New Faculty Focus: Jo Wilson

Q&A with Jo Wilson, MD, instructor, Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Rheumatology

Jo WilsonHometown: Acworth, Georgia

Educational/professional background: I earned by BS in biochemistry at Kennesaw State University and my MD at Medical College of Georgia. I completed a residency in pediatrics and a fellowship in pediatric allergy and immunology at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center.

Previous position (title, institution): Pediatrics resident and allergy and immunology fellow at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center

How would you describe your work to a 5-year-old? My goals are to help children who have problems with allergies or with infections. I want to find out what is causing their problems and to make them feel better. I also work in a lab where we try to figure out new answers to why children sometimes get sick.

How did you get into your field of research or area of clinical care? I was highly allergic as a child and often hospitalized as a result. Throughout young adulthood, I had an ongoing curiosity about the underlying mechanisms of why children become sick with conditions similar to mine, and this led me to pursue the field of medicine. I ultimately chose pediatric allergy and immunology likely due to those early curiosities. I worked in a lab right out of college at Emory where we looked at innate immune escape in adenoviral infections. Since my time in that space, how viral infections affect the atopic child has been a main interest of mine. I continue to be passionate about that area of research and hope to continue that work here at the University of Wisconsin.

What attracted you to UW–Madison? The research going on at UW–Madison was highly consistent with my interests and experience. I was at a level of training where I wanted research independence but also wanted to have mentorship working with leaders in the field of viral infection and the interplay with atopic asthma. That is what brought me here.

What is your favorite thing to do in Madison? We recently moved but are loving Madison so far. Just in the brief time that we have lived here, we have gone camping in a beautiful location in western Wisconsin, we have memberships to the children’s museum, and are always going to a farmers’ market or some sort of outdoor event. My family and I just love it here so far.

What’s one thing you hope trainees will learn from you and your work? I hope that trainees can take away knowledge of the pediatric immune system as well as understanding pediatric atopy. I also hope that I portray passion and curiosity for research and underlying mechanisms of disease and why these things are so important to study.

Do you feel your work relates in any way to the Wisconsin Idea? If so, please describe how. I think that it does. Both with seeing children in the clinic and working with pediatric samples in the lab, I hope to better the lives of children outside of the UW living their daily lives. I also hope that working with students can also spark creativity and a passion for science that they can take forward.

What’s something interesting about your area of expertise you can share that will make us sound smarter during video chats and parties? Viruses are not alive or dead. Many people anthropomorphize viruses, giving them lifelike qualities, but they do not fit the classic definition of life given that they require the host machinery of a cell to self-sustain. But given that no organisms are completely self-supporting, maybe we should change our view?

What are some of your hobbies and other interests? My husband and I have three children, and we love to be active and be outside. We are always either playing in the yard, finding a playground, outdoor market, or something to go do on the weekends. We also love to camp as a family.