Faculty Spotlight: Marina Diioia, PhD

 Dr. Marina Diioia serves as Associate Professor for Microbiology and Immunology at the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Dr. Diioia’s passion for immunology and infectious disease research began as an undergraduate Lab Assistant at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology in 2004. From there, she went on to earn her B.S. in Biology from California State University San Marcos, followed by a Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Pathology from the University of Wisconsin­ Madison. Prior to joining the faculty of ICOM, she worked in medical device development before returning to academia as an Assistant Professor for Microbiology and Immunology at Midwestern University where she taught Medical Microbiology and Immunology courses while serving as the Vice Chair of the Biosafety Committee. 

Dr. Diioia’s research interests include how intracellular bacterial pathogens evade the immune system and identifying pathogenic mechanisms that can be exploited for vaccine development. She recently shifted research focus from zoonotic disease to antibiotic­ resistant nosocomial pathogens. Increasing antimicrobial resistance in hospital­ acquired infections necessitates immediate work towards better vaccination strategies. She loves to involve students in her research and believes that it helps to broaden the perspective of medical students in understanding the work involved in bringing medicine from the laboratory to human use.

Q: What inspired you to pursue infectious disease?

A: When I learned that our bodies could recognize and respond to countless pathogens without ever having been exposed to them before, I was hooked. I still haven’t satisfied my hunger for knowledge of how, exactly, the immune system works, I learn new things all of the time. Why do some people get sick and others don’t?  Why do some vaccines work really well and others…not so much?  A lifetime is not long enough to learn it all about the constantly evolving and changing arms race between pathogens and the immune system.

Q: Why did you decide to work for ICOM?

A: The decision to come to ICOM was an easy one for me. I felt the passion of everyone I encountered during the interview process and the electricity of being a founding team member. I was excited by the challenge of developing curriculum on a clean slate. 

Q: What is your most favorite memory throughout your time at ICOM? 

A: I especially loved the time at ICOM right before our first class started in the summer of 2018. The new building opened and there was a strong, shared sense of responsibility for the success of the new school and our first students. The mood was enthusiastic and frantic and full of hope. I still often feel those things with the added camaraderie among the faculty and students who have made it through the first two years of ICOM together.

Q: What is the best part of your job?

A: The best part of my job is working with our students. ICOM students are bold, driven, funny, and inspiring! They keep me on my toes and often find ways to stump me with difficult, interesting questions. Being a part of their journey inspires me to be a better professor, a better mentor, and a better advocate. I arrive each morning not knowing what the day will hold, but excited to interact with our student body. I love hearing stories of understanding and triumph over difficult subject matter and concepts. I get to share in their joy of being able to apply what they have learned to real patients and the great responsibility that comes along with that. ICOM students are the best!

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

A: Wash your hands.

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