Excellence in Action
Joshua Goldman, MD
Describe your career path from UCLA to your current role.
After I graduated from UCLA in 2005, I immediately began medical school at USC. While in medical school at USC, I applied to business school and completed the combined MD-MBA program. The program is structured such that I went to business school full time for a year following my second year of medical school and then went back and finished my third and fourth years of medical school. After that, I applied for residency and matched in family medicine back at UCLA. I completed a Family Medicine residency and then went on to complete an additional fellowship in Sports Medicine, also at UCLA. After I finished my fellowship, I spent a year working for UCLA practicing sports medicine in the community facing side of the UCLA Health System and then made my way back to the academic side where I am now. Currently, I work in the Departments of Family Medicine & Orthopedic Surgery, practicing Sports Medicine and also working with the UCLA Athletic Department. I have the pleasure of working with residents and medical students, providing a nice mix of teaching, research and clinical work throughout my week.
What inspired you to choose this career path?
I’ve always loved science. When you’re in middle school and high school, there are those subjects that you love and the ones you suffer through. The sciences are subjects I’ve always loved. I’ve also always loved being around people. There are a handful of fields within the sciences that have a lot of human interaction, and I definitely wanted to pursue one of those. Sports Medicine was a good fit for me because it combined my love the preventative of medicine and athletics. Athletes, in general, are very motivated to get better; they’re an extremely driven population. Sports Medicine also embodies a lot of things that I love about medicine including exercise, strength and conditioning, and the body’s ability to heal itself with a little guidance. So Sports Medicine combines my love of sports and athletics with my love of science and preventative medicine.
How did your UCLA experience help shape your success?
I grew up in Palm Desert, California and went to a medium sized high school with about 500 kids per class. So I was used to a decent sized school but UCLA is a massive place compared to my high school. While this transition was a bit of a shock, I think there are a lot of wonderful things that a large institution offers. One is the breadth of opportunities at a campus like UCLA. I was involved in a number of incredible organizations as an undergraduate. I was a member of a fraternity (Sigma Alpha Epsilon) and I was a leader of a group called Colleges Against Cancer, which is part of the American Cancer Society. Through those different organizations, I made a lot of great friendships and learned a lot of day-to-day life skills that are really helpful in my current role at UCLA. A big place like UCLA affords you the opportunity to join a number of organizations and meet diverse groups of people. The other thing that a large school like UCLA does is teach you how to stay organized. Some people see the challenges of a big institution as a bad thing. I actually think it is beneficial because you end up learning how to be very self-sufficient. You learn how to navigate a big and complex university landscape that is a great metaphor for life after college. My freshman year was, in truth, a little overwhelming. The institution is so large and there are so many students, but you very quickly learn to get around and find smaller communities within the larger student body. This is when you begin to really appreciate all the opportunities offered by the university. I had the privilege of meeting so many different people with unique backgrounds and had a wealth of experiences that were incredible and shaped me into who I am today. The core group of about 10-15 people that I spend most of my free time with to this day are my best friends from college; I met them when I was 18 years old at UCLA.
In what ways have you utilized the UCLA alumni network?
I have utilized the UCLA alumni network mostly in terms of the friendships I made while I was there. On the more personal side, I have a lot of good friends that I still spend a significant amount of time with. In the world of medicine, a large number of my former undergraduate classmates ended up going into medicine, and now communicate and collaborate on cases frequently. We’ve known each other for so long that there is an inherent trust; we respect each other’s education and training and that makes it a really nice environment to practice. The other place where I really see the alumni network is in the world of athletics. As Sports Medicine physicians, we travel with the UCLA athletic teams and it is incredible to see the support of our alumni in our athletics and for the sports medicine division across the country. It’s a big alumni network and the benefit is that we’re everywhere. Seeing a stadium full of fans on the other side of the country is pretty incredible and inspiring.
What has been your greatest career challenge and how did you overcome it?
First, getting into medical school is really hard. I think the statistic is still true that UCLA produces more pre-medical students per year than any other university in the country. So trying to stand out amongst a massive group of people coming from your school when applying was a big challenge. My advice to those students would be to find your passion while you’re at UCLA and pursue it. For example, the American Cancer Society organization on campus for me was a passion and that really helped me differentiate myself while concurrently doing something that I loved. The second challenge is, as you reach the end of your undergraduate training, figuring out what you want to do once you graduate. There were so many great opportunities for UCLA graduates making that decision very difficult. Since I went to medical school and business school, I had to decide, “Do I want to practice clinical medicine or do I want to work in business?” They are very different paths but I had graduate training that would allow me to pursue either path. One of my mentors told me to wake up in the morning and imagine going to all the jobs that I was considering and to focus on the job I was most excited about. Ultimately I realized my passion was clinical medicine, teaching, and research and so I found a job where I can do all three here at UCLA.
What advice would you give to UCLA students and alumni interested in health?
For UCLA students, you have to keep your grades up. That remains important for people applying to medical school but I think we all know that. My most meaningful piece of advice is to differentiate yourself. For an undergrad, I would encourage you to do things within the field of medicine or any field that excites you. When we’re interviewing residents or fellows, I see so many people with incredible life experiences, people that have traveled the world, worked as consultants, have done Teach for America and so on. In your path to medicine, don’t be afraid to take detours. I went to business school for a year and I studied in London one summer. These experiences provided me with unique perspectives that medical school would not have. Take some strategic detours and make life fun, different, and exciting. Do things that you’re fired up about because it will make you a better applicant and doctor to have had all those life experiences. For alumni, medicine is a very challenging field these days for a lot of reasons. There are a lot of administrative tasks inherent in medicine that take us away from patient care. I end up spending 75% of my day seeing patients but a good 25% of it is spent navigating the administrative nonsense. At the end of the day, the reason I keep doing it is because I love medicine and I love working with my patients. I think a lot of people go into medicine for those “glory moments.” In Sports Medicine, everyone imagines running on to the field and reducing the shoulder on national TV. In reality, I do very little of that. It is one tiny piece of my job, which is fun, but you have to love the day-to-day, not those moments of glory. Don’t choose to go into a specialty because you love this really obscure diagnosis you will see once in a blue moon. Choose a specialty for the bread and butter. If you love the bread and butter of your specialty, you’re not going to get tired of it.
How do you support and participate in the UCLA community now?
I work on campus and I am very involved in athletics, which I love. I go to almost all of the football games, soccer games and other teams that I help take care of. It’s part of my job but, as an alumnus, I’m also a huge UCLA fan so it’s great to stay involved through athletics. Also, I am fortunate to work with medical students, residents, and fellows almost every day so I’m still very involved in education at UCLA, which is amazing. I think that’s part of the reason that I love my work so much. I remember being in their shoes and all the people that were so wonderful to me and mentored me through that process. It’s my way of paying back the UCLA universe and continuing that cycle.
What makes you most proud to be a Bruin?
I love seeing Bruins in the world of medicine. Seeing a new study come out that’s changing the way we’re practicing, and finding out it’s a UCLA faculty member or UCLA alumni is awesome. To see the reach of our institution, that we’re continuously pushing the envelope and continuously innovating is amazing. It makes me very proud of all the things the UCLA community is doing.
I think my dream is to ultimately accomplish something that the university is very proud of. We have a lot of incredible, famous, and inspiring alumni so any opportunity for me to be one of those individuals that helps put UCLA on the map, whether it be medicine, business or entrepreneurship, is a goal of mine.
Interviewed by Stephen Mendoza, Business Economics student (exp. ’18)