Can't we just get along?

Mark Ostow

Mark Ostow

Neurologist David Hafler wants to see more collaboration among research institutions. View full image

Yale lured away a second top Harvard physician-researcher this summer. Neurologist David Hafler comes to New Haven this fall as chair of the medical school's neurology department and chief of neurology at Yale–New Haven Hospital. The news came just a few months after oncologist Thomas J. Lynch Jr. ’82, ’86MD, left Cambridge to become director of the Yale Cancer Center.

But while Hafler was hired as part of an aggressive Yale expansion plan—and while he hopes to lure more of his Harvard colleagues—he has a novel notion for relations between the two universities' medical schools: cooperation.

“There's been a dearth of interaction,” he says. “There's a lot more we can do.”

One of the nation's foremost experts on multiple sclerosis, Hafler says his emphasis will be on building “translational” programs that close the gap “between the basic sciences and clinical care patients.”

“Yale, uniquely, has a fantastic group of research scientists” in neurology, he notes. He intends to boost the neurology department's clinical side and to connect the two more closely—“really, to train physician-scientists.”

“In my field of multiple sclerosis,” Hafler says, “we have studied the disease at a molecular level and at a clinical level. We can do that with other diseases—stroke, brain tumors—to devise new treatments.” Through the International Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Consortium, which he helped create, Hafler and other scientists identified genes associated with the disease. “By working together, we've been able to move much faster in figuring out the genetics of MS,” he says. “Science is increasingly moving toward a collaborative model, where the data generated goes into the public domain for everyone to work with as fast as possible.”

In the end, Hafler insists, intercollegiate competition has little meaning in the world of medical science. “You know, I have an idea” for taming those competitive urges, he jokes. “Why don't they get together and have a football game once a year?”


The comment period has expired.