Sonali Bracken, MD, PhD


Avon, CT

Where did you attend college/university?
University of Connecticut

Where did you attend medical school? 
University of Connecticut School of Medicine

What additional degrees do you have and from what institution? 
Ph.D; Immunology (University of Connecticut Graduate School)

What are your career goals?
I wish to apply my medical and scientific training towards a career as an academic physician-scientist, and I am planning on pursuing dual fellowship training in both rheumatology and allergy/immunology. My clinical and research interests center on understanding the immunologic mechanisms that contribute to both atopic and autoimmune disorders in order to develop and apply more targeted treatment strategies towards both of these conditions. I am currently pursuing Duke's new R38 pathway, an alternative to the traditional "short-track" pathway that provides extended research time during residency. Please feel free to email me if you are interested in this pathway and would like to further discuss it.

What did you do the summer before internship? 
Packed up and sold our home (the not so fun part) and then explored Durham (the much more fun part)

I wanted to be in a place where the people around me would prioritize their relationships with each other and family life as much as I do. 

Reflections on the Duke Program

What were you looking for in a residency program? 
I wanted to come to a place where I could practice how to be the best internist I possibly can be, see the sickest patients to whom I could gain exposure, and learn from the brightest attendings, fellows, and co-residents in the country. It was also important to me to be surrounded by colleagues who value research and evidence-based approaches to care. Most importantly, I wanted to be in a place where the people around me would prioritize their relationships with each other and family life as much as I do.

What are the strengths of the Duke program? 
The people, without a doubt! When I came to interview, I remember feeling that I would fit in best with the Duke IM residents, all of whom were so bright and multi-talented but so incredibly humble. Now that I am fully immersed in the residency program, I am so confident that my decision was a great one.

What are your observations about the relationships between faculty and house staff? 
The attendings are absolutely amazing! They sincerely value house staff and treat them like colleagues and equals. They provide the perfect level of guidance and teaching but give plenty of autonomy to residents as well. I have not yet met one attending who wasn't completely approachable and enthusiastic about working with residents. I think it is so telling how many attendings were once Duke medical students, residents, and/or fellows and stayed at Duke because of the positive environment and opportunities for professional growth.

Tell us about your co-interns. How long did it take to connect?
I could not believe how quickly my co-interns and I connected! I felt as though we were the best of friends before we officially started residency. All of my co-interns seem to value work-life balance and make a very concerted effort to plan social events. I sincerely could not have asked for a better cohort!

What has surprised you most about Duke? 
How phenomenal the people are. I expected a much snottier culture given the reputation, and was blown away by how down-to-earth Duke is. 

About Duke University and Durham

What's best about living in Durham and the Triangle? 
Durham has so much to do and yet is so affordable relative to many other cities in which large, academic centers are located. The Triangle is particularly neat, because Durham, Raleigh, and Chapel Hill all have such unique characteristics about themselves and thus I have found it hard to get bored here. The restaurants and local bars are really good, and the people have so much pride in their history, sports, and universities. Now that I have lived here, I have no intention on leaving!

How does the Triangle appeal to people of diverse backgrounds? 
The Research Triangle is also one of the most diverse and liberal regions in NC. It is very accepting of people of all races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientation, religions and beliefs. 

Where did you choose to live, and why? 
I chose to live in South Durham where my husband and I could rent a large townhouse at an affordable price. Duke University Hospital is only a 15 minute drive away for me and the commute to Raleigh is also quite easy for my husband. This area conveniently houses a large number of grocery stores, restaurants and walking/biking trails as well as one of the nicest malls in the country. 

Based on your life, what advice would you give about moving to Durham? 
There are so many different neighborhoods, all of which have very unique perks and feels. Feel free to contact any of the Duke residents if you want additional information and recommendations about which ones may be best suited for you. 

What do you like to do outside of medicine? 
Play tennis, run, walk, bike, watch college basketball (go Huskies!), travel, explore local restaurants, bars and parks, read, cook, and play with my pup. I'm also a new mom so absolutely nothing beats snuggle time with my baby boy!