Joshua Gordon is a current student in the MD/PhD Medical Scientist Training Program.
Before attending UB, Joshua Gordon graduated from Tufts University where he majored in international relations with a focus in global health, nutrition and the environment. He also worked for a several years in clinical research before applying to the combined MD/PhD program here at UB.
When looking at programs, UB caught Joshua’s attention for several reasons.
“When I was applying to medical school, I knew I wanted to do an MD/PhD program and I really wanted to have a focus in population-based research rather than bench research. UB offers the option to pursue your PhD in epidemiology, which fit my interests perfectly.”
Joshua also notes that UB is unique in that it is the only medical school in the area, allowing for students to experience a wide variety of training options.
“One of the other great aspects of UB medical school is that it is the only medical school in the area so students are able to have clinical rotations at many different hospitals – almost all the hospitals in the area. Being able to learn at so many different institutions allows for very diverse options for training. A lot of the local physicians at community clinics are also willing to teach students, which is great.”
For his doctoral degree in epidemiology, Joshua has a specific interest in population based research and is working with epidemiologist and dean of the School of Public Health and Health Professions, Jean Wactawski-Wende, PhD.
“I am interested in investigating the molecular basis for human disease and using epidemiologic tools to ask important research questions,” explains Joshua. “My mentor, Dr. Wactawski-Wende, is the PI (principle investigator) of the Osteoporosis and Periodontal Disease (OsteoPerio) study, an ancillary study to the Women’s Health Initiative-Observational study (WHI-OS). The WHI-OS and OsteoPerio study have generated an enormous amount of rich data, so there’s a lot of opportunity for me to ask questions.”
With Dr. Wactawksi-Wende’s guidance, Joshua has been awarded an F30 National Institutes of Health fellowship grant to support his research efforts.
“I’m applied for a grant to look at periodontal disease, inflammation and the composition of the oral microbiome as risk factors for hypertension. It is a training grant that would support my time in both epidemiology and medical school when I go back.”
His project brings together a number of scientific disciplines yielding tremendous interdisciplinary collaboration.
“Working as part of the OsteoPerio team has showed me the value of a cross-disciplinary approach, and my work would not be possible without the expertise of a number of collaborators. I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to collaborate with biostatisticians, bioinformaticians, dentists, microbiologists, in addition to physician-scientists and epidemiologists who support me and help ensure the research is a success.
Joshua notes that his experience with faculty and staff throughout his time in the program has been positive.
“I have been very happy to find how supportive, helpful and friendly the professors are in EEH all are and how they go out of their way to get to know students and improve the student experience. That is a really unique aspect of the department.”
One of the aspects that Joshua likes most about this program is how both epidemiology and medical professionals can benefit from someone that has skill sets in both fields.
“I think that medical professionals really appreciate epidemiologic research because it’s very useful in clinical decision making and the development of clinical guidelines,” says Joshua. “I also think that having a medical background is really useful in epidemiology research. For example, it’s helped me think about potential confounders and effect modifiers, which is essential in conducting successful epidemiologic studies.”
“My goal is to eventually have a position in an academic hospital and spend part of my time in the clinic treating patients, part of my time teaching students, and part of my time performing epidemiologic research. This would include planning and executing epidemiologic studies in order to make scientific progress regarding our knowledge of health and disease, with the overarching goal of improving health of individuals and populations.”