Sarah J. Carlson

Sarah Carlson
  • BS Chemistry 2003

Sarah Carlson is Associate Chief of Surgery for Operations at the VA Boston Medical Center, and Assistant Professor of Surgery at Boston University. Dr. Carlson graduated magna cum laude from MTU with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 2003 and then attended the University of Michigan Medical School, where she earned a master’s degree in clinical research and an MD in 2008.

Dr. Carlson next completed a residency in general surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a Harvard teaching hospital, in Boston in 2016. During residency she spent three years researching omega-3 fatty acids in liver metabolism, brain development and reproduction at Boston Children’s Hospital and was awarded two NIH-sponsored research grants for her work. And, she completed her fellowship in vascular surgery at Dartmouth in New Hampshire.

“My patients often have diseases of the arteries, such as atherosclerosis (which causes blockage of the arteries) or aneurysms (weakening and dilation of the blood vessels),” she says. “Every patient has unique anatomy, but principles such as fluid dynamics, physics, and basic chemistry inform the solutions to these physiologic problems.”

During Carlson’s residency, she received two National Institutes of Health (NIH) research grants for her work on omega-3 fatty acids in neurocognitive development and liver metabolism. She also was given a teaching award from the Harvard Medical students for outstanding resident teacher. And, with a team of surgeons, she helped to create a curriculum for an elective course at Harvard Medical School for medical students interested in surgery.

Dr. Carlson has published numerous peer-reviewed publications and earned recognition for teaching of medical students and residents, including Harvard Medical School’s surgery clerkship medical student teaching award. In 2018 she was honored to be recognized as one of Michigan Tech’s “Five Under 35” awardees for MTU alumni.

While at Tech she says her two favorite experiences outside of the classroom were playing violin with the Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra and spending time with friends at the Uphill 41 pub. 

She says she wants students to understand that at the early stages of their career, “they don’t need a long list of publications or a CV that shows a lot of experience. All you really need is enthusiasm, hard work, and hunger for more.”

“It's important to find joy in what you do, every day,” Carlson says. “Life is short. I'm reminded of this every day in my line of work. If you're not having laughter and joy in your day-to-day life, it's time for a change.”

Originally from Iron River Michigan, Dr. Carlson thoroughly enjoys the opportunity to return to Houghton when she visits family in the Upper Peninsula. Her favorite activities include playing the violin, playing cards and board games with her UP family, and traveling the world. In September 2021 she earned her favorite title to date: “Mom” to son Lynx Carlson Gordon.