Office Hours with… Louise Wang
As a recent addition to the Yale School of Medicine faculty, Louise Wang is tackling a persistent problem — how to catch pancreatic cancer before it becomes too advanced.
Since she arrived at Yale last year, Wang has worked collaboratively with experts in bioinformatics, genetics, and oncology. She’s currently working with the Department of Veterans Affairs to develop risk-prediction models that might help identify individuals at high risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
In the latest edition of Office Hours, a Q&A series that introduces Yale newcomers to the broader university community, Wang discusses her research, the reasons she wanted to come to Yale, and the lasting benefits of an improv class she once took.
|Assistant Professor of Medicine
|Developing tools to identify individuals at high-risk of pancreatic cancer
|University of Pennsylvania
|Started at Yale
|July 17, 2022
How would you describe your research?
Louise Wang: I study pancreatic cancer, which is one of the deadliest cancers, but also quite rare. It’s deadly because most cases are found at advanced stages that can’t be removed through surgery, and current therapies don’t yet add a lot of time to someone’s life. But because it’s so rare, population-level screening for all would result in the risks outweighing the benefits. My work focuses on how to identify high-risk individuals who can then undergo more targeted screening.
What’s one project you’re working on now?
Wang: I’m developing risk-prediction models that integrate clinical risk factors that one can find in an electronic health care record and genetic information that one can find in biorepositories. I’m working within the Veteran Affairs [VA] electronic health care record, which is the largest integrated health care system in the United States, as well as the Million Veteran Program biobank, which is the world’s largest biorepository.
Ultimately, I’m trying to develop a clinical prediction tool that can be used alongside patient care to identify these high-risk individuals, which will improve early detection of pancreatic cancer.
What brought you to Yale and the VA Connecticut?
Wang: What brought me to Yale was the support system and the mentorship. I’m always encouraged to explore further collaborations. In the months I’ve been here, I’ve made collaborations within bioinformatics, genetics, as well as the oncology groups. The VA Connecticut is very research-focused, which has been so helpful for my goal of integrating electronic heath care records with genetics.
As an undergraduate, you majored in economics and biology and minored in math and chemistry. What led you to that particular blend of subjects?
Wang: I really liked the idea of individualized choices and the integration of choice with medicine. That’s what made me do the double major in economics and biology. This can be applied to my current work on how to personalize risk for pancreatic cancer. It’s what brought me specifically to internal medicine as well, the ability to explore how we can empower different individuals to make their own choices.
What’s something new you’ve tried recently?
Wang: My fiancé and I got back from Argentina, and we’ve started to do some tango. I have two left feet but it’s nice to do something new. We actually met in an improv class, so there’s that side of us as well.
What led you to improv?
Wang: I took the class because I read about how improv helps you be more present, which is helpful in life but also for patient care.