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From teaching in the Peace Corps to healing in the Army Medical Corps

Brent Nosé is posing for a photo as he is handed a certificate and shaking the hand of  a Peace Corps official at the end of his in-country training during his swearing-in ceremony in  Guatemala.
By Christopher Austin

A lot can happen in seven years: you can start as a political science major who is volunteering in the Peace Corps, teaching students in Guatemala about washing their hands, and before too long you are a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army graduating from medical school.

This was the path that Brent Nosé took to his graduation from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences’ (USU) F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine.

Originally from California, Nosé attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he was studying to be a lawyer. It wasn’t until that trip to Guatemala in 2010 that he was exposed to medical missions and saw first-hand what it means to be a doctor.

“I really like the tangible impact you are able to have on individuals,” Nosé said. “After I came back, I did all my premed courses at Columbia [University], where I wound up working at the Center for Translational Immunology.”

This job inspired an interest in in the field of immunology, and in particular, transplant surgery. Another fortunate turn was an encounter with a recruiter from USU.

Brent Nosé holds a shovel in front of his home in Guatemala from his time there as part  of the Peace Corps. The area is soaked from a recent rain that flooded his home.
Brent Nose holds a shovel in front of his home in Guatemala, which had flooded during a rain storm in 2010. (Image Credit: Brent Nose)

“I really liked the idea of serving in the military. I think I have always wanted to serve, but never knew [in] what capacity I could,” he said. “I was more interested in academia... seeing that I could be in medicine in the military helped me decide.”
USU’s research focus is military-relevant science, particularly combat and trauma medicine, Nosé said. He was worried at first that he wouldn’t be able to pursue research in immunology for his capstone project. That was until he met his research mentor, Dr. Andrew Snow, assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Molecular Therapeutics at USU.

“Brent’s terrific. When he first approached me, he made it clear he had quite a bit to do in terms of his clerkship, classwork, and rotations,” Snow said. “Normally, for these capstone projects, the medical students are given a month of dedicated time to do the research. Brent started much earlier than that and made time, despite his busy schedule, to get in the lab, learn some techniques and help us perform assays well before he had his dedicated research month.”

Nosé was a boon to Snow’s lab as he took it upon himself to learn new bioinformatics software that helped analyze gene expression data for the team’s research projects. His expertise helped propel research outside of the work he was doing for his own capstone project.

Nosé later admitted that his goal wasn’t just to understand his own topic, but to better understand the process of research and the immune system as a whole.

Army 2 nd Lt. Brent Nosé explains his capstone project, “Gene Expression Profiling  Informs Mechanistic Understanding of Differentiation Defects and Apoptosis Resistance in  BENTA B cells,” to Army 2 nd Lt. Zhao Li during the Research Days 2017 poster presentation in  the breezeway at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.
Army 2 nd Lt. Brent Nosé explains his capstone project, “Gene Expression Profiling  Informs Mechanistic Understanding of Differentiation Defects and Apoptosis Resistance in  BENTA B cells,” to Army 2 nd Lt. Zhao Li during the Research Days 2017 poster presentation in  the breezeway at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

His research, presented at USU’s Research Days alongside several other graduating students’ capstone projects, focused on a rare condition called B cell expansion with NF-kB and T cell anergy – or BENTA – and how it may increase risk for developing lymphoma later in life. In light of his work, Nosé was one of the students chosen to receive the Emma L. Bockman Award, which annually recognizes outstanding medical and graduate students for their research, accomplishments, academic performance and community service.

Nosé had two weeks off after graduation and then he started his intern year in general surgery at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Once he’s finished, he heads to Duke University for urology training.

“I think I would be very happy as a general urologist,” he said. “But if I was to be ambitious and get my way, I’d do oncology or transplants, kidney specifically.”

Snow hopes that, even though he’s pursuing a career in surgery, Nosé might continue his interest in laboratory research someday.

“I wish I had him around for longer,” Snow said, “but he’s on to bigger and better things.”