Justin Adler’s pathway to medical school was paved with distinction, having been accepted through an early assurance program with the University of Rochester. Graduating a full year early from Haverford, he seized the opportunity to join the Penn Image-Guided Interventions Lab as a research specialist in the departments of Cancer Biology and Radiology of the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. He studies hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common form of primary liver cancer among adults and the third leading cause of all cancer-related deaths.
His research aims to better understand HCC metabolism using hyperpolarized magnetic resonance imaging and immunoassays as well as to genetically engineer improved imaging methods. “While I’m working at Penn, I’m also using this time to finish my master’s degree in bioethics at the Perelman School of Medicine,” says Adler.
Reflecting on his time at Haverford, Adler’s appreciation for the small community and research opportunities available to undergrads. “I was also greatly influenced by Haverford’s commitment to social justice and to valuing the social determinants of health,” he says. “I was able to explore coursework in medical humanities to gain a broader perspective of all the social, cultural, and environmental factors that affect someone’s health, not just purely their biomedical disease.”
In particular, the “Critical Disability Studies: Theory & Practice” course, led by Director of College Writing Center and Visiting Assistant Professor of Writing Kristin Lindgren, furthered his passion for health equity and combatting health disparities. Throughout his time at Haverford, Adler learned the importance of community outreach and preventive medicine having served as a Spanish/English medical interpreter for Community Volunteers in Medicine and an Admin/Flow Coordinator for Puentes de Salud, two clinics treating the Delaware Valley community’s undocumented and uninsured population.
A pivotal mentor in his journey was Assistant Professor of Biology Amy Cooke, who played a key role in his development as a researcher and medical professional. In the Cooke lab, he developed a method for studying the regulatory mechanisms of RNA-binding proteins. “Being able to work with Dr. Cooke over the years, and having the opportunity to present my work at an international conference, sparked my interest in helping to further scientific knowledge critical to human health and disease,” says Adler.
With an exciting road ahead, Adler is eager to explore his evolving interests within the medical field. His advice for other Fords? “Try your best to explore and figure out what is really inspiring for you and just keep moving forward. Don’t be afraid to dream big, and learn to embrace failure as an opportunity for growth as you pursue your aspirations.”
“Where They’re Headed” is a blog series chronicling the post-collegiate plans of recent Haverford graduates.