Why OSU's Dr. Joshua Joseph returned to serve his hometown
Dr. Joshua Joseph, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center: Pathway to Population Health award, Columbus CEO Healthcare Achievement 2021
Dr. Joshua Joseph remembers the day he realized he wanted to study medicine.
It was the day his grandmother went to the hospital clenching her chest—she had type II diabetes, and she suffered from a heart attack. She came home, but would later return to St. Anthony’s, known today as Ohio State University Hospital East. That time, she wouldn’t return home to the family on the Near East Side of Columbus.
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His grandmother had a profound impact on his life, Joseph says, and was the foundation for his personal mission toward the prevention and better treatment of chronic disease, including heart disease and diabetes.
Today, Joseph is assistant professor of medicine in the endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism division at OSU Wexner Medical Center.
For Joseph, his education served as stepping stones, representative of the points in his career that he became passionate about eliminating health disparities, becoming a researcher and studying population health.
After acceptance to Boston University School of Medicine’s early medical school program, where Joseph would also earn his Doctor of Medicine, he served as the president of the Student National Medicine Association, where he interacted with underserved communities to gather research on disparities in healthcare, especially for African Americans.
“What we saw was that many of the communities that were really hit hard by diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and many other chronic diseases were communities with individuals that look like myself and other people in my organization,” Joseph says. “They kind of look like my grandmother, my grandfather and my parents.”
Joseph later completed a clinical research fellowship at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, where he realized he had a passion for research, he says. After, he completed a residency at Yale, where he founded the Yale Primary Care Center Weight Management and Wellness Clinic.
He followed with an endocrinology fellowship at Johns Hopkins, where he realized he wanted to work in population health—the final piece of the puzzle, he says. Under the mentorship of Dr. Sherita Golden, vice president and chief diversity officer of the school, he began to study risk factors at the population level.
Since moving back to Columbus and starting his current role in 2016, Joseph’s desire to eliminate health disparities at the population level has continued to grow.
Of his more recent programs is Black Impact 100, a six-month lifestyle program in collaboration with the African American Male Wellness Agency to help improve the health of Black men through continuous research, application and community engagement.
The program, led by Dr. Timiya Nolan, Dr. Darrell Gray II, and Joseph, a board member of the American Heart Association, aims to improve what the association defines as “Life’s Simple Seven,” or the seven factors known to be important in preventing cardiovascular disease and diabetes: blood sugar, blood cholesterol, blood glucose, BMI, physical activity, diet and smoking status.
When assessing these variables in the Black male community, it was clear there was plenty of room for research and opportunity to improve health outcomes. For the program, 100 Black men were recruited for health coaching and weekly exercise and education. A month into the study, the men already were seeing results.
“The way that I think about solving these disparities and solving these inequities is really working with communities, co-creating, co-developing solutions,” Joseph says.
In the view of Autumn Glover, president of Partners Achieving Community Transformation, which works to improve lives on the Near East Side, and a director of the civic and community engagement group at the medical center, Joseph’s ability to be in both the lab and the community is one of his most defining qualities, she says. Of her favorite memories with Joseph is the Mask Up program following Covid-19.
The program, launched shortly after the rise of the pandemic, aimed to deliver care kits to underserved communities in central Ohio. In the end, over 46,000 masks were distributed.
“I think the beautiful thing is that he is also in the community very directly,” Glover says. “He’s out there on the frontlines, engaging with the public. Many of our community members feel like he’s their brother, their nephew, their son.”
For Joseph, his work wouldn’t be the same without the chance to interact with people each day. That alone is enough to keep him passionate about his practice.
“It really is the people and the relationships that excite me every day,” he says. “I have a deep passion for trying to really solve these health inequities along with the communities. That’s what really gives me the motivation to wake up every day and to do this work.”
Dr. Joshua Joseph
Assistant professor of medicine, endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
In role since: 2016
Experience: Instructor of medicine, division of general internal medicine, department of internal medicine, Yale; founder and director of Yale Primary Care Center Weight Management and Wellness Clinic, department of internal medicine, Yale
Education: Master of Public Health, Ohio State University; Christopher Saudek fellow in diabetes research, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; MD, Boston University School of Medicine, 2009; BS, Morehouse College, 2003
Community involvement: Research, lecture and community programs at the local, state and national levels.