Justin E. Juskewitch
Justin E. Juskewitch, born and raised in Mercer, Maine, now hopes to build some roots — or at least a strong foundation — in medicine and clinical and translational research in Rochester, Minn.
For his undergraduate studies, Justin attended Colby College in Waterville, Maine. He graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics and biochemistry. While in college, he conducted mathematical neurobiology and biochemistry research, so his interest in science was already piqued before he arrived at Mayo Medical School.
Now a scholar in the clinical and translational science track of the M.D.-Ph.D. Program, Justin cites a number of reasons for choosing to further his education at Mayo Clinic.
"Small class sizes, a unique integration of clinical practice and research, the ability to pursue a second degree while in medical school, the character and talents of the student body, and the overarching belief that 'the needs of the patient come first' all appealed to me," he says.
Building on past experience
Justin's interest in clinical and translational research stems from his earlier work in basic science and mathematical modeling research. He says, "Clinical and translational research is the ideal merging of medicine with research. My field depends on the use of two different research skill sets — clinical epidemiology and basic science."
Justin didn't start out as an M.D.-Ph.D. scholar. After he started medical school at Mayo, he entered the Postdoctoral Master's Degree Program in clinical and translational science. While working toward his master's degree, Mayo Clinic received one of the first Clinical and Translational Science Awards from the National Institutes of Health. A new Ph.D. Program track in clinical and translational science was part of the award.
Invited to apply for the expanded program, Justin received a predoctoral appointment and was able to expand his initial research project in pediatric infectious disease to focus on systemic inflammation.
Infection and inflammation
Through his Ph.D. project, Justin is seeking to better understand the mechanisms that drive the spread of infection and inflammation in many different disease processes. Justin also hopes to develop or help develop a test, which will be faster and require less blood than tests available today, to diagnose infectious causes of inflammation in critically ill children. Both aims are part of his underlying drive to improve the lives of patients.
The first part of his research looks at how inflammation progresses from a local injury to a total systemic response by the body. In the laboratory, he and his fellow researchers are studying a receptor that appears to be involved in this process in many different infectious and noninfectious diseases.
The way this receptor is regulated within the body may explain the common pattern seen as inflammation spreads. Justin's research uses specially designed mice to test the role of this receptor in different disease processes and track the activation of this receptor in different parts of the body.
On the clinical side, his team is developing a new test to detect infection in critically ill babies and children who have systemic inflammation. The current tests to distinguish infectious systemic inflammation from noninfectious systemic inflammation take about two days to provide results and require relatively large volumes of blood, especially for newborns. The new multimarker panel under development by Justin and his colleagues requires far less blood and provides results in a matter of hours.
Having now spent several years studying at Mayo, Justin says, "I like the level of care available to all patients seen here, value the level of medical education for students like me and appreciate the resources available for research."
Those resources include access to world-class physicians and scientists to serve as mentors. Justin's formal program mentor is Joseph P. Grande, M.D., Ph.D., of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who Justin says is a "constant guide in my basic science studies and diligent about maintaining a close connection with my ongoing pediatric studies."
He also receives mentoring from W. Charles Huskins, M.D., of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., enabling him to tap into Dr. Huskins' vast expertise in pediatric and infectious disease clinical and translational research.
Justin is happy with his choice to attend Mayo. He cites the "spirit of the clinic" and its patient-centered model of care as especially rewarding, and he also enjoys being part of the team in which Mayo clinicians, researchers and educators work together to improve patient health on an individual and a global level.