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Heidi J Zapata, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor

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Heidi J Zapata, MD, PhD

Patient Care Location



My interest in microbes started in college when I did a research project on Trypanosomes, the parasite that causes African sleeping sickness. I was struck with how the membrane of the parasite changed its surface antigens to circumvent the host immune response. My interest in the host microbe relationship continued during my MD/Ph.D., during which my thesis work focused on Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV), the cause of chicken pox and shingles. We demonstrated that the VZV virus had co-evolved to become highly dependent on the cellular signaling proteins JNK and ERK, which was beautifully illustrated when we found that the virus had hijacked these cellular proteins and had incorporated them into the virion. My research interests inspired my choice to pursue Infectious Diseases as a specialty.

During my Infectious Disease fellowship at Yale, my clinical experiences repeatedly demonstrated that different human hosts respond very diferrently to infection. The same microbe could produce a mild disease in one person, and an overwhelming sepsis in an another. I especially noted that both older adults and HIV-infected individuals had particularly different responses. With each patient I saw, the important role the host response plays in infection was underscored. Overall, my clinical experiences have solidified the importance of the host-microbe relationship, and have pushed me to further understand the host innate immune response through my research.

Education & Training

  • Fellowship
    Yale School of Medicine (2014)
  • Residency
    University of Virginia-Charlottesville (2011)
  • PhD
    SUNY Upstate Medical University, Microbiology and Immunology (2008)
  • MD
    SUNY Upstate Med Center (2008)

Departments & Organizations