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A Letter from the Director

June 24, 2019

Summer has finally arrived in New Haven: sunny blue skies and temperatures in the 80s welcomed MD-PhD students having a paella cook-out at Sleeping Giant (hosted by Drew Daniels and the Student Council) this weekend. Traffic in town has eased up, as schools go into summer break mode, and the Green is blocked off for the annual Festival of Arts and Ideas.

Our 2019 graduating class is starting the next chapter of their lives, many in new hospitals and universities far from New Haven, while some of the members of our entering MD-PhD class are already on campus doing rotations as part of START@Yale. I look forward to welcoming the entire class of 19 students to orientation and White Coat on August 12th: stay tuned for pictures! We also have two onboard students joining the program, Sakura Oyama and Manik Kuchroo, which will increase our program’s size to 144 current students for the 2019-20 academic year. I’m incredibly thankful to all of these students for the energy and thought they invest in improving our MD-PhD community, and to the faculty and staff that mentor and support their training.

Someone else is making a new start this summer: Sue Sansone will be retiring from the program after 25 years of being the MD-PhD program’s Registrar and Interview Coordinator. Even students who matriculated elsewhere for their training remember Sue from their Yale interviews, while those who were wise enough to become Yalies got to enjoy Sue’s email memes, stop by her office for LifeSavers and advice, and ultimately have her send them across the stage to receive their diploma and congratulations from the Dean. (We’ve asked Sue to come back and help every class that she admitted start that final walk across the stage, by the way, so I’m looking forward to seeing her for at least another 9 years or so!) Sue’s party is July 1st, cats are likely to be involved somehow, and I hope that many alums are able to make the trip in person or virtually to honor Sue. It will be strange to not see Sue on the 3rd floor of Harkness, but I look forward to seeing the mark that our new Interview Coordinator, Christine Caminear, makes on the job and program.

I’m doing an experiment myself this coming year: I’ll be on sabbatical. Fred Gorelick has graciously agreed to serve as the acting director during this time, while Keith Choate will be in charge of interviewing students for our next MD-PhD class. I’m very grateful to them, and to all of the Associate Directors and our staff, for allowing me the opportunity to take a deep dive back into my science and lab. Prepring our new MSTP T32, all 966 pages of which were submitted in May to NIGMS, was a great opportunity to think about how best to build upon the strengths of our MSTP program and Yale’s substantial resources. We outlined many training and teaching experiments for the coming five years – and I’m now excited to do the same deep thinking and reflection about science with my lab. I won’t be going far – well, there will probably be a trip to visit some collaborators in at least one beautiful place in the world – so I will keep in touch with the students and the program during this coming academic year. In fact, I have some MD-PhD “work” planned as part of my sabbatical: I’ll keep working with our faculty team to review all of the applications to our MD-PhD program, and will look forward to piloting one of the new modules of our “Curriculum in Leadership and Research Management for Physician-Scientists” in the spring term. Plans for the 50th reunion are in development (save the dates: Oct 9-11, 2020!) and I’ll definitely do my part to organize that amazing celebration. And last but not least, I’ll begin my term as chair of the GREAT group MD-PhD steering committee of the AAMC in a few weeks. This is a chance to work at the national level to improve opportunities for MD-PhD students during and after training, with many initiatives now focusing on synergies between MSTPs and research-intensive residencies and physician-scientist training programs (PSTPs). I hope that many of you who have read this far take a moment to think about issues that can be taken up by this committee and let me know how I can best advocate on your behalf in this coming year.

Wishing you all sunny and joyful days,

Dr. K.

Barbara Kazmierczak, MD PhD
Gustavus and Louise Pfeiffer Research Foundation M.D.-Ph.D. Program Director, Professor of Medicine (Infectious Diseases)
Professor of Microbial Pathogenesis

Submitted by Reiko Fitzsimonds on June 24, 2019