Hooked on Rheum

Hooked on Rheum

January 14, 2022
1 min read

Hooked on Rheum with Deborah Dyett Desir, MD

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How I became a rheumatologist is kind of an odd story.

When I was in medical school at Yale, I did my work in the infectious diseases section with Richard Root, MD, and William Greene, MD. I had a prize-winning thesis on inflammation and white blood cells. If your thesis wins a prize at Yale, you present at student research day.

Deborah Dyett Desir

When I made the presentation that day, it was attended by Stephen Malawista, MD, who was the section chief of rheumatology at Yale at the time. Evidently, he always came to student research day.

After winning that prize, I went on and did my residency and internship at Yale. It was a different time then; there was no fellows match, so I interviewed in infectious diseases. In fact, I interviewed up and down the East Coast in ID.

Then, one day, it dawned on me that the path I was on would lead me to academic medicine, but I actually really loved clinical medicine. It occurred to me that what I needed was a specialty where I could spend time with patients but also do clinical research. Through my training, I found that I really enjoyed working with patients with arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. But at that point in the interview season, I thought it was too late.

But just in case, I called Dr. Malawista and told him that I wanted to be a rheumatologist. He told me that he had been there the day I made the presentation on inflammation and said, “Let me think about it.”

A few days later, he called me up and said, “If you want a spot in rheumatology, I have one for you.”

Steve, of course, became a mentor for me. To date, he is the only faculty member of Yale to be president of ACR. It will be my great honor, in 2 years, to follow in his footsteps and become president of ACR, as well.

Deborah Dyett Desir, MD
Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine
Yale School of Medicine
Yale Medicine