Joseph Church, MD joins the Section of Pediatric Surgery as a Clinical Assistant Professor. He attended the University of Notre Dame and received a B.S. in Biological Sciences (2004-2008) before earning his MD at the University of Michigan Medical School (2008-2012). He completed a General Surgery Residency program at Michigan Medicine (2012-2019) and then Pediatric Surgery Fellowship at Michigan Medicine as well (2019-2021). His research interests include Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH), Extracorporeal Life Support (ECLS), and Lung Growth/Development and Pulmonary Hypertension, and his clinical specialty is pediatric surgery. He is a member of the American Pediatric Surgical Association (APSA) and Association for Academic Surgery (AAS) as well as an associate fellow for the American College of Surgeons (ACS).
Get to Know Dr. Church
Q. Why Michigan Medicine? Tell us what excites you about being a part of the team.
A. I was fortunate to be a part of Michigan Medicine during my surgical training, both general and pediatric. During that time, I came to appreciate the integration of excellent clinical care with a constant drive to move the surgical field forward, whether that be through work in the laboratory or by analyzing how we deliver that care to patients. This was all in the setting of culture of collegiality that made coming to work enjoyable. I am excited to contribute to this culture, and to be a part in training our students and future surgeons so they can do the same.
Q. Why surgery? Tell us what led you down this path.
A. I have always enjoyed building and fixing things. There is a real reward in seeing tangible results of problem solving and hard work. When I became acquainted with surgery during medical school, it naturally fit with that mentality. More importantly, I enjoyed the unique relationships with patients that came from providing surgical care, and I still do.
Q. What drew you to your specialty?
A. In short, the patient population drew me to pediatric surgery. I have always loved working with kids, and before going into surgery had spent time as a camp counselor, coach, and tutor. Children are innocent, resilient, and fun. Working with them as they recover from a condition or operation, and them seeing them doing well in the aftermath, is incredibly rewarding.
Q. What drew you to your research interests?
A. Many of the neonatal problems that we treat in pediatric surgery have their root in abnormal fetal development. One of these conditions that I found especially interesting is congenital diaphragmatic hernia, or CDH. This condition, within which the diaphragm does not completely develop, results in lungs that are too small (pulmonary hypoplasia), with blood pressure that is too high (pulmonary hypertension). Despite decades of research and improvements in clinical care, still roughly one in four babies with CDH die from the disease. Clearly we have work to do, and I wanted to contribute to that progress.
Q. What’s your secret talent?
A. Perhaps it's not a secret to the operating room team, but I am pretty good at whistling. Inherently tied to that talent is the ability to get a song stuck in others’ heads.
Q. Favorite procedure and why?
A. Perhaps not surprising, but I would have to say congenital diaphragmatic hernia repair. Each patient is different, and therefore so is each repair, so there is a bit of an art to it. These procedures, and patients, also require robust collaboration between many teams (surgeons, neonatologists, and anesthesiologists to name a few), which only adds to the reward and privilege of caring for these babies.
Q. Favorite way to spend time outside of the hospital or lab?
A. When not at the hospital or lab, I am with my wife and two kids. These days that means going to a lot of hockey and soccer games, shooting baskets in the driveway, and playing music.