Alfred Kaye, MD, PhD - PGY I
Al grew up in Los Angeles, and went to the University of California, Berkeley for his undergraduate degree in comparative literature and molecular cell biology. He worked in a lab at the University of California San Francisco looking at the molecular biology of acute ethanol adaptation before joining the MD/PhD program at the University of California, San Diego. During his PhD in neuroscience, he worked at the Salk Institute between the labs of Edward Callaway and Tatyana Sharpee to studying the microcircuitry and information processing of motion vision in the mouse thalamus using in vivo two photon calcium imaging. Al also developed a theory to show that thalamic relay cells are optimized to carry as much information as possible about motion. The work was supported by an F30 NRSA from the NIDCD. Al's vision is to apply cellular scale imaging and theory to the problem of how neural microcircuits adapt to traumatic events as a model of PTSD.
Brandon Kitay, MD, PhD - PGY I
Brandon was raised between Manhattan and Long Island before spending the second half of his life in sunny, south Florida. As a high school senior, Brandon was accepted into medical school through the prestigious Honors Program in Medicine (HPM) at the University of Miami; a combined program affording the completion of both a B.S. and M.D. degree within 6-years. As an undergraduate at "the U," Brandon further developed a life-long interest in Neuroscience through laboratory work. Under the mentorship of Dr. Mary Bartlett Bunge at the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, he explored gene and cell transplantation strategies for promoting CNS regeneration following spinal cord injury (SCI). Beyond publications, posters, and undergraduate research awards, this experience revealed an underlying passion for biomedical research. With his penchant for combined degree programs, Brandon doubled-down and joined the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s combined M.D./Ph.D. program after earning his B.S. in Biology at the age of 19. As a medical student, he held positions in the Department of Community Service (D.O.C.S.) aiding in the organization of student operated health fairs. As a graduate student, Brandon completed his dissertation in the laboratory of Dr. Grace Zhai. Entitled, "Mechanisms of NMNAT/WLDS mediated axon protection," his thesis work employed Drosophila and mammalian models to investigate the molecular underpinnings of nervous system maintenance in the context of neurodegenerative disease. During graduate school, he was awarded a Lois Pope LIFE Fellowship as well as the Edward J. Green Memorial Award for, “scholarship, citizenship, and service.” Following re-matriculation in medical school, it was on his psychiatry clerkship that Brandon found his tribe within the realm of clinical neuroscience. As a resident in the NRTP at Yale, he hopes to further develop his skills as a physician-scientist with research and clinical interests in neuro-and geriatric psychiatry. Off-campus, Brandon can usually be found in the company of his four-legged sidekick, Bowie. He is also an avid skier, collector, and all around thrift store aficionado.
Youngsun Cho, MD, PhD - PGY II
Youngsun grew up outside of Rochester, NY and attended MIT for college. She initially entered the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry to obtain a MD degree, and then switched into the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) to obtain a combined MD/PhD degree following her third year clinical clerkships. At that time she had decided on becoming a psychiatrist and wanted to learn about the brain. She completed a PhD in Neurobiology and Anatomy, and her dissertation work involved three studies aimed at understanding structural and functional connectivity within the brain. She published two neuroanatomy studies under the supervision of Dr. Julie Fudge at the University of Rochester: 1. dopaminergic inputs to the amygdala; 2. prefrontal and insula cortex inputs, and striatal outputs of the amygdala. Her third publication was a study of nucleus accumbens, insula and thalamus effective connectivity during reward processing in adults and adolescents using fMRI. This was carried out with Dr. Monique Ernst at NIMH. Her dissertation work was funded by NIMH under an F30 pre-doctoral fellowship, as well as by the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI). At Yale she plans to work with Dr. Alan Anticevic and to continue to use imaging modalities to understand the neural circuits that underlie emotion and cognition in psychiatric illnesses. She is grateful to the Yale psychiatry department for funding this collaboration with a Detre Fellowship.
Stephanie Yarnell, MD, PhD - PGY II
After graduating Summa Cum Laude with Highest Honors with 3 Bachelor of Science degrees, biology, microbiology, and ecology with the CURO Scholar Seal for undergraduate research excellence from the University of Georgia, Stephanie matriculated into a combined MD-PhD Program. She was the first scholar to participate in doctoral studies with the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida, an institute that actively seeks to explore multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research with her project concentrating on the interface of clinical infectious disease and environmental sciences. Here she eagerly embraced a project focusing on an important and understudied group of infectious diseases caused by non-tuberculous mycobacteria. Her talent and aptitude for quickly developing multidisciplinary skill sets and ability to identify important gaps in knowledge and unmet needs that could make important clinical impacts was demonstrated multiple times in her research. It is notable that her thesis committee advised she would be prepared to defend her thesis after only two and a half years of pre-doctoral research but, the earliest she could complete her PhD was after the third year. During these years, she drafted 3 papers for publication, presented at conferences, and her novel primer/probe set is being considered for patent by the University of Florida. Further demonstrating her excellence in research, she was awarded the American Academy for the Advancement of Sciences Excellence in Science Award and the Philanthropic Educational Opportunities Scholar Award. However, it was her research while a medical student that most motivated her. During her final year of medical school, Stephanie completed research on obesity and food addictions with Dr. Mark Gold, Chairman of Psychiatry. These endeavors lead to her first authoring a journal article, a book chapter, and writing the Yale School of Medicine’s online curriculum for the Food Addictions. While both of the publications did not come out until she was in her first year of residency, she was able to establish a solid interest in obesity and the neurophysiology of feeding. It is that interest that she plans on pursuing in the NRTP research times.
Shelley Amen, MD, PhD - PGY III
After serving as a parachute rigger and jumpmaster in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, NC, Shelley graduated from Campbell University majoring in biology and psychology. Always interested in the molecular underpinnings of motivated behavior, Shelley joined the Medical Scientist Training (MD/PhD) Program at the Medical College of Wisconsin. There, she studied the neural substrates of drug dependence, specifically the network underlying potent cocaine craving. Under the supervision of Shi-Jiang Li, PhD in the Department of Biophysics, Shelley investigated cocaine-induced alterations in the mesocorticolimbic system and the utility of glutamate prodrug, N-acetylcysteine, as an anti-craving therapeutic. Under the guidance of Cecilia Hillard, PhD in the Department of Pharmacology, Shelley further studied the cocaine-induced alterations in the endocannabinoid system as a modulator of glutamate release and inhibition. Shelley described region-specific changes in cannabinoid receptors, endogenous ligands and their biosynthetic enzymes in the transition from the drug-naïve state to chronic drug exposure, withdrawal and relapse in a mouse model of cocaine dependence. This work was supported for 3 years by a NIH/NIDA National research Service Award (F30). Shelley plans to continue working toward developing additional strategies for substance abuse pharmacotherapy.
Alan Lewis, MD, PhD - PGY III
Alan grew up near Albany, NY and attended the University of Pennsylvania as an undergraduate, where he studied chemistry, math, and anthropology. At Penn he worked in the synthetic organic chemistry lab of Dr. Madeleine Joullie synthesizing natural products, until he ultimately became interested in neuroscience and decided to combine his interest in research with clinical medicine. He completed the Medical Scientist Training Program at Northwestern University, where he performed his doctoral work in the lab of Dr. Dane Chetkovich. His PhD project identified how an auxiliary subunit of HCN channels in the hippocampus regulates both channel trafficking and function, as well as how HCN channels may contribute to neurological and psychiatric disorders. As a member of the Neuroscience Research Training Program within the Department of Psychiatry at Yale, Alan has had the opportunity to combine clinical work in psychiatry with basic neuroscience research with Dr. Marina Picciotto. With Dr. Picciotto he is exploring how nicotinic acetylcholine receptors modulate aspects of aggressive behavior, with the goal of better understanding the circuit basis of aggression and potentially identifying novel treatments for patients. Clinically, Alan is interested in forensic and emergency psychiatry, as well as substance abuse. The NRTP has given Alan the support to explore both clinical and research areas, as well as strong mentorship to develop his research and career goals as a physician-scientist.
Adam Mecca, MD, PhD - PGY III
Adam attended the University of Florida as an undergraduate and graduated in 2005 with a degree in Chemistry and Microbiology. During these years, Adam participated in research that investigated the renin angiotensin system and cardiovascular disease. His research experience, combined with his work at a local student-run free clinic, Equal Access Clinic, stressed the importance of medical research for improving the health of our communities. He then trained in the MD-PhD program at the University of Florida where he continued to study the renin angiotensin system, but with a focus on the neurobiology of stroke. He published multiple articles in this field and completed his thesis titled, "Targeting the ACE2/Ang-(1-7)/Mas axis for cerebroprotection during ischemic stroke." In addition, he became deeply involved in underserved healthcare through volunteer and leadership roles at the Equal Access Clinic. These efforts led to a dramatic expansion the interdisclipinary services of this student-run free clinic. Adam has also been involved with the student-run free clinic movement on an international level and is a co-founder of the Society of Student Run Free Clinics, an organization whose mission is to promote student-run free clinic formation and information sharing worldwide. Adam's involvement in research and underserved medicine have shaped his interests in neuroscience and psychiatry. He is currently a resident in the department of Psychiatry at Yale and member of the Neuroscience Research Training program. His research focuses on Alzheimer's Disease and related cognitive disorders. He is also interested in cognitive disorders and related geriatric syndromes in chronically homeless older adults.
Daniel Moreno De Luca, MD - PGY III
After attending medical school at the Universidad Industrial de Santander in his hometown of Bucaramanga, Colombia, Daniel’s curiosity about human behavior and his desire to experience the world through travel led him first to a Genetics fellowship at the Università di Bologna, Italy, where he studied the role of X-inactivation in families with autism and the genetics of suicide and personality disorders. Fascinated by the concept of psychiatric genetics, he then went to Paris, France, where he obtained his Master’s degree in Neuroscience at the Université Pierre et Marie Curie and the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, while he continued to investigate the genetic underpinnings of psychiatric disorders, particularly the role of anomalies in chromosome 15q11-q13 and 22q11 in autism and obsessive-compulsive behavior. Afterwards, he moved to the United States for a postdoctoral fellowship at Emory University to continue studying the genetic architecture of autism and schizophrenia, with a particular focus on copy number variants (CNVs), especially in chromosome 17q12, which led to several publications and a book chapter. Ultimately, Daniel decided to work directly with the people he studied; convinced he could make the biggest difference in the clinic, and sure of the research insights clinical interactions bring, he applied for residency training in psychiatry and is now honored to be part of the Yale psychiatry team and the Neuroscience Research Training Program. To continue developing his career as a physician scientist, he enrolled in the Investigative Medicine PhD program at Yale, where he hopes to continue understanding the genetic basis of neuropsychiatric disorders.
Albert Powers, MD, PhD - PGY III
Al grew up in nearby Northford, CT, and attended his local college, Yale, for his undergraduate studies.
During his first stint at Yale, Al took time away from singing with the Alley Cats and Whiffenpoofs to study Cognitive Science and do research with Dr. Laurie Santos, exploring aspects of object cognition and feature binding in capuchin monkeys.
During the year following college, Al worked with Yale Psychiatry faculty member Eugene Redmond, investigating the efficacy of fetal tissue transplants in Parkinson's Disease. In 2005, Al packed his bags and shipped south for the MSTP at Vanderbilt in Nashville, TN.
At Vanderbilt, Al's Ph.D. work was performed with Dr. Mark Wallace.
Together, and with NRSA funding from the NIDCD, they demonstrated that the cortical systems responsible for combining information from the auditory and visual senses are capable of rapid, robust, and stable plastic change as demonstrated by human behavioral and neuroimaging data, findings that could carry implications for a subset of psychiatric disorders exhibiting abnormalities in multisensory processing. Back at Yale, Al is enjoying the clinical training afforded by intern year but simultaneous aching to be back in the lab exploring the subtle differences in brain connectivity that may underlie much of psychiatric disease.
Rajiv Radhakrishnan, MBBS, MD - PGY III
Rajiv completed medical school and psychiatry residency training in India. His research interest was initially piqued by the varied clinical presentations of schizophrenia that he saw in the clinic. His desire to obtain research training took him to India’s premier neuroscience institute, the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience (NIMHANS) where he worked on a research study examining the effects of D-Serine augmentation of cognitive remediation in schizophrenia. Rajiv moved to the US in 2010 in order to pursue a postdoctoral research fellowship at the Schizophrenia Research Clinic (PI: Deepak Cyril D’Souza) at Yale which has been a pioneer in examining the contribution of the cannabinoid system to psychosis. During his time as a postdoctoral fellow, he examined the effects of pharmacologically induced GABA-deficit on psychotomimetic effects of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a cannabinoid partial agonist. Rajiv came back to Yale as a PGY-II psychiatry resident and is currently a PGY-III at our program. Rajiv is supported by the NRTP IMPORT grant and the APIRE/Janssen research award this year to continue his research on the effects of THC on information processing as is relevant to psychosis.
Samuel Wilkinson, MD - PGY III
Sam was born in Salt Lake City, Utah but moved at a young age to Northern Virginia. He attended Brigham Young University where he studied Mechanical Engineering (minor in Chemistry). During his undergraduate studies, he spent a summer as a research assistant at the Center for Biological Engineering at MIT, exploring the effects of cytokines and compressive injury on the gene expression of articular cartilage. After exposure to patient care when he volunteered at a hospital in Boston, he decided to modify his career plans and pursue a medical degree. Upon graduation, Sam began medical school at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, intending to pursue a career in otolaryngology. During his first year, however, his plans again changed after his introduction to psychology and psychiatry course, in which he became fascinated by the mystery surrounding the mind-brain problem. During his medical school training, he conducted research in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in people with developmental disabilities and earned the Doak Walker Award in Psychiatry for his research efforts. His research mentor at Hopkins was Marco Grados, MD, MPH. Upon graduation, he was awarded the Samuel Novey Prize in Psychological Medicine. His current research interests include treatment-resistant depression and the therapeutic potential as well as adverse effects of cannabinoids.
Benjamin Kelmendi, MD - PGY IV
Ben left his native country Kosovo at age 17 to come to the states to pursue his dream of becoming a physician. After graduating from college, where he studied psychology and biology, he took a position as a research assistant at the Yale OCD Clinic. While working as a research assistant, he developed his research interest in OCD. After medical school, he returned to Yale for residency to pursue his research interests in Psychiatry. He’s currently working on developing new symptom provocation paradigms used to elicit OCD symptomatology. Ben is also deeply interested in the phenomenology of OCD and actively pursuing qualitative research in this area. Ben has a deep passion for philosophy; he’s an integral member of the Philosophy and Psychiatry group.