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Looking at the ‘right’ heart

2011 University Scholar Jason Yuan

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Jason Yuan

Jason Yuan: the opportunity to develop a new translational research program persuaded him to brave the Chicago winters.

Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

The University Scholars Program, now in its 27th year, honors faculty members for superior research and teaching, along with great promise for future achievements. The award provides $10,000 a year for three years.

Jason Yuan had a comfortable and distinguished career at the University of California, San Diego when the opportunity to develop a translational research program in pulmonary hypertension persuaded him to move out of his comfort zone and into a new position at UIC last year.

“In China we have a saying that translates as, “Would you rather paint on a white paper or on a paper that is already painted?” says Yuan, professor of medicine and pharmacology in pulmonary, critical care, sleep and allergy.

Yuan is excited about working with colleagues from various disciplines and the chance to collaborate with Joe G.N. “Skip” Garcia, university vice president for health affairs and UIC vice chancellor for research.

Garcia and Yuan are among six co-editors of the Textbook of Pulmonary Vascular Disease, published last spring.

Yuan’s research focuses on the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in different forms of pulmonary hypertension and the search for new treatments for pulmonary vascular disease.

Besides his own research laboratory, Yuan is principal investigator in the Institute for Personalized Respiratory Medicine and director of a new program in pulmonary vascular disease and right heart function in the Center for Cardiovascular Research.

In line with the institute’s emphasis on personalized medicine, Yuan wants to learn how genetic variation in individuals with pulmonary hypertension affects their response to treatment. 

At the Center for Cardiovascular Research, studies of heart failure have until now focused primarily on the function of the left side of the heart, Yuan explains.

“I joke that now we will be looking at the ‘right,’” heart,” he says.

Yuan received his medical degree from Suzhou Medical College in Suzhou, China, in 1983 and a Ph.D. jointly from Peking Union Medical College and Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and the University of Maryland in 1993. After six years on the U-Maryland faculty, he joined the University of California, San Diego.

The first time Yuan and his wife, Ayako Makino, assistant professor of medicine in endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism, considered relocating to Chicago, a sudden 40-degree temperature drop was enough to discourage the move.

“This time we came prepared with warm coats,” he laughs.


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