Research Training

Our training program places a high priority on clinical, translational and basic research in the rheumatic and immunologic diseases with a goal of preparing fellows as independent investigators in academic research, either in the laboratory and/or in the clinic. In parallel with this focus, research interests of the faculty in the core program include laboratory and patient-focused investigation. The former are primarily devoted to studies of the fundamental immunologic and pathological mechanisms of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases and how these processes are modified in aging and upon challenge by pathogens, whereas the focus of the latter is upon acquisition of skills needed for development of rigorous studies involving topics in patient-oriented investigation and corresponding research methods. Research mentors in the Section of Rheumatology include Drs. Bockenstedt, Bucala, Craft, Kang, Malawista, Mark Mamula, Ruth Montgomery and Erol Fikrig (Dr. Fikrig is also appointed in Infectious Diseases) in translational and laboratory investigation and Drs. Fraenkel and Suter in patient-focused studies.

Additional research mentors for trainees interested in translational and laboratory investigation include faculty in the Department of Immunobiology and its program in Human Translational Immunology, a novel initiative designed to bring basic laboratory advances to the bedside. Fellows who focus in laboratory and translational investigation also have the opportunity to be mentored by faculty in any of the multiple clinical or basic science departments and programs at the Yale School of Medicine, pending their interest and identification of an appropriate mentor who is willing to accept them as a trainee – faculty in the Section of Rheumatology aid the trainee in this process of choosing the appropriate research training environment and mentor, and provides the support for such training. The Yale Rheumatic Diseases Research Core Center, supported by a P30 grant from the NIH, also provides specific training in intravital microscopy and design and development of strategies for genesis of genetically modified mice.

Likewise, trainees interested in patient-focused investigation may also elect to work with a variety of mentors in the clinical sciences at Yale, including in the new Yale Center for Clinical Investigation, an initiative supported by the Yale Clinical and Translational Science Award and devoted to novel approaches in patient-focused, translational and community health investigation, as well as mentors in Geriatrics and the Program in Aging, the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program, the School of Epidemiology and Public Health and a variety of other clinical science disciplines at the Yale School of Medicine. As for trainees in translational and laboratory investigation, faculty in the Section of Rheumatology aid the trainee in patient-focused investigation in the process of choosing the appropriate research training environment and mentor, and provides the support for such training.

All rheumatology trainees are expected to complete a research project. During the first year of clinical training, fellows become acquainted with many of the faculty research programs and select a research mentor. Extensive guidance is provided during the first year to help focus research interests. Fellows interested in clinical investigation will attend courses in biostatics, clinical trial design, clinical research methods and/or courses in the School of Epidemiology and Public Health. Formal training in quantitative clinical epidemiology and clinical decision-making are also available. Fellows interested in laboratory research take basic science courses in the School of Medicine, including those in immunobiology, biology, cell biology, and/or molecular biophysics and biochemistry, depending upon interest of the fellow. Dedicated research months during the first and second years of clinical training allow fellows to complete small scale projects and/or acquire skills necessary to continue longer-term research projects. Fellows planning investigative careers generally spend an additional two years in research training, during which time they obtain the necessary expertise within a specific discipline to sustain growth as an independent investigator, including skills in scientific communication and grant writing. Fellows are expected to give a presentation at least one national conference during their fellowship. The fellows work closely with an individual faculty member who provides oversight and guidance to the trainee. Each of the fellows is assigned a research committee that reviews their progress and provides recommendations on their project.

Fellows may also seek advanced degrees as part of their research training, including a Masters in Epidemiology and Public Health (or its related disciplines, including biostatistics and chronic disease epidemiology. Finally, some individuals holding the M.D. degree may wish to pursue a formal Ph.D. degree through the Investigative Medicine Program at the School of Medicine, headed by Dr. Craft. The Ph.D. program encompasses both classroom and laboratory training tailored to the development of physician-scientists in either the laboratory sciences or in patient-oriented research, with appropriate financial support for tuition and salary provided, and trainees in this program can choose from a variety of potential mentors in the clinical and basic sciences the School of Medicine.