Graduate Student Spotlight: Jonathon Campbell

UBC Pharm Sci PhD candidate Jonathon Campbell on changing career direction, “aha” moments, and building a cost-effective model for tuberculosis screening

Jonathon Campbell

You came to UBC from Toronto, after studying pharmaceutical chemistry at the University of Toronto, and working in the biochemistry lab at Toronto General Hospital. Why did you choose the West Coast and UBC for your graduate studies?

JC: I lived in Toronto my whole life and so when I was presented with the opportunity to complete graduate school outside the province, especially in beautiful British Columbia, I couldn’t say no. I arrived nearly three years ago and have not once regretted my decision. The university and city are incredible.

Your PhD research focus is on the cost-effectiveness of various screening strategies for latent tuberculosis in the foreign-born population. What inspired you to pursue this area of study?

JC: I focused primarily on wet lab research as an undergraduate student and early in my career. I personally found the repetitive nature and extensive work required to develop protocols disheartening. When Dr. Fawziah Lalji offered me an innovative project within her lab at UBC Pharm Sci, the chance to shift my career path in the direction of health economics and outcomes research was exciting. We’ve been moving forward with the project, have crossed the largest hurdles, and the future looks bright.

Jonathon Campbell at UBC Pharm Sci Summer BBQ; Whistler

Have you had any particular “aha” moments or breakthroughs in your work that stand out in your mind?

JC: The crux of my research is building a cost-effectiveness model for latent tuberculosis screening and my main goal (other than accuracy) is to ensure model efficiency. I’ve had quite a few “aha” moments when it comes to streamlining model decisions. As is typical of these moments, they tend to happen once I’ve stepped away from that area of the research! Just recently I figured out a way to incorporate reactivation as an underlying process rather than as a consistently re-evaluated decision.

How does your work have the potential to change policy regarding tuberculosis screening?

JC: Tuberculosis in countries such as Canada is largely a result of latent disease reactivation, rather than active case transmission. Tuberculosis screening programs are therefore increasingly geared towards identifying groups with the highest risk for latent disease and subsequent reactivation. My research focuses on screening in diabetics and chronic kidney disease patients – two diseases that are increasing in prevalence at staggering rates and increase the likelihood of tuberculosis reactivation. By identifying the subgroups within these two disease states that benefit the most from screening, we can advise decision makers on where to focus resources to help achieve tuberculosis elimination in BC and across Canada.

You’re a teaching assistant, were part of Pharmaceutical Sciences Faculty Research and Awards Day organizing committee, and have received several awards, including the John H. McNeill Scholarship for 2014-2015. What advice would you give a prospective UBC Pharm Sci graduate student on how to make the most of their experience?

JC: My advice is to get involved and stay involved. I’ve made the most of my time here by participating as a Pharmaceutical Sciences Graduate Student Society (PharGS) executive, volunteering on various committees, and attending student-organized events. Grad school is much more enjoyable when you’re active and involved. These opportunities will also help to build your CV.

What do you do in your spare time?

JC: In my spare time I like to get outdoors and enjoy what Vancouver has to offer. This means trips to Whistler in the winter, and in the summer I hike, head to Stanley Park, or go south of the border to Washington and Oregon. I’m also involved with Let’s Talk Science, a great organization that allows me to visit primary school students several times a year to do fun science-oriented activities like making DIY lava lamps.

Learn more about the UBC PhD in pharmaceutical sciences

Image Credits: (Header, Top Left) Ivan Yastrebov. All other images thanks to Jonathon Campbell.

About this series

Graduate Student Spotlight is an ongoing interview series designed to highlight our exceptional PhD and MSc candidates and their work, achievements, and experiences at UBC Pharm Sci.