Heather Ferris joined the UVA faculty on May 1st as an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Endocrinology. She comes to UVA from the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, one of the leading centers for diabetes treatment in the country.
Heather is a double UVA alumni, having completed an MD and PhD here. Welcome (back) to UVA, Heather!
I grew up in the D.C. suburbs of Maryland. Although my family lived in close proximity to the National Institutes of Health headquarters in Bethesda, I didn’t know anyone who worked in medicine or research. I was lucky to have a high school biology teacher, however, who got me involved with a student research symposium at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and then a summer internship at the Uniformed Services University for the Health Sciences. These experiences convinced me that I wanted to do research.
The summer after my freshman year in college I struck up a conversation with a neighbor who, as it turned out, was finishing up a fellowship at the NIH. He was a gastroenterologist but was getting ready to move and start a lab. He invited me to join him the next summer in his new lab. That was when I found out that combining medicine and research was a career path. His lab studied hormones in the gut. While I wasn’t so excited about the gut part, I fell in love with hormones. If we hadn’t spoken that afternoon in his front yard, I’m quite sure my career path would have been quite different.
What brought you to UVA?
Coming to UVA has been like returning home. I completed my MD and PhD at UVA back in 2006. In addition to my love of Charlottesville, I am very excited about the focus the Medical Center is putting on both diabetes and the brain. My research focuses of the effects of diabetes on the brain, so the match was perfect.
Proudest achievement outside the professional realm?
My husband and I are managing to raise a kind, smart daughter, though I guess she gets a lot of the credit!
What are you usually doing in your spare time?
I love to be outside working in the garden. Boston was a tough place to garden. I am looking forward to the longer growing season here.
If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
I would love to be able to draw or paint. The perfectionist in me always gets in the way.
Where did you go on your last vacation?
We visited Monterey, California and nearby Pinnacles National Park, the newest park in the national park system. Both areas were beautiful.
Words to live by?
“The important thing is not to stop questioning; curiosity has its own reason for existing.” – Albert Einstein
Read a recent journal publication by Heather:
Ferris HA, Isganaitis E, Brown F. Viewpoint: Time for an end to juice in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. JAMA Pediatrics 2017. Published online April 24, 2017. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2017.0134.
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