The Physician-Scientist Division at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis selected three physicians for its third class of Dean’s Fellows. The program provides up to two years of financial support and mentorship to aspiring physician-researchers solely in medicine, as well as time set aside for laboratory research.
The newly named class includes: Miriam T. Jacobs, MD; Iris Lee, MD; and Paul Zolkind, MD.
Launched in 2020, the program represents the school’s commitment to addressing a national shortage of physician-scientists by fostering the career development of early-career physicians who treat patients but also wish to pursue biomedical research in the laboratory. .
Physician-scientists are considered essential to the development of new therapies and approaches to diagnosing and treating disease. While many physician-scientists hold medical degrees and doctorates, the Dean’s Scholars program aims to strengthen the research skills of those who have earned only medical degrees.
“Our Dean’s Fellows are excellent clinicians who have demonstrated outstanding aptitude and ambition in basic biomedical research,” said David H. Perlmutter, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs, the Dean George and Carol Bauer of the Faculty of Medicine and the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Professor Emeritus. “We are thrilled to support their talents and help them achieve their career goals through this program. Their continued successes reinforce the medical school’s legacy as a leader in training influential physician-scientists.
The program is supported by a Physician-Scientist Institutional Award from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, a non-profit organization that supports biomedical science through research and education. The School of Medicine and its departments also provide financial support for the program.
The three new Dean’s Scholars went through a competitive application process that involved interviews with experienced faculty and presentations of their proposed research projects.
Jacobs is a fourth-year fellow in the divisions of hematology and oncology. His research will focus on the use of cytokines – proteins essential for cell signaling – to enhance the ability of immune cells known as natural killer cells to fight cancer. His mentor is Todd A. Fehniger, MD, Ph.D.professor of medicine specializing in oncology, cell therapy and bone marrow transplantation.
Lee, a postdoctoral fellow in the Division of Rheumatology, aims to study how complement, a complex system of proteins that eliminates infectious agents, is involved in the development of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Specifically, she will examine how complement alters the function of immune cells such as B cells. Her mentors are Peggy L. Kendall, MDHead of the Division of Allergy and Immunology, and Virginia Minnich Professor of Medicine, and Christine Pham, MDChief of the Division of Rheumatology, and Guy and Ella Mae Magness Professor of Medicine.
Zolkind, assistant professor in the Department of Otorhinolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, will focus on the development of new therapeutic agents in preclinical models of head and neck cancer. Zolkind is also the chief of otolaryngology at John Cochran Veterans Hospital, which is affiliated with the University of Washington. His mentor is Ben Major, Ph.D.Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Emeritus Professor of Cell Biology and Physiology.
“A dual MD/PhD degree is not a requirement to be a brilliant physician-scientist,” said Wayne M. Yokoyama, MD, Director of the Division of Physician-Scientists, Sam J. Levin and Audrey Loew Levin Professor of Arthritis Research, and Associate Dean. “However, medical-only physician-scientists face unique challenges in their career paths. The Dean’s Scholars program aims to guide them to success.
Yokoyama himself is internationally recognized for his research on natural killer cells.
Apps for the Dean’s Scholars Program 2023 will open this summer.