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Helping a great scientist’s spirit live on

Additional funding needed to reach $1 million goal for supporting young physician-scientists
Posted November 19, 2015

David Yue, an acclaimed School of Medicine biophysicist, biomedical engineer, and molecular neuro-cardiac physiologist, was considered by family and colleagues to be someone whose passion for science was so heartfelt that it was impossible to be in his presence without coming to share it. A beloved teacher — and 2009 recipient of the Alumni Association’s Excellence in Teaching Award, he instilled that passion in his students, who gave it new life in their own work.

To keep Yue's spirit alive after his untimely death from cardiac arrest in 2014, his wife Nancy Chang Yue, brother John Yue, and sister Mary Yuan have given $500,000 to establish the David T. Yue, MD, PhD, Endowed Scholars Fund. The Yue and Yuan families, along with Yue’s colleagues, students, mentees, and friends, have committed to a goal of raising $1 million to complete the fund.

By supporting an outstanding MD-PhD candidate’s pursuit of the basic science research that was the heart of Yue's pursuits, the fund will honor its namesake and ensure that his legacy lives on in future scholars.

"David was interested in the beauty of uncovering the fundamental structure and behavior of cellular membrane," says neuroradiologist Nancy Yue, Engr '83, of her late husband, who received his medical and doctoral degrees through the combined School of Medicine training program. "We’d like to see that the fund helps develop scientists who are interested in getting to the basics of how cells operate. He was so excited about discovering truths about the very basis of cellular behavior. That was what brought him joy."

The Medical Scientist Training/MD-PHD Program, now in its 40th year, prepares future leaders not only in medicine but also in fundamental and biomedical research. The program takes eight years to complete, with most graduates pursuing research through academic careers, the biotech or pharmaceutical industries, or the National Institutes of Health. The Yue Endowed Scholars Fund will help recruit students in the field of biomedical engineering and provide a partial stipend for their first year and a pilot research grant in their third year.

"Dr. Yue did brilliant research to help understand the basic workings of the body, and used his knowledge to train physicians and scientists to understand that," says Andrea Cox, MD, PhD, director of the MD-PhD program. "He was a successful teacher and scientist, and a kind person dedicated to the people he taught and with whom he worked. He had much left to contribute, and this allows him to continue to contribute by encouraging others to take up the work that was important to him."

Yue, a professor of biomedical engineering and neuroscience, co-director of the doctoral program in biomedical engineering, and director of the Calcium Signals Laboratory, focused his investigations on calcium channels and the role of calcium signals in processes throughout the body. These signals, he believed, held the key to the difference between a healthy body and a sick one, and understanding their functioning at the deepest level would transform the practice of medicine.

"As a child, he was always curious, always driven, always wanted to do something more in-depth," remembers Mary Yuan, PhD, his older sister. "Sure enough, that's what he did in his research. He was really into the fundamental understanding of any phenomenon. He felt that basic science really supports a lot of the advancement in applied sciences."

"It was his spirit of tinkering and research that enabled his discovery, at the molecular level, of how human health works," says John Yue, PhD, his older brother.

The MD-PhD program was also the source of many of the students who came to work in Yue’s lab, entering his orbit of enthusiasm for the search for truth, the rigor of research, and Saturdays at the whiteboard imagining experiments, however improbable, to answer essential questions. Surrounded by lab equipment named after the Star Trek characters he’d adored since childhood, and which he’d modified just as he’d tinkered with electronics in his neighbor’s garage as a child, Yue and his students tackled ideas that regularly took them to international conferences and prestigious award podiums.

"His students were themselves stellar," says Leslie Tung, PhD, professor of biomedical engineering and interim director of the department, adding: "He instilled in his students a love for fundamental science and discovery."

You can support the David Yue, MD, PhD, Scholarship Fund by giving online. Please add in "David T Yue MD, PhD, Scholarship" in the description area.

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