At KU Medical Center, student life isn't all books, labs and tests.

April 20, 2012

By Lauren Parker

Brandon Hidaka
M.D.-Ph.D. student Brandon Hidaka has just published a paper in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

A day after running in Brew to Brew, a 44.4-mile road race from Boulevard Brewing Company in Kansas City, Mo., to Free State Brewery in Lawrence, Kan., Brandon Hidaka, who is working on his M.D. in addition to a Ph.D. in the KU department of Dietetics and Nutrition, described his approach to life.

"I like to challenge myself in ways that hurt my body."

Hidaka, a researcher, student and outdoorsman, says he always knew he wanted to help people directly. "I thought that was what normal people did," Hidaka says. "Turns out, it's not what normal people do."

He says helping people is the driving force behind his educational research, school activities and community involvement.

In January, the Journal of Affective Disorders published Hidaka's research paper, "Depression as a disease of modernity: Explanations for increasing prevalence." It highlights a relationship between evolutionary changes of modern lifestyles and depression diagnoses.

He started this paper while an undergraduate at the University of Kansas and was assisted by Randolph Nesse, M.D., of the University of Michigan, who is an expert in the field of evolutionary psychology and its relation to clinical depression. "This is top-notch work that will be valuable to the field," Nesse says of Hidaka's research.

Serving as co-president of the Ethics Roundtable Discussion student group, Hidaka says he has the chance to encourage other students to think critically about ethical quandaries.

"As medical professionals, we should always be questioning what we do," he says.

When he talks about all of his activities, Hidaka reveals no hint of stress or tiredness. "You must know your limits and know when to say no," he says. But he also makes sure to save time for his friends.

Hidaka is also working with classmate Marlies Ozias to bring a Community Supported Agriculture program to KU Medical Center, which the campus group Food Is Medicine did in conjunction with Good Natured Family Farms. "We are what we eat and our body functions off of what we've been consuming," says Hidaka. "I believe I've done well in med school because I've nourished my brain with food from local farmers. I know where the food comes from, and I know the farmers' families."

Hidaka is also a volunteer in the School of Medicine's Students in Schools program. Participants visit Argentine Middle School in Kansas City, Kan., for an hour each month to teach science to sixth, seventh and eighth graders. Hidaka says he likes being a role model for these students. He says he feels it shows the kids that college is an option for everyone.

With this busy schedule, he says he keeps his mind relaxed with outdoor activities. He enjoys running marathons and playing soccer on the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum lawn. "Whenever it is a beautiful day, you have to go outside," says Hidaka.

Hidaka says he is currently working toward bringing yoga classes to patients at KU Hospital. As a certified yoga instructor, Hidaka says he wants patients to have the opportunity to get up and move their joints, instead of lying in bed all day and watching TV.

Because of his work, Hidaka has earned many KU Medical Center awards for student leadership and community service, including the JayDoc outstanding volunteer award, the Dorothy A. Knoll student leadership award, and the campus service award.

"There's so much opportunity to go out and do it and follow your passions," says Hidaka. "Always take advantage of those opportunities that present themselves."

Brandon Hidaka is just one of KU Medical Center's many outstanding students. Meet more future health care leaders at our new Student Profiles page.  

Last modified: Sep 20, 2013