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Cardiovascular Disease

Jamie Pfaff

Medical School Class of 2020

Jamie Pfaff

As a third year medical student, I became fascinated by the science behind medical treatments and the process of discovering new therapeutic agents, particularly for patients with cardiovascular disease. I realized that I wanted to learn more about how we develop effective treatments. After discussing my interests with the UT Southwestern Medical Student Research office, I learned about the Sarnoff Cardiovascular Research Fellowship.

A year to do research

Jamie Pfaff and other Sarnoff Fellows after practicing CPR at the 2017 American Heart Association Conference.

Jamie Pfaff and other Sarnoff Fellows after practicing CPR at the 2017 American Heart Association Conference.

Jamie Pfaff and her Kaelin Lab colleagues at her send-off dinner.

Jamie Pfaff and her Kaelin Lab colleagues at her send-off dinner.

Jamie Pfaff receives the Sarnoff Cardiovascular Research Fellowship award from her mentors, UT Southwestern Cardiologists Dr. James de Lemos and Dr. Joseph Hill, Chief of Cardiology.

Jamie Pfaff receives the Sarnoff Cardiovascular Research Fellowship award at the Sarnoff Cardiovascular Research Fellowship Annual Meeting in 2017. She is standing with mentors, UT Southwestern Cardiologists Dr. James de Lemos (left) and Dr. Joseph Hill, Chief of Cardiology (right).

Jamie Pfaff and other Sarnoff Fellows in front of a large heart logo at the 2017 American Heart Association conference in Anaheim.

Jamie Pfaff and other Sarnoff Fellows, class of 2017-18, with Dr. Dale Abel (chair of Sarnoff's Board of Directors) at the 2017 American Heart Association conference in Anaheim.

Jamie Pfaff and other medical students interested in cardiology from all over the country make heart shapes with their hands.

Jamie Pfaff, second row, farthest right, makes friends with medical students interested in cardiology from all over the country.

Jamie Pfaff with her Kaelin lab mentors, Dr. William G. Kaelin, Jr., Lasker Prize winner, and Dr. Ben Lampson at her farewell dinner in June 2019.

Jamie Pfaff with her Kaelin lab mentors, Dr. William G. Kaelin, Jr. (Lasker Prize Winner - left) and Dr. Ben Lampson (right) at her farewell dinner in June 2019.

Current and former Sarnoff fellows in Cambridge, Mass., at the 2017 Sarnoff Cardiovascular Research Fellowship Annual Meeting.

Current and former Sarnoff fellows in Cambridge, Mass., at the 2017 Sarnoff Cardiovascular Research Fellowship Annual Meeting.

 
 

The Sarnoff Fellowship program supports 10-15 medical students annually to spend one year pursuing research at top medical centers across the country, away from their home institutions. This program encourages students without extensive prior research experience to apply, which was particularly appealing to me. With the help of many mentors at UT Southwestern, I applied and was offered a fellowship position, which I gladly accepted. I visited several incredible labs and ultimately found the right fit with the Kaelin Lab at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

Over the next year, I had the opportunity to learn about how basic molecular biology can be utilized to develop new treatments for patients under the supervision of the Lasker Prize-winning scientist, Dr. William G. Kaelin, Jr. In the lab, I worked with a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Ben Lampson, to develop and execute whole-genome CRISPR screens and pharmacologic screens. Our goal was to discover novel, indirect gene targets and therapeutics for the treatment of cancers and cardiovascular diseases driven by aberrant transcriptional factor activity.

I found this work particularly exciting because these targets have previously been considered “undruggable” for treatment. I became so invested in the project that I applied and was accepted to continue work in the lab for a second year to complete more screening and participate in secondary validation of screening hits.

Improving understanding of medical treatments

The Sarnoff Fellowship provided the opportunity to cultivate my understanding of the basic science behind medical treatments, engage in scientific discovery, and practice presenting scientific findings at research conferences. I believe that I will be a better physician because of the skills I developed as a Sarnoff Fellow in the Kaelin lab.

– Jamie Pfaff, Medical School Class of 2020