Steven Brody: Advancing Science Through Collaboration
Pretty much for as long as he can remember, Steven Brody, MD, has been interested in learning how things work. At an early age, Dr. Brody spent spare hours tinkering with clocks and radios, learning how they worked and how their individual components fit together.
Steven Brody, MD
“I grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and was very influenced by the university environment—in fact, I went to elementary school a few blocks from the University of Michigan campus,” recalled Dr. Brody, who is associate professor in the department of internal medicine at Washington University School of Medicine.
“My father was a PhD researcher in pharmacology, and we always had grad students and post-docs as guests at holidays and get-togethers. Often, I would stop by the lab with him on weekends, and I later worked in labs during high school and college."
After receiving his undergraduate degree from Michigan State University and his MD from the University of Michigan, Dr. Brody left the Wolverine State to pursue his residency in internal medicine at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center in Ohio.
“I liked that the medical center was a city hospital, and I also met my wife there,” he said. “We were interns together, and we first argued about the proper way to draw blood cultures. That was 30 years ago!”
Dr. Brody’s next move—a year of locum tenens—resulted in what he calls one of the most interesting experiences of his career.
“Typically, I’d fill a position of a solo internist who had a huge practice and couldn’t find anyone to cover, either because it was a very small town or the practice was huge,” he explained. “As a newly minted internist, I didn’t have a practice style. Many of these guys did everything, from covering several nursing homes to seeing their patients in the ER, in the hospital and in the office.”
“Other settings were very unusual, like a 20-bed hospital in Humbolt County of northern California and a rural hospital in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains,” he continued.
After a year of broadly diverse experiences, Dr. Brody began work at Emory University’s Grady Memorial Hospital, where he underwent self-directed training in emergency and critical care medicine.
“I was given a junior faculty position in a broad division that did much of the acute care,” he explained. “During this time, I was fortunate enough to have some incredible role models in medical care and teaching.”
In considering his next move, Dr. Brody decided to look for fellowship positions where he could learn cell and molecular biology-based research, and wound up working at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).
“This was an experience for which I was not prepared, but it turned out to be one of the most significant influences that launched my career,” he recalled. “The lab chief, Dr. Ron Crystal, had established an incredible environment and attracted a truly remarkable group of postdoctoral fellows from around the world.”
“There was a wonderful bond between the lab members, and we all were inspired to work very hard,” he added. “The experience resulted in some of my most cherished friendships. The people in the lab with me then are now many of the leaders in pulmonary medicine.”
Dr. Brody left the NHLBI in 1994 to take a position at Washington University in St. Louis, where he continued his work in airway epithelial cell biology that he began at the NIH.
“The pulmonary and critical care research group at Washington University School of Medicine has been a strong environment for building and continuing to develop my research,” he said. “There are labs of world-class investigators in every hallway. Investigators are very generous in sharing knowledge, techniques and reagents. Collaborations are easy and I have had the opportunity to interact with multidisciplinary groups working on broad new concepts ranging from nanoparticles to drug development.”
Dr. Brody said he has also had the opportunity to develop wonderful working relationships.
“My lab team has been a great group,” he added. “I have enjoyed seeing young people develop and the pulmonary critical care fellows are exceptional. I have widely diverse experiences moving from the hospital team composed of great nurses and housestaff, back to the lab, to the classroom and to seminars. If I didn’t have to write and compete for grants, it would be a dream job!”
He also appreciates having the opportunity to review grants for the NIH and various foundations, an experience he says has served as a valuable continuing medical education. An ATS member since 1996, Dr. Brody has chaired the Assembly on Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology and served as a member of the Board of Directors from 2006 to 2008.
At the end of the working day, Dr. Brody says that relaxing with his family helps him recharge.
“Spending time with my wife, who is the director of transfusion medicine at Washington University School of Medicine, and our son, who is in college, is my favorite way to unwind,” he said. He also enjoys gardening, reading and swimming.