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Five Questions with Joshua Dunaief, MD, PhD

  • Questions & Answers
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Josh Dunaief of the University of Pennsylvania’s Scheie Eye Institute is a regular contributor to and a guest on the BrightFocus Chats. In this edition of Take Five, learn more about one of the world’s leading vision researchers.

Q: Why did you go into science and medicine?

I was driven by a combination of wanting to help sick people recover and wanting to understand how the human body works. My clinician-scientist career is a perfect marriage of those two interests. My patients have been very interested in my lab’s macular degeneration research and my graduate students and postdocs have been highly motivated by patient visits to the lab; they see that their hard work can help real people. 

Dr. Joshua Dunaief playing the saxophone.

Q: If you hadn’t done this, what would you be doing instead?

I think I would have been a ski instructor in the winter and a sailing instructor in the summer. I love nature, and also teaching people new skills. However, while those occupations may have been more enjoyable in the short-term, they would not carry the excitement of discovering a new treatment for patients.

Q: What’s the most important trait to develop as a scientist?

Curiosity is the most important trait. Scientists must be driven by the love of discovery. After that, I think, is persistence. It’s necessary to hit some dead ends when exploring the unknown. Some people think that science is lonely and isolating, but in reality, we work (and sometimes play) together all day as a team in the lab. We attend meetings in the US and around the world to share results and collaborate, and we’ve made friends around the globe.

Q: What do you wish people knew more, or did more, about their own health?

I wish people would take more control of their health by eating a whole food, plant-rich diet. Hippocrates was right when he said that food is the best medicine. This can taste really good and I don’t feel deprived when following this diet – I feel better! The Standard American Diet is, indeed SAD. Take a look at movies like “Game Changer” and “Forks Over Knives.”

Q: What do you do for fun outside of work?

Although I didn’t become a ski or sailing instructor, I do ski and sail whenever I can. I also play tennis once or twice a week – it’s like chess with exercise and there’s always something to improve (at least for me). I play the tenor sax and organize my local community’s 4th of July marching band.

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