Heritage College, Dublin, student selected for NIH research rotation

Jun 21, 2017

Joshua Dyer

An Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine student who recently completed his third year of medical school has been accepted into a prestigious research rotation with the National Institute of Mental Health, one of the National Institutes of Health. Joshua Dyer, who studies at the Heritage College, Dublin, will complete the rotation during his fourth year of medical school.

According to the NIMH, the goal of the Clinical Electives Program is “to provide medical students with first-hand experience in the conduct of clinical research after completion of their core clinical rotations.” The program offers four- to eight-week elective rotations in adult psychopharmacology, child psychopharmacology and psychosomatic medicine, though participating students can request other elective options as well.

Sonia M. Najjar, Ph.D., the John J. Kopchick, Ph.D., Osteopathic Heritage Foundation Endowed Eminent Research Chair, has had a long association with the NIH, having completed an intramural research training postdoctoral fellowship from its Diabetes Branch, and served on numerous NIH study sections. She noted that the agency is an international leader in medical research, which sees the training of physicians to become scientific leaders as a central part of its mission.

“Because it can attract global exceptional talents, its institutes use a very rigorous system to identify their trainees,” Najjar said. “This creates a high level of competition among applicants. This is an incredible honor for Student Dr. Dyer and for us as a college of osteopathic medicine, positioning us to become a leading hub for medical research. This is a testimony to how highly the NIH values the standard of training in our college.”

Students in the Clinical Electives Program are assigned a senior staff member as a preceptor, who helps develop and oversees an individually based tutorial program. Students do psychiatric evaluations on assigned patients and take part in regular clinical research unit meetings, rounds and seminars.

Dyer will be working on two different projects, one involving experimental psychiatric therapeutics and the other a post-traumatic stress disorder protocol, working with active military service members at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

“I'm excited,” Dyer said about the opportunity. “I think this experience will be great for my career, as I'll meet people who can give me great advice and guidance. It’ll also give me ideas for future projects I want to undertake as a psychiatrist.”

Dyer, who earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology at California State University San Marcos before enrolling at the Heritage College, has been involved in NIMH-supported research before. Between his first and second years of medical school, he took part in a 12-week NIMH-funded summer research program for medical students, at the University of California San Diego. This experience, in which he studied fear extinction using Pavlovian conditioning, helped encourage his interest in psychiatric research. He attributes his interest in PTSD largely to his past experience as a U.S. Navy corpsman with tours of duty during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Dyer was in the first class of 50 students to attend the Heritage College, Dublin, which opened its doors in 2014.

“As a member of our inaugural class at Dublin, Student Dr. Dyer has been incredibly focused on his education despite being separated from his family at the beginning of his program,” said William J. Burke, D.O. (’88), dean of the Heritage College, Dublin. “Josh’s performance in a summer clerkship in psychiatry at the University of California San Diego’s School of Medicine clearly impressed the faculty who recommended him for this prestigious elective rotation at the National Institute of Mental Health. His perseverance and passion will serve him well as he studies PTSD in combat-wounded service members at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.”