Cardiovascular researcher named chair of Molecular Pharmacology & Physiology

Tampa, FL (Dec. 5, 2011) – Physician-scientist Sarah Yuan, MD, PhD, a nationally recognized leader in translational cardiovascular research, has been named chair of the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology at USF Health.

Dr. Yuan recently joined the University of South Florida from the University of California Davis Medical Center, where she was the Pearl Stamps Stewart Professor of Surgery and Director of Research.

Known for innovative research in cardiovascular disease and health, Dr. Yuan’s work moves laboratory findings toward applications in patient care. She has an extensive track record of National Institutes of Health funding, high-impact publications and national and international grant review service.

Sarah Yuan, MD, PhD

“The addition of Dr. Yuan is great news for the future of research at USF Health,” said Stephen Klasko, MD, MBA, CEO of USF Health and Dean of the College of Medicine. “She has a remarkable breadth of expertise in translating novel molecular mechanisms into system-wide pathophysiology through analysis of cell, animal and human models of disease. She will be excellent at strengthening the ties between our basic science and clinical medicine departments, including cardiovascular, surgery and infectious diseases.”

Dr. Yuan said she was attracted to USF’s potential for growth and the rapid rise of its research mission. “USF has visionary leadership, an energetic and collegial environment, and an upward research curve,” she said. “I love to be part of a driving force.”

Over the last seven years, Dr. Yuan, who trained as a trauma surgeon, built a strong translational biomedical research program in the clinical surgery department at UC Davis. Her research has been continuously funded by the NIH, with current projects focusing on endothelial barrier function and microcirculation in inflammation. Her work has significant implications in various normal and disease processes, such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity and metabolic disorders, neurodegenerative disorders, infection, trauma, wound healing, and the development and spread of cancer. “Anything that requires a blood supply,” said Dr. Yuan, who has published extensively in these areas.

Recently, Dr. Yuan and colleagues at UC Davis identified a new molecular pathway involved in atherosclerosis, the formation of plaques that harden and narrow the arteries and greatly increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and diabetic complications. Their study demonstrates that a protein known as non-muscle myosin light chain kinase compromises the natural barrier function of endothelial cells, leaving arteries susceptible to injury. This work was published in a recent issue of the journal Circulation.

Dr. Yuan’s research on the cellular and molecular regulation of vascular injury and healing opens opportunities for a further development of the USF Health signature programs, as well as for interdisciplinary partnerships with Les Miller, MD, professor and chair of Cardiovascular Sciences; Robert Deschenes, PhD, professor and chair of Molecular Medicine, and David Smith, MD, professor and chair of Surgery.

Dr. Yuan received a MD degree and a PhD in pathophysiology from the First and Second Military Medical Universities in China. She completed a surgical residency at the Trauma and Burn Center in Shanghai, a surgical research fellowship at the University of Kentucky, and postdoctoral research training in medical physiology at Texas A&M University College of Medicine.

Dr. Yuan was the Raleigh White Chair in Surgery and Director of Surgical Research at Texas A&M before joining UC Davis in 2004.

A fellow of the American Physiology Society Cardiovascular Section, Dr. Yuan has played a leadership role in the scientific community worldwide. She served as associate or review editor of several journals, including Microcirculation, Microvascular Research, and Frontiers of Vascular Physiology. She is a member of the editorial boards of many journals, including the American Journal of Physiology, Frontiers in Biosciences, and Emergency Medicine, and she has reviewed numerous manuscripts for high-impact journals such as PNAS, Circulation, Circulation Research, Blood, and Critical Care Medicine. Additionally, she has served as chair or a charter member for many NIH study sections. Her expertise in scientific review and critical judgment is internationally recognized, and she has been frequently invited by other countries to participate in their national grant reviews and funding decisions.

In addition to serving as the chair of the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology, Dr. Yuan holds a joint appointment as professor in Surgery. Jay Dean, PhD, professor of molecular pharmacology and physiology, served as interim chair during the national search for a permanent department leader.

- USF Health -

USF Health is dedicated to creating a model of health care based on understanding the full spectrum of health. It includes the University of South Florida’s colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Public Health and Pharmacy, the School of Biomedical Sciences and the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences; and the USF Physician’s Group. Ranked 34th in federal research expenditures for public universities by the National Science Foundation, the University of South Florida is a high impact global research university dedicated to student success.

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