New residents excited about the opportunity to continue doing research while learning to become proficient neurosurgeons
Author: | July 11, 2022
After two weeks of orientation, the Neurosurgery Department’s two new residents are beginning the clinical aspect of their seven-year journey at the U. We are proud to introduce the newest members of our residency program:
Hannah Wilson, MD, PhD
Dr. Wilson completed her MD and PhD from West Virginia University (WVU) School of Medicine in Morgantown. She earned her BS in biology (Honors Research Track), biochemistry, and ethics from the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.
At West Virginia Medical School, Dr. Wilson built her research skills as a summer research intern and had two rotations during her PhD training in the labs of Lisa Robinson, MD (pathology), and Yehenew Agazie, DVM, PhD (cancer cell biology). In addition, she spent a year as a graduate research assistant in the lab of Steven Frisch, PhD and completed her dissertation research in the lab of Emidio Pistilli, PhD, where she continued as a consulting scientist in bioinformatics after graduation. Both these labs focus on cancer cell biology. A published author, Dr. Wilson was first author on four of her five articles, and has made several poster and oral presentations.
Like many medical students, Dr. Wilson found herself at a crossroads when it came to choosing a focus. “I stumbled into a neurosurgical OR one day and was totally blown away by how incredible the operation was,” she said. “From that moment on, I was obsessed. I started talking to mentors in the field and doing research and fell more and more in love with the specialty.”
She was ecstatic when she discovered she had matched with the U of M. “My mentors at WVU told me that Minnesota is an excellent training environment for neurosurgery, both in terms of the curriculum and the environment itself,” said Dr. Wilson. “I also know that Dr. Chen is a leader in neurosurgical oncology and is doing glioblastoma research, which I am interested in.”
When she interviewed at the U, Dr. Wilson found it was one of her most enjoyable interviews. “I really loved talking with the residents and faculty here and felt a genuine connection to the people in a way that I hadn’t in my other interviews,” she said.
During the next seven years, Dr. Wilson’s primary goal is to become an “exquisitely trained” neurosurgeon and build a foundation as a neurosurgeon-scientist. “I’m interested in doing a 50-50 research/practice model and know there are mentors here that can get me comfortable with that,” she said. “In addition, I’m really interested in furthering women’s interest in surgical specialties. Neurosurgery has a low percentage of women in the field. I can see myself being involved in national organizations supporting women.” (She and co-resident Dr. Yekula are pictured here with faculty member Andrew Grande, MD, reviewing suturing during orientation.)
Dr. Wilson understands that there will be challenges to overcome. “Residency will be a stressful time,” she said. “There are difficult physical demands, such as sleep schedule changes, but there are also the emotional demands of being in a stressful environment and having a lot expected of you.”
An active volunteer, Dr. Wilson has worked with such organizations as Morgantown Meals on Wheels, Youth for Understanding (an international student exchange program), and Senior Pet and Animal Rescue in Pittsburgh, PA. She also volunteered with the West Virginia University MD/PhD Scholars Program as a student member of the admissions committee and founded the WVU chapter of Medical Students for Choice.
When Dr. Wilson has spare time, she tries to eat well and exercise. “I like weightlifting and yoga and have been going on lots of walks with my dog,” she said. “I also like things that encourage you to gain new skills, such as learning new languages.”
Anudeep Yekula, MBBS
Dr. Yekula graduated from Guntur Medical College, India. as a valedictorian who won several gold medals and scholarships. He then completed sub-internships in neurological surgery, vascular surgery, and surgical oncology, all at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Dr. Yekula also completed a general surgery internship at the Yale-New Haven Hospital, which is affiliated with the Yale School of Medicine in Connecticut.
“As a medical student, I was attracted to neurosurgery because of the experience I had during my sub-internship at Massachusetts General Hospital,” said Dr. Yekula. “One of the unique aspects of neurosurgery is that we operate on the part of the body that defines a person – the way we talk, think, move – so it takes an immense level of confidence for the patient to trust their neurosurgeon. I like creating that level of trust with my patients and helping them during some of the most difficult phases of their lives.”
To build his research skills, Dr Yekula worked as a post-doctoral research fellow with Bob Carter, MD, PhD; and Leonora Balaj, PhD, at the Center of Excellence for Research in Exosome Sciences Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, developing blood-based tests for diagnosing and monitoring brain tumors. He has developed novel diagnostic assays that are currently undergoing clinical translation and is a co-inventor of two innovation patents. “The University of Minnesota is also a leading center for brain tumor research and blood-based diagnostics” said Dr. Yekula.
During his time at Yale, he worked with Naiem Nassiri, MD, studying vascular malformations and endovascular stent-graft devices. Dr. Yekula has more than 28 peer-reviewed articles published in medical journals (he is first author on 12) and has made numerous poster and oral presentations during medical meetings throughout the world.
Dr. Yekula believes the U of M is a great place for what he wants to achieve. “I want to become a neurosurgeon- scientist,” he said. “I love the idea of combining clinical practice with discovery and innovation … taking ideas from clinical practice and testing them in the lab and taking ideas from basic science and finding clinical use.”
He added that the Neurosurgery Department has great leadership and a culture of mentorship. “One unique aspect is that the department has a good balance between clinical medicine and research,” Dr. Yekula noted. “They also value work-life balance. The most exciting aspect for me is to live my dream and to see what hard work and dedication can get you. Moving to a new place, getting to know new people, and integrating yourself into a new program – the journey is stressful but exciting. There will be rough times, there will be great times, but overall, the combination will make me really happy.”
While in school, Dr. Yekula spent time volunteering and organizing health camps. He was an active member of the Recruitment and Diversity Committee for Yale. There are other ways he likes to use his spare time. “I enjoy watching movies, cooking, spending time with my family, and going on long drives — that don’t involve moving,” he said, laughing, recalling his recent experience driving from Connecticut to Minnesota.
As they incorporate themselves into their new daily routines at the U, we look forward to learning more about our new residents’ achievements. Welcome, Hannah and Anudeep!