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Webb Camille sees research as key to improving health of patients

MD/PhD student active on UMMS campus; launches group to address food insecurity in Everett

By Kylee Denesha

UMass Medical School Communications

February 01, 2021

MD/PhD student Webb Camille has been fascinated by health and science for as long as he can remember.

“My mom has told me that at around 6 years old, I used tree branches shaped like stethoscopes to ‘listen’ to her lungs,” said Camille, who was born and raised in Haiti. “My interest in the human body and medicine started very early on.”

Camille, his mother and brothers moved to the United States in 2002. They lived in about 13 different homes within a four-year period, spanning several states. They moved to Everett when Camille was in middle school and have lived there ever since.

“I created a path in high school and college that was geared toward the sciences,” he said. “I majored in biology and minored in chemistry at Salem State University. In that time, I was doing research on cilia and it made me realize the impact these studies have on patients, so I knew a physician-scientist career would be for me.”

Camille participated in UMass Medical School’s Summer Undergraduate Research Program during his senior year of college. The structured research experience, sponsored by the Office of Outreach Programs, consists of hands-on laboratory research for participants with an investigator serving as a mentor, role model and advisor. It is designed to expose students to in-depth biomedical research and is funded by the National Institutes of Health and the UMMS Provost’s Office Summer Undergraduate Research Experience.

“I had the chance to get acquainted with the faculty and get a sense of the culture at UMass Medical School,” he said.

Camille recently completed lab rotations to explore the opportunities on campus. He spent time in the lab of Paul L. Greer, PhD, assistant professor of molecular medicine, studying microglia and their implications in Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, and the lab of Zuoshang Xu, MD, PhD, professor of biochemistry & molecular pharmacology, looking at cross sections of spinal cords and motor neurons that were dying due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

“The lab rotations are really interesting because they’re not really about doing research. It’s really about getting a feel for the lab,” Camille said. “The people were so informative, collaborative and ready to help. That’s something I really enjoy about science.”

When he’s not immersed in coursework, Camille is involved in a variety of extracurricular activities. He’s part of the Action for Equity and Inclusion Committee, a UMMS community working group; the American Medical Association and Massachusetts Medical Society; and he recently started his own nonprofit organization called One Leaf Corporation.

“Our goal is to fight food insecurity in my hometown of Everett and surrounding cities. We’re working with public schools to revitalize gardens, create compost beds and implement educational forums to teach students how to grow their own food and reduce waste. It’s amazing being able to give back to a diverse city and help residents hone their skills to supply for themselves,” Camille said.

After earning his degrees, he sees a future as a hospitalist as well as a principal investigator, allowing him to do bench and clinical research that will ultimately benefit his patients.

“I really like the idea of creating a path for new therapeutics and treatments and bettering the overall health of a large group of patients,” he said. “Part of being a scientist is the fact that you're helping humanity for the sake of altruism and for the sake of humanity itself.”

The Student Spotlight series features students in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Graduate School of Nursing and School of Medicine. For more information about UMass Medical School and how to apply, visit the Prospective Students page.

Related links on UMassMed News:
Second-year med student Angela Essa studying diet and hypertension in pregnant women
‘My heart is in community health’ says Graduate School of Nursing student Helen Tsiagras
MD/PhD student Laël Ngangmeni dedicated to women’s health equity and justice
Inspired by care cousin received for rare genetic disorder, Ryan Barrette wants to give back