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Meet Yale Internal Medicine: Mireille Serlie, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine (Endocrinology)

February 13, 2023
by Melanie Ho

As part of our “Meet Yale Internal Medicine” series, today’s feature is on Mireille Serlie, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine (Endocrinology).

Mireille Serlie, MD, PhD, knows what it’s like to have the best of both worlds. For the past several years, Serlie has traveled not only between Amsterdam and New Haven but also between clinic and laboratory.

Under Serlie’s direction, the Intestinal Failure and Parenteral Nutrition Clinic at Amsterdam University Medical Center (UMC) has grown to care for over 200 patients since its opening in 2008. Patients whose digestive system cannot tolerate food may require liquid nutrients delivered through intravenous (IV) methods or directly into the gastrointestinal tract. “I lead a team of doctors, nurses, physician assistants and dieticians who treat these patients and provide thoughtful and sometimes complicated care plans,” Serlie said. The clinic is also responsible for treating patients at home. “Intestinal failure is a very rare disease, but as you can imagine, it needs close monitoring for any potential complications when treating people with IV nutrition at home,” Serlie said.

Serlie always knew she would become a doctor. “It was a really easy choice for me. Since I was five years old, I’ve always said, ‘I want to be a doctor,’” she said. “I don’t know why. We didn’t have any doctors in the family. But it was just this internal motivation.”

It was only during her residency at Amsterdam UMC that she decided to pursue endocrinology research too. “I actually started later than most people in the Netherlands, who would have gotten their PhDs before starting their residency,” she said. Serlie landed her faculty position at Amsterdam UMC when her former dissertation supervisor retired and she was offered the position. “He is still my mentor and close friend to this day,” she recalled.

Serlie is a professor of medicine at the University of Amsterdam Medical School and visited her family in New Haven every couple of months. Later in 2016, she was appointed at the Yale School of Medicine (YSM) as a professor adjunct and traveled regularly between the two schools. Transitioning from her career in the Netherlands, she joined the YSM faculty in January while also keeping a faculty position in Amsterdam.

Today, Serlie investigates the interaction between areas in the brain that are involved in food intake and glucose metabolism, the molecular pathways underlying insulin resistance, and the relationship between the brain and obesity.

With research questions at the intersection of nutrition and neuroscience, Serlie has collaborated with YSM faculty Gerald I. Shulman, MD, PhD, George R. Cowgill Professor of Medicine (Endocrinology) and co-director of the Yale Diabetes Research Center; Daniel F. Vatner, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine (endocrinology); Todd Constable, PhD, professor of radiology and biomedical imaging and of neurosurgery and director of MRI research and her husband Ralph J. DiLeone, PhD, professor of psychiatry and of neuroscience.

Recently, her research found that specific areas in the brain of people with healthy weight and people with obesity react differently to nutrients delivered by a tube into the stomach.

Serlie has a healthy outlook on research’s relationship to clinical practice. “I find it important to translate clinical problems into research questions and then apply the findings to patient care,” Serlie said. “It's not like I have the magic bullet or the best treatment, but at least I can explain to my patients what is happening in their brains and what makes it so hard to lose weight,” she added.

Outside of her contributions to endocrinology, Serlie also raised two kids. She learned that, “Young women should not be afraid to combine motherhood with a career. It’s rewarding.”

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 February 14, 2023