University of Pittsburgh

Student Profiles

Joshua Levenson, Class of 2011

Joshua Levenson

Pittsburgh, Pa.

I was born in Boston and lived there for the first two years of my life. But my parents were both from Pittsburgh and wanted to move back. Seems like I inherited that yearning to move back to Pittsburgh, too.

Alma mater: Amherst College.

I majored in chemistry. I took a lot of biology and Spanish courses, too, but as a liberal arts school, Amherst doesn’t offer minors. I did genetics and biochemistry research over the summers, and I studied polymer-clay nanocomposites for my thesis work. During the long nights of lab work, I found myself holding conversations with both polymers and bacteria, but soon realized that they wouldn’t talk back to me. So I decided to go to medical school. I also helped to run the volunteer EMS service and a social and political journal called The Indicator. Amherst was a wonderful school and going there was a wonderful time in my life.

Favorite course at Pitt Med
Cardiology. The course director, who has been in charge of the course for probably 30 years, beat-boxes all of the different heart murmurs. It was both educational and inspirational.

Favorite food in Scaife cafeteria
The oranges. Between October and March, you can’t find a bad orange in the cafeteria – some days, I think I should do my produce shopping there. Actually, I think some of my classmates do buy produce there.

Favorite place in Pittsburgh
The dinosaur exhibit in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. During my first year at Pitt Med, I took a mini-elective on the natural history of medicine and got to meet many of the curators at the museum. I love taking friends from out of town to tell them about the specimens and how they relate to what I’m learning in school. Also, it just brings out the kid in me.

Favorite memory of Pitt Med
Intensive Research Week at Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory (MDBIL). The day after the last examination, 14 of my classmates and I boarded a plane for a week-long trip to the MDIBL near Bar Harbor, Maine. Pitt Med faculty supervised our research of topics like frog oocytes and skate rectal glands. In our off time we hiked, biked, and sea-kayaked. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget.

Favorite ice cream flavor
Chocolate chip cookie dough. If you haven’t tried it at Dave and Andy’s (an ice cream shop near the medical school), you really haven’t lived.

Why you chose Pitt Med
The research opportunities. Other schools might have more research going on, but I would be hard pressed to find a group of faculty that so openly invites students into their labs. Why I think you should choose Pitt Med: The early clinical opportunities. I didn’t realize when I interviewed that at least one afternoon per month during the first two years would be devoted to clinical skills. The first few months rely on standardized patients to improve history taking and the physical exam. After that, students are either in a doctor’s office shadowing physicians or in the wards doing H & P’s on real patients.

Favorite Book
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. In short, the devil comes to atheistic, Soviet Moscow in the 1920s. The story involves witches, Jesus, and a gigantic talking cat named Behemoth who likes to play chess and drink vodka. Favorite Comic Strip: Calvin and Hobbes.

Favorite things to do when not studying
Tennis or indoor rock climbing with classmates.

Favorite Pitt Med Event
The Birmingham Clinic Benefit Auction. Two years in a row I have served as an auctioneer for an auction benefiting the Birmingham Free Health Clinic. Students and faculty donate wonderful gifts. Then my classmate Brian Gulack and I dress up in costume and auction away. We’ve raised over $5,000 from just two auctions, and all of the money went directly to the clinic – and thus to patients who can’t afford insurance or adequate healthcare.

Our Mission

The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Mission Statement

The mission of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine is to improve the health and well-being of individuals and populations through cutting-edge biomedical research, innovative educational programs in medicine and biomedical science, and leadership in academic medicine.