Jonathan Silverberg, MD, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of Dermatology, Medical Social Sciences and Preventive Medicine, is a pioneer in identifying the increased cardiovascular risks associated with atopic dermatitis.
As new therapies become available that counteract the systemic inflammation associated with inflammatory skin diseases, he hopes to observe the potential related reduction in cardiovascular risk.
In 2014, Dr. Silverberg founded Northwestern Medicine’s Multidisciplinary Eczema Center, and as its director, he has been able to advance research by investigating the burdens of atopic dermatitis and testing cutting-edge therapeutic approaches in addition to helping patients with eczema and their comorbidities.
What are your research interests?
I am very interested in inflammatory skin disease, particularly atopic dermatitis (eczema), contact dermatitis and photosensitive disorders. I am studying the epidemiology and burden of disease for atopic dermatitis and other inflammatory skin diseases; we are finding that the burden is much more extensive than we imagined – for both adults and children – and are now considering atopic dermatitis to be a systemic disorder with a multi-organ burden.
What is the ultimate goal of your research?
First, I’m hoping to identify novel modifiable risk factors for inflammatory skin diseases and develop clinical and epidemiological interventions to prevent these disorders throughout the US population. This includes improving our understanding of the genetics and gene-environment interactions in adult atopic dermatitis.
Second, I am working on developing improved assessments for patients with chronic itch that can help us to better understand how best to reduce the itch, which is so life altering for our patients.
Finally, I am working toward improving our understanding of the direct and indirect burden of inflammatory skin diseases, including their relationship with other health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease.
How did you become interested in this area of research?
While pursuing my Masters of Public Health degree, I became fascinated by the role of the “hygiene hypothesis” (that our increased cleanliness reduced the risk of developing atopic dermatitis) and how health behaviors interact with inflammation. My master’s thesis studies focused on the protective role of chickenpox infection against atopic dermatitis. Since then, I have grown to recognize that there are many lessons to be learned from classical chronic disease epidemiology that apply to skin diseases.
I have also learned that there is a lot of confusion about these disorders among patients and providers and a huge patient-burden of disease that has not been well described. Studying these different issues has led me down a number of fun methodologic journeys, including population-based research, “big-data” analyses of health records, clinical epidemiology, improving the validity of epidemiological research in skin disease, systematic review and meta-analysis, biobanking, qualitative and mixed methods.
What types of collaborations are you engaged in across campus (and beyond)?
I am collaborating with NUgene and eMERGE in order to study the genetics of atopic dermatitis. I am also fortunate to have outstanding collaborators from Medical Social Sciences, Preventive Medicine and IPHAM on a number of different projects related to chronic itch and skin disease.
Where have you recently published papers?
I am fortunate to have published in a broad array of journals so that my work reaches dermatologists, pediatricians, cardiologists and allergists, such as JAMA Pediatrics, Journal of Pediatrics, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Allergy and Journal of Investigative Dermatology.
Which honors are you most proud of and why?
I am most proud of being named the Teacher of the Year in the Department of Dermatology. I enjoy teaching very much and am fortunate to have some of Northwestern’s finest students, residents and fellows as mentees. I am also pleased to have received the inaugural Rajka award from the International Society for Atopic Dermatitis in 2014, given to the most promising young investigator in the field worldwide.
What are some of your personal hobbies/interests?
I spend most of my personal time with my wife and kids and am slightly obsessed with Cross-fit.