Dr. Doctor

Dr. Doctor

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Physician scientist leaves Rowan SOM with a D.O., a Ph.D. and impressive contributions to research on neurological disorders
“Everywhere I interviewed all they wanted to talk about was the research I had done at Rowan," Eric Goldwaser says of his experiences interviewing at top residency programs. He will head to Maryland's Sheppard Pratt Physician Scientist Training Program.

Eric Goldwaser left Rowan University with both a DO and a PhD degree in hand. The significance of that achievement can’t be overstated, and neither can the research he helped conduct while earning those degrees. That research may one day help unlock the secrets to some of today’s most complex – and feared – diseases.

But Goldwaser didn’t start out to be a physician researcher. Like many college students, he considered several alternate career paths during his undergraduate years, including one as a professional soccer player. Thankfully, for his future patients and the entire scientific community, he chose science, medicine and Rowan.

Encouraged by a research faculty mentor at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), Goldwaser investigated the dual degree opportunities at three New Jersey medical schools. When it came time to choose, the School of Osteopathic Medicine (SOM) was the clear choice. Later this year, Eric will celebrate October 27, 2010 – the date he filed his application to SOM – in a unique way. (More about that later) 

An easy choice

The joint DO/PhD program at the School of Osteopathic Medicine (SOM) prepares students to become physician scientists with unique experience to not only practice medicine, but to contribute to the study of diseases, new medical treatments, clinical trials and to become educators to the next generation of physicians. Students accepted into the program complete their first two years at SOM before enrolling in the PhD program at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS).  

A unique aspect of the joint DO/PhD program at SOM is the fact that students cannot apply for acceptance into the PhD portion of program until after they are enrolled as SOM medical students. It didn’t take long, however, for Goldwaser to decide it was the path for him.

“My last two years at TCNJ, I was in the lab just about every day,” he recounts. “So, the summer before med school was the first break I had from that and I realized that I really missed it. I think it was during the first week of classes at SOM that I decided to apply for the PhD program.”

National and international recognition

Working with Dr. Robert Nagele, a faculty member in both the Department of Geriatrics and Gerontology and the Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, Goldwaser was part of the research team that helped develop and refine a blood test that has demonstrated astounding accuracy in its ability to diagnose and stage neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and post-operative delirium.

Goldwaser is the co-author on eight peer-reviewed publications reporting on that research, including two on which he was the lead author. Additionally, three other manuscripts on which he is the lead author are currently in review for publication.

He is also the co-author of two book chapters and presented posters on his work at more than two dozen conferences across the country, including annual meetings of the American Neuropsychiatric Association, the American Delirium Society, the American Osteopathic Association’s Osteopathic Medical Conference, and the Biannual Blood-Brain Barrier meeting at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

More than any other event, the Cold Spring Harbor meeting, held in 2014, showed Goldwaser the impact of the work he and his co-investigators had done. Cold Spring Harbor is a prestigious event, attracting representatives from all the largest pharma companies and research universities in the country.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say that, initially, I felt a little out of place there,” recalls Goldwaser. “No one there had heard of us, and I wondered if I fit in with this elite group of researchers. But I never found another group that was more impressed or more interested in the work we were doing. I was on my feet for the entire three hours of the poster presentation session, talking to people about our research and that scenario has been repeated at every conference I’ve attended since.”

Bound for the Univeristy of Maryland

Goldwaser says that kind of reception followed him around the country as he interviewed for acceptance into highly competitive residency programs in psychiatry and psychiatric research.

“Everywhere I interviewed all they wanted to talk about was the research I had done at Rowan. Across the board – whether it was at Washington University, Massachusetts General, Brown University or others – they kept telling me I was the most highly qualified research applicant they had ever seen.

“I’ve never felt more humbled and happy about my decision to come to SOM. There’s no place I would have rather been. The opportunities I had and the level of research I was able to do with Dr. Nagele were unmatched.”

His degrees earned during Commencement ceremonies on Thursday, May 10, Goldwaser now is preparing for the continuation of his dual medical and research careers. He and his fiancée Becca will move to Maryland, where he will enter the University of Maryland/Sheppard Pratt Physician Scientist Training Program (PSTP), one of the country’s most prestigious residency programs.

Part of the university’s Psychiatry Residency Training program, the Sheppard Pratt PTSP program provides training for physician scientists both for private practice and to be ready to assume faculty positions at medical schools or research universities.

And the significance of October 27, 2010? That is not only the date Goldwaser mailed his application to SOM, it was also the day he and Becca first dated. They will mark October 27 this year with a celebration of their marriage.