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Meet Yale Internal Medicine: Louise Wang, MD, MSCE, Assistant Professor of Medicine (Digestive Diseases)

October 31, 2023
by Osman Moneer

As a part of our “Meet Yale Internal Medicine” series, today’s feature is on Louise Wang, MD, MSCE, assistant professor of medicine (digestive diseases).

Armed with clinical acumen and a strong background in scientific research, Louise Wang, MD, MSCE, assistant professor of medicine (digestive diseases), aims to revolutionize the world of pancreatic cancer by transforming the current state of diagnosis.

Wang’s academic journey began at the University of Pennsylvania, where she majored in economics and biology for her undergraduate studies. Her interests in medicine first developed as an extension of her longstanding fascination with science and research. Wang appreciated how medicine functioned as a direct application of science that had clear impact on patient lives. Her background in economics attuned her to the importance of people’s preferences and individual choices. Through the lens of economics, she conceptualized medicine as the translation of scientific knowledge to guide patients toward making personalized decisions.

In college, Wang studied the basic science process of colon cancer progression in a gastroenterology lab, an experience that sparked her initial desire to become a gastroenterologist. After attending medical school at Stanford University, Wang returned to Philadelphia for residency training. She stayed on at the University of Pennsylvania for fellowship training in gastroenterology, a field she was captivated by for its breadth and depth.

“Gastroenterology has the potential to encompass various diseases and cancers, from colorectal to esophageal, gastric, and pancreatic,” said Wang. “Conditions like inflammatory bowel disease or celiac disease can affect people’s daily lives, and treating these diseases can significantly improve patients’ lifestyles and their lifespans.”

Wang merged her passion for research with a commitment to patient care by further specializing her academic pursuits to target early pancreatic cancer detection. Today, pancreatic cancer is among the deadliest diseases across gastrointestinal conditions and other cancer types. The high mortality rate arises in part due to late diagnoses, which often occur after the cancer has already spread throughout the body. Early disease detection can circumvent these concerns.

“Right now, it’s difficult to know exactly who to screen and who not to screen,” said Wang. "By targeting screening and surveillance efforts, we aim to catch this deadly cancer at an earlier, more treatable stage and improve five-year survival rates.”

Wang's research leverages data from the electronic health record to target the development of risk prediction models and tools to identify those patients at the highest risk for pancreatic cancer. Wang hopes that these models could ultimately be used in clinical practice to create better screening strategies.

"The electronic health records provide a wealth of data across inpatient, outpatient, and emergency department visits,” said Wang. “With all this information about demographics, medication usage, laboratory data, and more, we can look for patients that might be most at risk for pancreatic cancer.”

Wang’s clinical work relates to the same themes she tackles in the lab. At the VA Connecticut Healthcare System in West Haven, Wang provides endoscopy care to patients. She performs upper endoscopies as well as colonoscopy screening. Aside from her care of our nation’s veterans, she also works with the Yale GI Cancer Prevention Program, a team of specialists who focus on patients with significant genetic risk factors for pancreatic and colon cancer.

Wang draws inspiration from a supportive professional environment and instrumental mentorship from individuals such as Amy Justice, MD, PhD, C.N.H. Long Professor of Medicine (General Medicine), Yale School of Medicine (YSM), and professor of public health (health policy), Yale School of Public Health (YSPH); Cynthia Brandt, MD, MPH, professor of biomedical informatics & data science, YSM, and Hongyu Zhao, PhD, professor of biostatistics, genetics, & data science (YSPH). Her commitment to work stems from a desire to comprehensively impact patient outcomes.

"On a day-to-day level, I am motivated by the people I work with, who are all so kind, conscientious, and hardworking,” said Wang. “On a larger scale, I am very passionate about trying to improve pancreatic cancer detection and survival rates. If we identify cases earlier, we can change survival. I am hopeful that the contributions I make, no matter how small, will contribute to solving a piece of this puzzle.”

Wang’s journey in medicine is marked by a determined pursuit for innovation. Driven by the twin goals of advancing medical knowledge and improving patient care, Wang dreams of a better future landscape for pancreatic cancer detection and management, offering hope to patients for a brighter tomorrow.

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 October 31, 2023