Profile: TL1 Training Program

Mona Sadeghpour, MD and her mentor, Michael Girardi, MD 

The TL1 training program provides expanded clinical and translational training for predoctoral medical, nursing, MD/PhD, and biomedical engineering students. The program supports one-year clinical research projects and includes an intensive training core. It also provides training for medical students for short-term clinical research projects.

Yale students supported by the TL1 training grant have achieved a remarkable record of scientific productivity. In all, during or shortly after medical school, 77 students have co-authored 148 full-length publications; 63 students have presented abstracts; 68 students have presented 78 posters and oral presentations; and 37 students have completed a Yale MD thesis.


Understanding How Immune Cells May Facilitate Cancer

Witnessing the suffering of close family members led Mona Sadeghpour, MD '12, to pursue a career in medicine, but her time at Yale has expanded that interest to encompass research as well.

She views YCCI's TL1 training program as a unique opportunity. "I wanted to develop the analytical skills necessary to do research, from asking a good question to being able to answer that question, to troubleshooting a project when there are problems," she said.

Having completed four years of medical school, Sadeghpour is now spending her fifth year doing research. An affinity for oncodermatology and the desire to work with a strong mentor led her to the lab of Michael Girardi, MD. Her research involves investigating the role of Langerhans cells — immune cells found in the epidermis — in UV-induced skin cancers.

Emerging evidence from mouse models in Girardi's lab indicates that instead of fighting cancer, Langerhans cells may facilitate chemical-induced carcinogenesis. Based on this finding, Sadeghpour decided to investigate the role of these cells in UV-induced carcinogenesis.

"Figuring out how these cells are contributing to carcinogenesis will enhance our understanding of the versatile response that the immune system can play when it comes in contact with mutagenic environmental exposures," Sadeghpour said. She hopes her research will enhance the understanding of factors in the immune system that play a role in tumor promotion pathways versus tumor clearance; and that it will guide novel strategies to prevent the emergence of skin cancer in mutated keratinocytes.

Sadeghpour believes that the TL1 program complements the medical school experience and can make a world of difference for young doctors hoping to pursue clinical and translational research. "Spending a whole year in the lab doing research really teaches you the language of science and allows you to be able to communicate effectively," she said.