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Faculty Focus: Jason Barker, MD

Date: Monday, November 4, 2019

Jason Barker, MDWhat is your hometown?

Houston, TX

How/when did you become interested in science and/or medicine?

I was always interested in science and medicine. In elementary school, my favorite TV show was “Cosmos”, and I was a big Carl Sagan fan. I cannot remember exactly when I started to like infectious diseases, but I do remember reading Laurie Garrett’s “The Coming Plague” and Richard Preston’s “The Hot Zone” in college. So, I was already intrigued by then.

When did you join the University of Iowa faculty?

2005, after doing my fellowship in infectious diseases here from 2002-2005.

How or why did you choose to join the faculty at the University of Iowa?

The University of Iowa provided a supportive environment in which to establish a research career, and I appreciated the commitment to teaching at all levels.

Is there a teacher or mentor who helped shape your career?

Dr. Jerrold Weiss has been an enormous source of help and encouragement since my arrival at Iowa.

How do you see your faculty role impacting medicine and/or science?

First, I hope to reveal insights into how infectious diseases frustrate host defense. With respect to teaching, I hope to teach students not just the material but ways to better engage and master the material.

What is the biggest change you've experienced in your field since you were a student?

Molecular techniques have changed the diagnosis of infectious diseases and revealed an enormous amount of complexity. Also, we now appreciate better how microbes contribute to health, and not just disease.

What one piece of advice would you give to today's students?

Find what you love and stick with it. It is a blessing to get to learn something new and interesting every day at work.

In what ways are you engaged in professional activities outside the University (i.e. population-based research, mentoring high school students, sharing your leadership/ expertise with organizations or causes, speaking engagement off campus, etc.)?

I volunteer for Houses into Homes, a local charity co-founded by my wife, Lucy. It provides mattresses and furniture to individuals and families transitioning out of homelessness. My roles consist of driving a 26-foot truck, lifting stuff, and taking care of some of the organization’s accounting.

What are some of your outside (personal) interests?

I play guitar as much as time allows. As an aside: I am looking for a roots-rock band in need of a part-time lead guitarist.

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