Some pathologists find themselves torn between research and clinical practice, but Dr. Jiaoti Huang, MD, PhD isn't one of them.
“If things work well, you don’t have to spend a lot of effort balancing the work,” he said. “For me, the more clinical work I do the more problems and issues that I discover for my research.”
Huang joined the URMC Pathology faculty as an assistant professor in 2000 and was promoted to full professor in 2007. He left in 2008 to work at UCLA until making the move to Duke University, where he was named Pathology Department chair in January 2016.
Since then, he has continued to thrive, receiving, the Synergistic Idea Award from the Department of Defense Prostate Cancer Research Program in February.
His successful career has led Dr. Huang to become an authority on prostate cancer research. His most recent breakthrough began when he observed that advanced-stage patients diagnosed with adenocarcinoma were inexplicably seeing their cancer transform to small cell carcinoma – an incurable and rapidly progressing form.
Supported by two active grants including a Stand Up to Cancer Dream Team Award, he worked with a team that performed 250 biopsies of metastatic prostate cancer that has been heavily treated with conventional and newer drugs.
From there, he discovered novel histologic features of metastatic prostate cancer and the molecular mechanism responsible for the transformation from a relatively indolent to a very aggressive form. Knowing more about the molecular basis of this phenomenon can now help physicians develop better treatment plans for their patients.
The results of the project were used to apply for a new R01 grant from the National Cancer Institute which started July 1. None of this would have been possible without working in a clinical setting, Huang says.
“This project was born from my clinical practice," he said. "If that is the basis of your research, your clinical activity does not really interfere."
He has received teaching awards at both URMC and UCLA and has seven grants that are currently active, including three from the National Cancer Institute. Huang attributes much of his success to the support and encouragement he received early on from former colleagues in Rochester (notably, Drs. Daniel Ryan and Brendan Boyce).
“The Pathology Department at the University of Rochester creates a conducive environment for junior faculty to go on with their academic careers,” he said.
Now Dr. Huang is looking to bring that same culture to his a much larger institution, understanding the need to support young, incoming faculty rather than “throwing them into the swimming pool” and expecting them to survive.
Outside of work, he enjoys exercise, cuisine, and travel. He's gone to several Duke basketball games and has even met the legendary Coach K. He describes the experience of seeing the team's championship trophies, photos and memorabilia as “mesmerizing.”
He and his wife, Hong, have two children – Kevin, who is a freshman studying mathematics at Duke, and Katherine, a Harvard graduate who works in finance in New York City.