May 16, 2019 — Each year, the University of Florida recognizes a number of young alumni who stand apart as leaders within their fields, an elite group of people who hit the ground running and contribute positively to the enduring legacy of the Gator Nation a few short years after graduating. This year, a pair of UF College of Medicine alumni — Jeffrey Brower, Ph.D. ’08, M.D. ’12, and Adam Mecca Ph.D. ’10, M.D. ’12 — were named among UF’s 40 under 40 during a ceremony held April 13.
Established in 2006, the 40 under 40 designation and Outstanding Young Alumni awards recognize those who have made a “significant impact” within their industry and those who have made “civic or professional accomplishments at the state, national or international level.”
Jeffrey Brower earned a doctorate in molecular biology from the UF College of Medicine. As a student, he received the Alumni Fellowship and Medical Guild award for his research, which led to the discovery of a gene responsible for cellular respiration and energy metabolism. After graduating from medical school with research honors, he trained in radiation oncology at the University of Wisconsin, where he participated in clinical research, publishing more than 25 manuscripts. In 2017, Brower joined Radiation Oncology Associates of New Hampshire and Massachusetts where he treats most solid cancers and provides specialty care for patients with gynecological cancers.
Brower says his interest in pursuing radiation oncology stems from an interest in cancer biology, physics and a desire to care for patients facing some of the toughest moments in their lives. He remembers being inspired by the ShandsCair helicopter while walking to class as an undergraduate, thinking about the care being provided to those in their moments of greatest need.
“I thought at first I would pursue a career as a trauma surgeon, but then after interacting with my mentors, I gravitated toward radiation oncology, a situation where you are provided the unique opportunity to have a meaningful impact at a very trying time in many individuals’ lives,” he says.
Brower calls his career both challenging and fulfilling.
“It is very rewarding when we can cure someone’s cancer. However, many times, we cannot. Providing patients comfort as they transition — even if it’s toward the end of their life — is very meaningful,” Brower says.
Adam Mecca worked at the UF College of Medicine Equal Access Clinic Network throughout his decade of undergraduate and graduate training, an experience that provided him with skills in both patient care and leadership. After graduating, Mecca completed a residency in psychiatry and a fellowship in geriatric psychiatry at Yale University. In his current faculty role as an assistant professor of psychiatry and the associate director of the Yale Alzheimer’s Disease Research Unit, Mecca leads a team in conducting clinical research to understand the biology of and test potential therapies for Alzheimer’s disease.
Mecca says his work aims to discover biomarkers that track the effectiveness of Alzheimer’s therapies, which in turn may speed up the drug development process.
“The research is slow going, hard and takes a tremendous amount of team effort. It’s a lesson for every researcher: tolerate all the failure that comes along with discovery,” Mecca says. “Successes can be somewhat minor, but each one builds on the last. I really enjoy the process and I enjoy what I do. I’m very lucky.”
Mecca credits several UF Health mentors who helped him discover his passion for research, a feeling that continues to drive his career.
“Starting in the summer of my undergraduate freshman year, I worked with Michael Katovich, Ph.D., in the UF College of Pharmacy doing biomedical research on the cardiovascular system. I fell in love with doing medical research during this time. Katovich showed me how helpful it is to be given autonomy but also guidance,” Mecca says. “During my time in the UF MD-PhD Training Program, Colin Sumners, Ph.D., was a thoughtful, attentive mentor who allowed me to make a lot of my own decisions. I came out of my graduate school mentorship feeling very capable. I think of graduate school as being among the most important experiences I’ve ever had.”