2011 Awardees Join the Ranks of YCCI Scholars

The latest round of YCCI Junior Faculty Scholars has been selected, adding 11 promising Yale investigators to the ranks of one of YCCI’s most successful programs under the Clinical and Translational Science Award.

The Scholars Program provides training and salary support for junior faculty members who are strongly committed to careers in clinical or translational research. "Training the next generation of clinical and translational scientists is one of the primary reasons I wanted to be part of YCCI," said YCCI Director Robert Sherwin, M.D., C.N.H. Long Professor of Medicine. "I’m convinced that we must provide an environment that encourages the transition from clinician to clinician-scientist in order to have an impact on clinical research."

Since the program began in 2006, 63 Scholars have received training and been mentored by some of the most accomplished faculty members of the Schools of Medicine, Nursing and Public Health. Collectively, they have published 144 papers and received more than $50 million in independent grant funding.

"I’m delighted at the caliber of individuals that applied for the award this year," said Eugene Shapiro, M.D., professor of pediatrics and epidemiology and YCCI’s co-director for education. "Their proposals build on a body of clinical and translational projects that show great promise."

As in years past, the newly appointed 2011 Scholars are an accomplished group of investigators pursuing clinical and translational research projects aimed at some of the most challenging areas found in medicine today. They include:

  • Renata Belfort De Aguiar, M.D., Ph.D., instructor in medicine (endocrinology), who is conducting a study on the effect of glucose fluctuations on eating behavior and brain activation in order to gain new insights into the pathogenesis of obesity.
  • Sandy Chang, M.D., M.H.S., instructor in medicine (geriatrics), who is evaluating the association of coexisting chronic diseases, geriatric conditions and impairments with COPD severity in older adults in order to improve health outcomes.
  • Charles Dela Cruz, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine (pulmonary and critical care), who is investigating the mechanisms that explain the exaggerated responses to viral infections in COPD patients exposed to cigarette smoke.
  • Stephanie C. Eisenbarth, M.D., Ph.D, instructor in laboratory medicine, who is seeking to identify new innate immune receptors that regulate effective vaccine immunity and could represent potent therapeutic targets for enhancing vaccination or inhibiting ongoing T cell activation in autoimmunity.
  • Ania Magdalena Jastreboff, M.D., instructor in medicine (endocrinology), who is using fMRI to characterize neural responses to visual food cues in severely obese adolescents before and after bariatric surgery.
  • Hedy Kober, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry, who is conducting a study to test whether cocaine dependent individuals are able to use cognitive strategies to regulate their cravings and identify the neural mechanisms that underlie their regulation.
  • Melissa Langhan, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics (emergency medicine), who is evaluating whether capnography, a continuous and noninvasive method of monitoring ventilatory status, will improve the recognition of hypoventilation and apnea in pediatric patients who are moderately sedated.
  • Chi Liu, Ph.D., associate research scientist in diagnostic radiology, who is developing techniques to improve the quantification of myocardial blood flow that can be used in diagnostic imaging systems such as Yale’s state-of-the-art SPECT/CT system.
  • Don X. Nguyen Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology, whose study will identify biomarkers to identify, isolate and characterize metastatic stem cells in lung adenocarcinoma.
  • Jennifer Sherr, M.D., postdoctoral fellow in pediatrics, who is conducting a study to determine whether liraglutide, which is approved for type 2 diabetes, reduces or eliminates problems with early post-meal hyperglycemia and late post-meal hypoglycemia in Type 1 diabetes patients who use the insulin pump.
  • Qin Yan, Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology, who is exploring the roles of the enzyme PLU1 in Herceptin resistance and will perform a high-throughput screening for its small molecule inhibitors. PLU1 is a potential target for cancer therapy but no specific PLU1 inhibitors have yet been identified.

The support provided to Scholars includes YCCI’s mentoring program, which offers guidance to young investigators as they begin their careers. In addition to their primary mentors, Scholars are supervised by a Career Oversight Committee (COC), a team of senior faculty members from various departments who offer an unbiased perspective on their progress and careers. "The feedback we’ve gotten on our mentoring program has been very positive," said Sherwin. "The concept of bringing in faculty from outside the Scholars’ area of expertise has led to fresh insights and has proven to be invaluable."