Faculty Spotlight: Andrea Belovich, PhD

Dr. Andrea Belovich serves as Assistant Professor of Pharmacology at the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine. Dr. Belovich earned her Ph.D. in Pharmacology from Vanderbilt University and completed the Neuroscience Program in Substance Abuse (N-PISA) training program from the Vanderbilt Brain Institute. While at Vanderbilt, she sought ways to serve her academic and local communities through lecturing and mentoring Vanderbilt students and directing research projects for undergraduate and beginning graduate students. She also developed curriculum and coursework for doctoral and undergraduate students and presented at outreach venues to educate the public about science. 

Dr. Belovich has been published in several academic journals, including Nature Chemical Biology, and has presented her research at the Society for Neuroscience’s Annual Meetings and the Gordon Research Conference on Catecholamines. Her dissertation research was also supported by a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award from the National Institutes of Health. Prior to attending Vanderbilt, Dr. Belovich graduated summa cum laude from the Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry with an emphasis in Medicinal Chemistry.

Q: What inspired you to work in pharmacology?

A: My decision to work in the field of Pharmacology was influenced by a fascination with drug discovery and the design of novel pharmacotherapeutics. I wanted to develop new tools for physicians to use in treating patients with “untreatable” conditions. After I finished my undergraduate studies, I had the amazing opportunity to train as a research scientist with the faculty at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. During my time there, I gravitated towards the intersection of pharmacology, neuroscience, and substance abuse. I found the complexity and challenges associated with researching the molecular, physiological, and behavioral mechanisms of drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine to be especially meaningful.

Q: Why did you decide to work for ICOM?

A: I enjoy the challenges of biomedical research, but I also strongly believe in the importance of training others how to understand and apply the knowledge it produces. Joining the faculty at ICOM represented an opportunity for me to achieve this in two very fundamental ways: 1) as a medical educator, I could contribute directly to the knowledge base of future physicians and 2) as a founding team member, I had the chance to help build and shape a new medical training program. When I started with ICOM a few years ago, I knew this position was going to involve some monumental challenges, but I was sold on the school’s mission. Most importantly, I knew the people I’d be working with shared my enthusiasm and passion for medical education.

Q: You’ve been involved in several research projects. Which one is your most memorable and why?

A: Each research endeavor represents its own unique rewards and challenges, so it’s difficult to pick just one to highlight, but one of my favorite projects involved using Drosophila melanogaster (a.k.a., fruit flies) to study the behavioral impact of amphetamines. Drosophila is actually a pretty useful model for studying how different genes and certain pharmacological treatments contribute to an organism’s behavior. Since fruit flies aren’t nearly as complex as humans, it’s much easier to identify the underlying mechanisms of behavioral effects of drugs like methamphetamine. It’s also a great model to use in studying factors that might reduce or prevent those behavioral effects. That was definitely one of my favorite projects.

Q: What is the best part of your job?

A: One of the best parts of my job is being part of the community of ICOM. My faculty, staff, and administrative colleagues are among the most generous and dedicated individuals I’ve known. I love the fact that I get to keep learning with them and from them on a daily basis. I have a deep respect for the effort and passion they have selflessly invested in our school and our students—often going above and beyond to serve. However, the absolute best part of my job is when I get to observe this same strength of character in our students. Despite the rigorous (and often stressful) training they’re undergoing, I’ve seen some incredible displays of generosity of spirit and kindness towards other students, ICOM employees, and our community. I’m very excited to see the physicians they will become.

Q: What advice do you have for ICOM’s student-doctors as they prepare to become physicians?

A: The first step to growing past your limitations is to understand that you have them in the first place. Be kind and generous to yourself when you reach and identify your limits, and don’t ever be afraid to ask for help when you need to overcome them.

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