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Dr. Barbara Kazmierczak Is New Vice Chair, Basic Research

July 21, 2022
by Julie Parry

Barbara Kazmierczak, MD, PhD, Gustavus and Louise Pfeiffer Research Foundation MD/PhD Program Director and Professor of Medicine (Infectious Diseases) and of Microbial Pathogenesis; and director, MD/PhD Program, has been named vice chair, Basic Research, for the Department of Internal Medicine, effective immediately.

Kazmierczak believes that the future of medicine will rely greatly on how effectively departments of medicine can support discovery and knowledge creation. “Being a department that's focused on clinical research and its implementation is important and has a tremendous impact on patient well-being. But I think it’s equally important for Yale's Department of Medicine to excel in basic and translational research, and to make sure that the contributions of physician-scientists to the mission of the department remain front and center. That means not only supporting researchers, but also making sure that the ways in which research informs medical practice are appreciated by people who deliver clinical care and the patients who receive that care. We will need to make sure that we integrate physician-scientists in a visible way into some of the more exciting ways we deliver patient care,” she said.

Department Chair Gary V. Désir, MD, Paul B. Beeson Professor of Medicine and Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity, noted that with Kazmierczak’s background and experience, she is an excellent choice for this role.

“Barbara is an exceptional researcher, running a basic science lab within our Section of Infectious Diseases; along with teaching and mentoring those in her lab, in addition to students in the MD/PhD Program. She is a proven leader and mentor, and I am happy that she is taking on this new role,” said Désir.

Kazmierczak holds a joint appointment in the Department of Internal Medicine and Department of Microbial Pathogenesis. She came to Yale School of Medicine (YSM) as an assistant professor of medicine (infectious diseases) and microbial pathogenesis in 2001. In 2004, she became the director of Graduate Admissions (Microbiology). She served as associate director for Basic Research, MD/PhD Program from 2010 – 2014, when she was named as director in 2014, a position she still holds today. Under her leadership, YSM’s MD/PhD Program has grown to be the fourth largest in the country. She was appointed to professor in 2017 and was named Gustavus and Louise Pfeiffer Research Foundation MD/PhD Program Director the following year.

“I've been focused a lot on MD/PhD training in the last seven years: what it means to be a researcher in clinical spaces, what it means to have a physician scientist's identity - and how that identity can be nurtured and supported. And as I’ve navigated my career here at Yale, and watched my trainees embark on their own journeys, I have thought about what it means to be successful - and what resources you need to be successful. Hopefully, that experience will be useful [in this new role],” said Kazmierczak.

Kazmierczak loves to understand how things work, so medicine and research was a natural career choice. She was fascinated by research and thought it would be interesting to do it in a way that was relevant to human health. But she wasn’t sure she would practice as a physician until her final year of medical school.

“When I finally began taking care of patients at the very end of my MD/PhD training, I realized every patient has a problem or issue that brings them to you, and that it was a great challenge to figure out, what is the reason that they're presenting with these findings? Why hasn't what everyone else has done worked for them? And then you can really dig deeper into what is the social, cultural, even political context that underlies their presentation – as well as the biology that’s at play,” said Kazmierczak. The breadth of infectious diseases clinical work and research appealed to her as she was considering specialty training, and she built the foundation for her current research during fellowship, by examining how proteins injected by Pseudomonas aeruginosa into eukaryotic cells manipulated cytoskeleton dynamics.

In addition to her research, graduate student teaching and administrative work, Kazmierczak also sees patients as an attending physician on the infectious diseases consult service at Yale New Haven Hospital.

Kazmierczak is an elected member of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Society for Clinical Investigation, the Interurban Clinical Club, and the Polish Institute of Arts & Sciences in America. She is a fellow of both the American Academy for Microbiology and the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

She replaces Lloyd G. Cantley, MD, C. N. H. Long Professor of Medicine (Nephrology) and Professor of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, who has chosen to step down after for 15 years in the role. As vice chair, Cantley advocated for additional space for the department based on grant support and productivity that led to the move of Cardiovascular Medicine from The Anlyan Center to 100+ new workstations in 300 George, addition of another 44 workstations at 300 George and the proposed new space at 101 College.

He created the Department of Internal Medicine Bridge Funding Program for supporting junior research investigators who were in between grant support and developed the template for a PhD program housed in the clinical departments and a pathway for Department of Internal Medicine faculty to get graduate school appointments, which became the Program for Translational Biomedicine. Most recently, Cantley helped oversee the COVID-19-required shutdown and re-initiation of lab work along with the subsequent departmental bridge support for junior faculty who were impacted by the slowdown.

The Department of Internal Medicine at Yale is among the nation's premier departments, bringing together an elite cadre of clinicians, investigators, educators, and staff in one of the world's top medical schools. To learn more, visit Internal Medicine.

Submitted by Julie Parry on July 20, 2022