Dr. Joshua Hou Strives to Bring Ophthalmology Research From the Lab to the Clinic
October 1, 2019
Joshua Hou, MD, wanted a job in medicine where he could treat people’s eye conditions, engage in cutting-edge research and bring discoveries to the clinic to help patients. He found the perfect fit at the University of Minnesota Medical School where 40 percent of his time is dedicated to research.
An assistant professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Neurosciences, Hou sees patients with cornea concerns and external diseases and regularly performs surgery. It’s meaningful to Hou that his lab is situated in the Minnesota Lions Gift of Sight Eye Bank, which is owned by the Minnesota Lions Vision Foundation and managed by the University of Minnesota.
“A lot of the research we’re working on—developing new kinds of processing techniques for transplant tissue and new ways to modify the transplant tissue—often takes a while to get out to surgeons and patients,” he says. However, “by collaborating with the Eye Bank, a lot of my research can immediately get out to patients. This is because the Eye Bank already has an established infrastructure for integrating novel tissue products into surgical practice and distributing them to surgeons.”
Pursuing Research to Solve the Less Treated
Hou came to the Medical School after completing his ophthalmology residency and a fellowship in cornea and external disease at the University of Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary. He sought a career in academic medicine because of the freedom and diversity it affords him. As a clinician-scientist, he is able to be clinically active, while also pursuing research, and teaching residents and fellows. He also enjoys the collaborative environment of academic medicine. Treating patients with rare or difficult eye diseases often means consulting with others and taking a multidisciplinary approach, which Hou appreciates.
“In addition to the clinical side, I get to be in the lab and make new discoveries, present at research meetings and interact with other researchers and physicians from around the world,” he adds. “That’s incredibly rewarding.”
As a clinician-scientist, Hou aims to develop new treatments for diseases that don’t have many therapeutic options. Much of his research focuses on stem cells and creating therapies to treat severe ocular burns and autoimmune diseases that damage the ocular surface.
Hou also enjoys teaching and considers it another highlight or working in academic medicine. He works hard to incorporate new surgeries and procedures into his own clinical practice in order to enrich the learning experience of his students. He feels that preparing medical residents and fellows for the future is yet another way that he can contribute to the field.
Enthusiasm for Entrepreneurial Thinking Inspires Hou
Hou has found a home at the Medical School and an appreciation for the entrepreneurial spirit emanating across the University. He observes that the Medical School truly supports people who want to develop their ideas and translate them to patient care.
“The University of Minnesota is the perfect place for me because of how much they support entrepreneurial research and the people who want to get their ideas in the hands of patients, surgeons and physicians,” Hou says. “They see research all the way through until it gets to the bedside.”