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Eleven New Professors Appointed in Department of Internal Medicine

September 01, 2022
by Julie Parry

Recently, the appointment of ten new professors became official within the Department of Internal Medicine. One professorial announcement from fiscal year 2021 was also recently approved.

Learn more about their journeys to professor below.

Joseph Akar, MD, PhD

  • Cardiovascular Medicine, Clinician-Educator Track
  • Fellowship: University of Virginia
  • PhD: University of Virginia
  • Residency: Yale New Haven Hospital
  • MD: University of Pittsburgh

Joseph Akar, MD, PhD, was filled with joy when he learned he earned the rank of professor. “It fills me with tremendous pride to have my clinical and academic accomplishments acknowledged by my peers in the heart rhythm space, and by aspirational Yale faculty. Being part of this distinguished group gives validation for the hard work over the years.”

He contacted his family immediately, he considers his wife Rana his “north star” throughout his academic journey, and a “true force for good.” Upon receipt of the news, his son Nedi gave him a huge hug, and then asked for cake.

He loves the feeling of wonder that comes with discovery in the world of academia. Akar credits Yale for having a special place in his heart since he came to New Haven for his residency training. “So, coming back home to the institution I love and subsequently being promoted within the Yale family is the crowning achievement of my career,” he said.

Fun fact: Akar was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon. Upon arrival to the U.S. for college, the first phone call to his family was to inform his brother that “there is so much green in the U.S., you can practically play soccer anywhere.” He is a die-hard soccer fan and huge supporter of the Arsenal Football Club.

Ursula Brewster, MD

  • Nephrology, Clinician-Educator Track
  • Fellowship: Yale School of Medicine
  • Residency: Yale New Haven Hospital
  • MD: Dartmouth School of Medicine

Ursula Brewster, MD, loves nephrology. She fell in love with it in Medical School where Dr. Fred Appleton taught the 2nd year nephrology course. He instilled in her a healthy respect for the kidney, and a love for longitudinal patient relationships. While undergoing subsequent clinical training at Yale, she “was spoiled by brilliant clinicians who modelled what it was to be a great physician and educator,” Brewster said. “I trained with so many great people, but I really connected to the nephrology way of thinking, and was star struck by the likes of Dr. Asghar Rastegar and Dr. Mark Perazella.”

She is grateful to all those who invested time into making her a better physician and educator. And since she has been at Yale since 1998, she jokes that “that’s a long list of people.” When she found out about her promotion, she snuck over to hug Margaret Bia, MD, professor emeritus of medicine (nephrology), whom Brewster credits as a life mentor and advocate for a generation of women physicians at Yale. When she started at Yale, Dr. Bia was the only other woman in the section, and has been a support, a champion and a friend throughout her entire career.

She derives pride from the fellows that she teaches as the director of the Nephrology Fellowship program. “Each year, a new group of brilliant, energetic young physicians start in our nephrology fellowship, and watching them progress through the training program, and into their own careers is such fun. It is a very rigorous program, filled with ups and downs, but each and every year they make me so proud,” she said. She loves to hear from them once they are out in practice. She regularly receives texts about great diagnoses they made, academic accolades, and their policy work. But her favorite messages to receive from them are the wedding and baby pictures.

Brewster loves being in academia. “Being surrounded by brilliant and passionate people who want to push the edge of our understanding of medicine and the human condition is just thrilling. Watching great minds at work simply never gets old.”

But she does need to unplug on occasion, so she goes off the grid. Every summer, her family travels to a small remote lakeside cabin in the Maritimes, Canada.

“No electricity, no cell towers, no one else can get there and there is no outside information that comes in. Truly disconnecting from the pace of this job is really important for me to recharge – and it has become almost impossible with the EMR. As clinicians, if we have the ability to check on a patient we are worrying about, we will. You can’t turn that off. And if we see something wrong, then we have to do something about it. Pretty soon we are spending our time away on EPIC. We all do it. The only way not to – is to either have more self-control than I have to not check in the first place – or to go so far away you can’t check even if you want to. So that’s what I do. And it’s great.”

Sarwat Chaudhry, MD

  • General Medicine, Clinician-Scientist Track
  • Fellowship: Yale School of Medicine
  • Residency: University of Chicago
  • MD: University of Chicago

When Sarwat Chaudhry, MD, found out that she was promoted to professor, she thanked three people who were instrumental in her career: Patrick O’Connor, MD, MPH, MACP; David Fiellin, MD; and Harlan Krumholz, MD, SM. “Dr. Patrick O’Connor is my section chief who provided enduring and tireless encouragement; Dr. David Fiellin provided the professional guidance I needed to make it across the promotion ‘finish line’; and Dr. Harlan Krumholz interviewed me for the Clinical Scholars Program over 20 years ago and has been a fierce supporter, advocate, and friend ever since,” explained Chaudhry. She credits this trio and her other amazing colleagues as her favorite part of academia.

Chaudhry said that it is very validating to have her professional accomplishments recognized as worthy of promotion to full professor by Yale School of Medicine’s senior faculty. “On a practical note, it’s great that I won’t have to go through the review process again!” she joked.

During her career, she is most proud of “developing insights that can improve the way we provide care for patients and supporting the development of the next generation of physician-scientists.”

Fun fact about Chaudhry: She can deadlift 200 pounds!

Lauren Cohn, MD

  • Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine, Clinician-Educator Track
  • Fellowship: Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center
  • Residency: Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center
  • MD: University of Minnesota

Lauren Cohn, MD, started her medical career working in the lab studying the immunology of asthma in preclinical models. Her laboratory, along with others, defined the cytokine pathways underlying asthma pathobiology. Pharmaceutical companies took this knowledge to design monoclonal antibody therapeutics to block the pathways. Cohn and team tested the medications in clinical trials, which then led to a use of the therapeutics in the clinic.

“My career has spanned a period of remarkable advancement in asthma care, from bench to bedside. I have had a unique opportunity to harness my deep interest in lung immunity, understand some of the mysteries of asthma and offer life-changing therapies to patients with severe asthma and other complex lung diseases,” said Cohn.

Her promotion validated her effort to expand the understanding of lung diseases and apply it to patient care. In fact, when she learned about the promotion, she continued with her day, caring for the next patient on her schedule.

Cohn admits the process of learning and sharing in academia is both inspiring and humbling. “The academic environment allows me to ask penetrating questions about lung diseases. It provides time to dig deep into understanding my patients, inspiring colleagues who are knowledgeable and committed and who have similar motivations, and then the imperative to disseminate this knowledge by teaching those around me.”

Fun fact: Cohn wore a cast on her left leg for much of high school, after breaking her tibia and fibula in a bicycle accident and later in a gymnastics meet. “The surgeon told me I wasn’t going to win any beauty pageants given my leg. I told him I was going to medical school, so I didn’t care,” said Cohn.

Jeptha Curtis, MD

  • Cardiovascular Medicine, Clinician-Scientist Track
  • Fellowship: Yale School of Medicine
  • Residency: Duke University Medical Center
  • MD: Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons

A cardiologist, Jeptha Curtis, MD, works to improve the quality of care delivered to patients with coronary artery disease and those undergoing percutaneous coronary intervention. Upon learning about his promotion, Curtis enjoyed “a brief moment of tremendous satisfaction, and then started the next case.” Upon returning home that evening, he has a celebratory drink with his wife, happy that the process is completed. Curtis credits her patience and support for making “everything possible.”

Throughout his career, he is most proud of the success of his mentees. He loves academia because he can work with “some of the smartest and most committed people in the world to have a positive impact on the care of patients with heart disease.”

Fun fact: Some people say that Curtis has too many antique cars. He respectfully disagrees.

Neera Dahl, MD, PhD

  • Nephrology, Clinician-Educator Track
  • Fellowship: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
  • Residency: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
  • Internship: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
  • PhD: Tufts University, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences
  • MD: Tufts University School of Medicine

Neera Dahl, MD, PhD, came to Yale School of Medicine 15 years ago and helped build the clinical polycystic kidney disease (PKD) program. Her nephrology section chief applauded this accomplishment, along with Dahl’s promotion in an announcement to the team and included one important detail that was unknown to Dahl; that Yale’s PKD program is now one of the largest in the country.

When notified that she was being promoted to professor, she emailed her PhD thesis advisor. “I had just seen her recently as I was in Boston for the National Kidney Foundation meeting, and it was finally safe to connect. I was her first graduate student, and I think at the time we were both a little uncertain of our future success. She went on to do brilliant things and recently retired as acting chair and a tenured professor in physiology,” said Dahl.

Dahl appreciated that she took a chance on her, because she admits that she wasn’t a very disciplined student at the time. “She told me she was stronger for having had me in the lab, and I knew she understood the effort in the achievement,” said Dahl.

Dahl knows that the promotion isn’t something she achieved alone. “It was a group effort—patients, nurses, the clinical trials team, my friends, family, mentors, and colleagues all supported this process. I am celebrating their efforts as well.”

Overall, Dahl cites a joy of academia is the ability to teach, informally or formally. She works extensively with fellows and post-grads and notes that they always bring different talents and ambitions to their roles. She said, “It is a privilege to be able to shape that raw energy into academic success.”

She credits Yale with giving her the resources to create a program from scratch. “I have learned that at Yale if I can imagine a program, we can build it. There are many resources that can be leveraged, so it’s just a matter of holding on until the infrastructure forms underneath you. I am grateful to everyone who has shared or offered resources or advice.”

She also acknowledges the administrative staff for their resourcefulness. “They are unsung heroes,” said Dahl. “If you tell them what you need, they can usually create it for you—we've acquired everything from spare furniture to extra closet space to innovative patient-facing scheduling this way.”

Fun fact: Dahl is really into bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, and anything that can be considered a pollinator. She has always enjoyed gardening but during the pandemic, it became an obsession. She tore up parts of her front lawn to make a wildflower meadow and rain garden. Last fall, she planted to extend the season for the early pollinators, and now has been watching with delight as her garden is both blooming in late April/early May and attracting pollinators, although she says that the bees still look cold.

Alfred Lee, MD, PhD

  • Hematology, Clinician-Educator Track
  • Fellowship: Dana Farber Cancer Institute
  • Chief Residency: Brigham & Women's Hospital
  • Residency: Brigham & Women's Hospital
  • MD: Yale School of Medicine
  • PhD: Yale University

Within medicine, teaching has always been the greatest love of Alfred Lee, MD, PhD. After completing his residency and fellowship training in Boston, he actively pursued faculty positions oriented towards teaching. “I chose to return to Yale because of what seemed like an extraordinary commitment on the part of the institution to the teaching mission of academic medicine, far beyond other institutions I looked at,” said Lee.

Along with directing the Hematology/Oncology Fellowship Program, Lee also teaches the hematology course for the Yale medical students. In August, he gave the keynote address at the White Coat Ceremony for the incoming first year medical students, where he spoke about the nonlinearity of his own path to becoming a clinician-educator, which saw him exploring career interests in music and science before finding his calling as a physician. “I always try to reassure students and trainees that unexpected detours are all part of the natural process of learning and professional development, and that these experiences make us all better doctors and better people in the end.” Lee said that his promotion to professor is confirmation that Yale genuinely values teaching as one of its core academic principles.

Two fun facts about Lee:

  • He met his now-husband, Eric Andrewsen, in 1996 while in medical school at Yale. At the time, Eric was a popular hairdresser in New Haven, doing lots of hair shows and cutting hair for numerous Yale students. Eric first cut Lee’s hair on March 7, 1996, and they started dating soon after. No one else has cut Lee’s hair for 26 years!
  • Halloween has become a major neighborhood event at Lee’s house, all thanks to Eric, who every year turns their 110-year-old residence in Hamden into a haunted house with extravagant displays. Eric begins planning each Halloween a year in advance, which attracts several hundred trick-or-treaters all looking for a scare and a good time, with donations given to a local charity.

Richard A. Martinello, MD

  • Infectious Diseases, Clinician-Educator Track
  • Fellowship: Yale School of Medicine
  • Chief Resident: Indiana University School of Medicine
  • Residency: Indiana University School of Medicine
  • Internship: Indiana University School of Medicine
  • MD: Loyola University

The favorite part of working in academia for Richard A. Martinello, MD, are the opportunities to collaborate with colleagues and students both within and external to Yale, which have culminated in meaningful scientific advancements, along with the opportunity to impact the processes, practice, and operations at Yale New Haven Health, which improves quality and safety for patients and staff. He also enjoys teaching and mentoring talented, energetic students.

Throughout his career, he is most proud of the research he has done and the teams that he has built and led. Martinello acknowledges that the road he has taken to professor has been a long and challenging journey, with uncertainties, but is proud of his accomplishment. “[Being a professor] further cements my role as a mentor and will allow me additional opportunities which I can share with others who are not quite as far down the career path as me,” said Martinello.

This path has led him to work with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in different capacities, from working with the VA to lead the response to the 2009 pandemic; participating in the initial development of federal Combatting Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria plans and implementation; and leading the VA’s increased involvement to further vaccinate veterans and VA staff. When he was working in the VA Central Office in Washington, D.C., he would attend occasional meetings at the White House, including in the Situation Room.

When he received the news, he had an immediate sense of joy and relief, and shared the news with his wife and family.

Fun fact: Bicycling is Martinello’s hobby, and he logs thousands of miles each year. His longest ride to date is 107 miles.

William Ravich, MD

  • Digestive Diseases, Clinical Track
  • Fellowship in Gastroenterology: Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • Residency in Internal Medicine: Montefiore Medical Center
  • MD: Chicago School of Medicine

When he found out about his promotion to professor, William Ravich, MD, said he immediately called his wife Elaine, because “she had been waiting as long as I had.”

To Ravich, being promoted to professor “represents a level of recognition for my work that is really appreciated. Traditionally, prestigious medical institutions - including Yale - have been reluctant to promote faculty who are primarily clinicians, to professor, but ‘The Times They Are A-Changin,’” Ravich said.

His favorite part of academia is teaching in clinic. Ravich believes there is nothing better than sharing his experience and thoughts in the context of trying to solve a patient’s clinical problem. “Taking care of patients is always interesting and challenging but sharing my experience with gastroenterology (GI) fellows, medical residents, and medical students – now that’s the icing on the cake.”

When asked about his career accomplishments, Ravich responded that he was most proud of his expertise in the field of swallowing disorders. “Through my experience taking care of patients with difficult swallowing problems, during which I have collaborated with clinicians from a variety of specialties, I have developed what I believe to be a unique perspective on the evaluation and treatment of swallowing disorders.”

Fun fact about Ravich: During the 1980’s, he served as an informal consultant to the National Zoo in Washington DC. In that capacity he performed endoscopies on a giant panda and an orangutan, lead into publications in the veterinary literature.

Donna Windish, MD, MPH

  • General Medicine, Clinician-Educator Track
  • Fellowship: Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • MPH: Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • Residency: University of Rochester, Strong Memorial Hospital
  • MD: University of Connecticut

When Donna Windish, MD, MPH, found out she was being promoted to professor, she immediately told her husband and 10-year-old son. Because it was two weeks before Christmas, her son convinced her to wait to tell the rest of the family until Christmas Eve. To prepare for the big announcement, he created a video montage of her career in medicine, adding graphics and music, and recording the narration. On December 24, he presented his video tribute. “I was surprised what he understood of what I/we do in medicine. It was well-done, so kind, and touching. I cried,” admitted Windish.

Her promotion is special. “I feel my hard work as a clinician-educator and scholar has been recognized by my peers at Yale and across the country as being important. I hope that my promotion will inspire other clinician-educators to find enjoyment in educational scholarly work and purse their own areas of interest.”

Throughout her career, she is most proud of the two programs she developed: the Yale General Internal Medicine (GIM) Medical Education Fellowship Program, and the Department of Internal Medicine Advancement of Clinician-Educator Scholarship (ACES) Faculty Development Program.

The Yale General Internal Medicine Medical Education Fellowship Program started in 2016 and was built from her accumulated experience and ideas of what knowledge, attitudes, and skills a clinician-educator scholar needs to succeed in academic medicine. “The fellowship has become a popular option for internal medicine residents looking into academic careers and who want to be scholarly clinician-educators. I truly am impressed at how successful the program graduates have become as clinician scholars, educators, and leaders,” said Windish.

In 2019, Windish started ACES, a program is designed to improve the educational scholarship of junior clinician-educators in the department. She used the blueprints of the Yale GIM Medical Education Fellowship program to put this new program forward. Windish is excited to see the ideas of the junior faculty participants come alive in their curriculum development, abstract presentations, publications, grants, and leadership positions.

Fun fact about Windish: She is an avid baker who loves to try new recipes and expand her repertoire. While she has made many desserts over the years, her most favorite are the hand decorated birthday cakes of varying shapes and sizes: trains, cars, bulls, bunnies, video game characters, etc. These cakes were designed for her son, niece, and nephew, but “were enjoyed by all,” she said. If medicine were not her calling, she thinks she would open a pastry shop!

Eric Winer, MD

  • Medical Oncology, Clinician-Scientist Track
  • Chief Resident: Yale New Haven Hospital
  • Residency: Yale New Haven Hospital
  • Internship: Yale School of Medicine
  • MD: Yale School of Medicine

Eric Winer, MD, was named professor in 2008 during his time at Harvard Medical School. Upon his return to Yale School of Medicine (YSM) earlier this year, he was appointed as professor of medicine (medical oncology) and named the Alfred Gilman Professor of Medicine and Pharmacology.

Being a professor at YSM is meaningful to Winer because New Haven is where he began his career in medicine. He is thrilled to have returned to Yale, where he earned his undergraduate degree, medical degree, and completed his residency training.

“It is special to be a Yale professor having attended Yale College and Yale School of Medicine, and then serving as a house officer in internal medicine. When I was a college student, I never thought that I would ultimately become a professor,” said Winer.

He loves mentoring residents, fellows, and junior faculty. While at Harvard, he was honored with a lifetime mentoring award, an honor that he was very proud to receive.

An additional source of pride for Winer is both his clinical work that focuses on patients with breast cancer and the research he has done that has led to significant improvements in cancer care.

Fun fact about Winer: He did not take any science as an undergraduate. He majored in history and Russian Studies, but ultimately decided he did not want to work for the CIA.

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 September 01, 2022