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Meet Yale Internal Medicine: Jessica Tuan, MD, MS, AAHIVS, Assistant Professor of Medicine (Infectious Diseases)

August 25, 2023
by Melanie Ho

As part of our “Meet Yale Internal Medicine” series, today’s feature is on Jessica Tuan, MD, MS, AAHIVS, assistant professor of medicine (infectious diseases).

For Jessica Tuan, MD, MS, AAHIVS, caring for patients looks like many things. When Tuan is not working in the clinic or on the wards, she pours her energy into scaling up global health and medical education and researching new antiviral drugs and vaccines.

On her journey to becoming a physician-scientist, Tuan received two biomedical engineering degrees, a bachelor's degree in science from Johns Hopkins University and a master's degree in science from Yale University, before she received her medical degree from Chicago Medical School. Then, Tuan took up her internal medicine residency at University of Connecticut School of Medicine.

During her residency, Tuan spent four months in total treating patients in Rwanda, where she was captivated by the fascinating pathology behind infectious diseases. “The intriguing infectious diseases pathology and humanizing patient cases I experienced while working on the medicine wards living in Rwanda left me inspired. This formative experience ultimately led me to specialize in infectious diseases,” she said.

In Rwanda, Tuan witnessed the health disparities affecting the socially and economically disadvantaged populations for which she cared. “There were diseases that we could treat acutely, and it could be very rewarding to see the initial improvement. Yet, I also wanted to address those social inequities, which I felt were very connected to infectious diseases. I desired to take what lessons I had learned in this highly focused global health setting—from caring for patients with health inequities to learning the nuances of treating co-infections—and apply that knowledge in the care of patients for the rest of my career,” said Tuan.

After returning to the U.S., she began her infectious diseases fellowship at Yale School of Medicine (YSM), where she cared for patients with diverse infectious syndromes, including treating patients amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, she remained interested in reducing health inequities globally. With this momentum, she worked with her mentor Onyema Ogbuagu, MBBCh, FACP, FIDSA, associate professor of medicine (infectious diseases) on creating and translating medical education programs in global health, particularly in limited-resource settings. Soon, Tuan began consulting in infectious disease wards in Libera under a program led by Ogbuagu. There, she collaborated to teach medical trainees and support programming for the first infectious disease fellow in Liberia.

Yale’s Department of Internal Medicine appointed Tuan to the faculty in 2021. When asked what brought her to YSM, Tuan stated, “Yale is a magical place of synergy, excellent clinical care, cutting edge research, thoughtful mentorship, and endless possibilities for growth. Trainees, colleagues, and mentors demonstrate unmatched intellect, curiosity, and enthusiasm to learn, understand, and teach the practice of medicine, which uniquely makes Yale…Yale.”

As associate director of the Yale Antivirals and Vaccine Research Program Department of Internal Medicine and Section of Infectious Diseases, Tuan helps to lead clinical trials for HIV treatment and prevention (including long-acting injectable agents), as well as messenger RNA vaccines to prevent COVID-19, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus.

One of her primary interests lies in the clinical care of patients with HIV. Another passion of hers is teaching—she finds training residents and medical students as a Core Faculty member of the Donaldson service at Yale New Haven Hospital and caring for patients at Nathan Smith Clinic fulfilling and meaningful.

“My goals are to care for patients affected by infectious diseases in domestic and global health settings, build on healthcare infrastructure through medical education, and conduct innovative research to prevent and treat infectious diseases through clinical trials. One day, when I reflect upon the culmination of my career, I hope I can say that I helped redefine care for patients impacted by infectious diseases.”

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 August 25, 2023