I was born and raised in Georgia on a chicken farm (ask if your curious). I attended the Oglethorpe County public school system which is a rural state-funded school system of about 600 students where I excelled in mathematics and the sciences early on. In middle school, I got interested in infectious disease mainly due to being so close to the CDC in Atlanta and the movie Outbreak. I began writing a lot of essays on different epidemics and pandemics throughout history.
I decided I wanted to get out and explore the world some so I attended the 2004 National Youth Leadership Forum for medicine in Boston, MA after my junior year of high school. There I got very interested in cardiology (quite the change from epidemiology I know) after watching an eight hour open-heart surgery at UMass Med Center and being completely taken away by it.
I attended, one of the Top 50 Liberal Arts Colleges, Centre College in Danville, KY (small town USA) mainly due to the small class sizes and the great Biochemistry and Molecular Biology professors on staff. Imagine half of college with class sizes of 14 students and only 3 different professors…amazing.
Around the beginning of college, I had a close relative diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer so at this time I began my initial ascent into the realm of cancer biology, immunology, and specifically immunotherapies against cancer. I received a summer internship position at Mayo Clinic in Rochester working for the chairman of their immunology department. While there I worked extensively on a newly discovered antibody capable of stimulating dendritic cells so they can better activate tumor infiltrating lymphocytes. What a wonderful experience in Rochester working at Mayo…always top notch.
While at Centre College during the school year, I worked in the microbiology lab of Dr. Peggy Richey as a lab technician but also conducting a little research into the pathogenesis of a fungi known to decimate soybean crops in Kentucky.
The other summers, before entering med school at the University of Louisville, I worked at the Medical University of South Carolina with Dr. Marcela-Diaz and Dr. David Cole (Chairman of the Department of Surgery) on a new stimulation protocol for adoptive T cell therapy for melanoma treatment mainly looking at the benefits of using IL-12 rather than the conventional IL-2 stimulation protocol. Last summer of college, I worked at the University of Louisville in Dr. Jun Yan’s lab (currently my PhD mentor) on human neutrophils and their ability to kill human cancer cell lines looking both at healthy donors and donors from a lung cancer clinic. We were interested in the cancer’s ability to suppress neutrophil killing function.
After two years of sitting in a library studying for medical school classes (occasionally shadowing in oncology clinics in Louisville and back home in Athens, GA), I’m now back in Dr. Yan’s lab working on gamma delta t cells and their role in cancer. I’m also working with a wonderful senior post-doc Dr. Yihua Cai on the role of gamma delta t cells in psoriasis. We’re also working on a side project which involves gamma delta t cell development in the thymus.
This is a very busy time in my life but my amazing fiance Allie (who I also met at the National Youth Leadership forum in boston back in 2004) and I are really enjoying life hear in Louisville both personally and professionally. University of Louisville with the James Graham Brown Cancer Center and the new Clinical and Translational research building (my second home for the next 3 years) are really making great advances in cancer research and treatment. Its quite the honor to be apart of the tremendous growth in the health sciences program here at UofL. Go Cards!
Remember…”its all about attitude and STAYING HUNGRY!” ~ Jun Yan MD.PhD.