Westmont Magazine A Heart to Help Cancer Patients
A native of Minnesota, Dr. Joshua Pritchett ’11 chose Westmont for its reputable pre-med program. After earning his degree, he returned home and graduated from the University of Minnesota Medical School. Through a pres¬tigious residency and fellowship at the Mayo Clinic—also in Minnesota—he pursues his interest in combining research and working with patients.
“I wasn’t a conventional medical school candidate,” Josh says. “While good enough, my grades and test scores weren’t the best. But as I got involved in research and clinical investigation, I learned to value curiosity and creativity, which come more naturally to me than classroom work. I love to think about new things and ask, ‘What are we not doing?’”
A biology major at Westmont with a minor in chemistry, Josh spent two years in the lab with Professor Steve Julio, his first scientific mentor. “Steve let me learn, grow and fail as I worked on the Bordetella virus with him,” Josh says. “Westmont has a vibrant scientific community, and I was able to contribute early on. I went to medical school well prepared through my education and my opportunities to conduct research and think creatively and collaboratively.”
Josh received a choral scholarship and sang with the Westmont College Choir for four years. “It was one of the best things I did,” he says. “I learned so much and appreciated the gift of this constant creative space in the midst of the pre-med program.” He also made close friends as a Potter’s Clay core team leader and still gets together with them.
After graduating in December 2010, he looked for something to do while applying to medical school. He took a job with the HHV-6 Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Santa Barbara that encourages study of Human Herpes Virus 6. “I worked with physicians and researchers to set up creative and innovative research projects, collaborating with labs and investigators around the world.” he says.
A personal experience in medical school deeply touched him. His mother-in-law, Darla, was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer during his first year and died before he graduated. “Walking alongside Darla, I saw firsthand the role her physicians played throughout her journey. It was such a difficult time, but I discovered the physician I wanted to be.” He chose cancer-related research and a career caring for people with the disease. When his residency ends in a year and he earns board certification in internal medicine, he’ll stay at the Mayo Clinic for a three-year fellowship in hematology and oncology that combines research and work with patients.
While his prior research focused on infections in immune-compromised patients—such as those undergoing bone-marrow transplants or receiving chemotherapy—he has begun work with people suffering from cancers of the blood and immune system, such as lymphoma. “It’s exciting to see the research exploding in this area,” he says. “As we learn more about the intricacies of our immune system, I’m increasingly interested in how we might harness it to fight cancer. The field of immunotherapy is still young but holds incredible hope for patients.”
While he plans to stay active in research throughout his career, Josh intends to maintain a clinical practice at the bedside. This balance fits perfectly with his liberal arts background and training. “I benefited greatly from my education, which has helped me understand, cultivate and appreciate the creative side of medicine,” he says. “So much of who I am as a researcher, physician and person comes from my experiences at Westmont.”
Josh met his wife, Kimberly Hatcher Pritch¬ett ’10, at Westmont; she has two sisters who also attended the college (Leslie Hatcher ’09 and Rachel Hatcher ’14). Kimberly earned a kinesiol¬ogy major in three years and a master’s in occu-pational therapy and works as an occupational and hand therapist. Their daughter, Jane, is 2.