program Fellowship at the Mayo Clinic. During her years in Professor Taro Hitosugi’s lab, she contributed to discovering a novel metabolic pathway in which enzymatic activation of pyruvate kinase increases cytosolic oxaloacetate to inhibit the Warburg effect, recognized in Nature Metabolism. Moreover, Sharon was the first student to partner with the Mayo Clinic Office for Education Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to establish programs for post-baccalaureate fellows and for underrepresented students entering medical schools.

Currently, Sharon is an MD/PhD student at Stanford University. She is on a mission to pioneer diagnostic methods to improve identification and treatment of diseases, deliver compassionate and equitable care, and shape the next generation of physicians through inclusive and innovative education.


  • MD, Stanford University
  • PhD in Cancer Biology, Stanford University
  • BS in Biochemistry, The University of Montana

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