When Daniel Colón-Ramos, Ph.D., associate professor of cell biology, arrived from Puerto Rico as a freshman at Harvard in 1994, things didn’t quite go as planned. Once in his dorm room, he felt dizzy and recalls telling his roommate, “I’m dying. You have to take me to the hospital.”
The hospital physicians suspected meningitis, but results on a spinal tap were negative. Following a phone call between Puerto Rican and American physicians, it came to light that “these were all the symptoms of dengue fever. I was coming in with a tropical disease,” Colón-Ramos says.
With this global context in mind, Colón-Ramos has spearheaded a new M.D./Ph.D. collaboration with the University of Puerto Rico (UPR). Starting this year, students accepted in the M.D. program at UPR can apply to Yale’s Combined Program in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences and will be assigned mentors while studying for their Ph.D.s in New Haven. After completing their research, they will return to UPR for the final year of medical school.
The training that UPR students receive at Yale will prepare them for careers as physician-scientists, currently a small community in Puerto Rico’s medical community. But they will also bring their island experiences to enrich the environment at Yale.
“We’re training our next generation,” says Uroyoán Walker, Ph.D., president of UPR. “And when I say ours, I mean the world’s.”