A Conversation with Andrea L. Cox, MD, PhD
In this issue, HCV Next asks five questions of Andrea L. Cox, MD, PhD, associate professor of Medicine, Oncology, and Immunology in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Johns Hopkins University. She also serves as co-director of the Medical Scientist Training Program.
Andrea L. Cox
Through the 1990s, Cox received her PhD at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and an MD at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. By 2003, she had completed both her internal medicine residency and her fellowship in infectious diseases at Hopkins.
She is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in infectious diseases. In addition to her co-directorship of the MD-PhD training program at Hopkins, Cox is a member of The American Society for Clinical Investigation.
Cox cites the host immune response to chronic human viral infections as a primary area of research interest. She has conducted studies about the role of HCV-specific T cell responses in acute HCV control and is currently investigating activation of the inflammasome in HIV, HBV, and HCV infection.
What are your hobbies outside of practicing medicine?
I really love to cook. Since I lead a research group and see patients, it is hard to find time to be at the lab bench any more. As a substitute for being at the bench doing science, cooking is a way for me to create something with my hands. I measure, mix, and heat — just as in the lab — but the result is a delicious dinner!
Who has had the greatest influence on your career?
My parents have had the greatest influence, which may sound odd since neither is a scientist or physician. My father is an engineer and highly driven by logic and evidence. When I expressed opinions as a child, he regularly asked, “Where are your supporting data?” I still ask myself that today. Then I ask myself, “If that is true, what does it mean?” I have found asking those questions to be an effective way to make sure I am doing the best research and patient care possible. My mother is very much a people person and loves comforting others. It is her influence that led me to medicine. At Johns Hopkins, we serve a very diverse patient population, including some of the most disadvantaged and underprivileged people in the United States. Providing care for and support of the subset of our patients who feel that the world generally works against them and helping them feel that their lives are important to others is one of the greatest joys I have known.
What advice would you offer a student in medical school today?
Pursue what really consumes your interest and excites you. Don’t select a field based on perceived needs in the work force or what is most easily employable. The pursuit of medicine is a large and continuing commitment and it will wear on you if it is not fun. It is critical that you are passionate about what you do or you will not do it well!
Have you ever been fortunate enough to witness or to been part of medical history in the making? If so, please explain.
Kimberly Page, PhD, MPH, of the University of New Mexico and I are currently leading the first trial of a preventative HCV vaccine in people who are at risk of hepatitis C virus infection. This is an important step toward controlling HCV on a global scale, as we have done with effective vaccines for so many other infections.
What do you enjoy doing to relax?
My favorite things to do to relax are enjoying a good movie or book. I also really enjoy scuba diving and traveling with my husband and children. Floating at neutral buoyancy is very meditative. I co-direct the Medical Scientist Training Program at Hopkins and enjoy hosting parties with the MD-PhD students. They are such an interesting group of brilliant, caring, energetic, kind, fun and diverse people that I love spending time with them.
Disclosure: Cox reports no relevant financial disclosures.