“I became determined to attend medical school after my grandfather was diagnosed with a type of leukemia called chronic lymphocytic leukemia,” recalls James Cooper ’17, who was recently accepted to the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo.
Pursuing a dual emphasis in medicine and immunology through the joint M.D.-Ph.D. program, Cooper will conduct research at the medical school’s affiliate hospital, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, where, incidentally, his grandfather was treated.
“It was terrible to see how both the cancer and the chemotherapy were deteriorating his body,” Cooper says. “The doctors couldn’t find a combination of chemotherapy that he responded to, and it seemed all the pain the treatments caused were in vain. But right when we had begun to think the options for treatment were depleted, a doctor at Roswell Park Cancer Institute decided to try an experimental treatment as a last ditch effort. My grandfather responded to the treatment, and he was in remission for five years.”
Cooper hopes that through the program at the University of Buffalo, he will be able “to play an active role in both developing novel treatments through medical research, like the one that saved my grandfather’s life, and having the ability to directly use these developments to help patients in the clinic.”
A biochemistry major and philosophy minor, Cooper recently completed an Honors project in the field of immunology. Under the guidance of Professor of Biology Sigrid Carle, Cooper’s project was a collaborative effort with the lab of Dr. Kelvin Lee, department chair of Immunology at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, and Adam Utley, a pre-doctoral candidate of immunology. The project helps deepen the understanding of multiple myeloma (a cancer of plasma cells), as well as the plasma cells themselves.
Active on campus and off, Cooper is a member of the HWS Pre-Health Club, the Hobart Rugby Club, Kappa Sigma Fraternity, and is co-vice president of HWS Girl Up and a Campus Peer Minister. He has volunteered at the Humane Society of Yates County as well as Journeys End Refugee Service and the Ronald McDonald House, both in Buffalo.