Sonali  Bracken
3rd year Research Fellow
House Staff

Start Year: 2021

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?
My ultimate career goals center on becoming a physician-scientist who combines my passions for rheumatology and basic/translational immunology in order to better understand the pathogenesis of autoimmunity. My specific goals are to 1) define the mechanisms by which B cells contribute to the onset and progression of systemic sclerosis and to 2) develop safer and more effective approaches to eliminate pathogenic B cell and autoantibody responses in patients with systemic sclerosis and other autoimmune disorders. 

Reflections on the Duke Rheumatology and Immunology Fellowship

What were you looking for in a fellowship program?
When I applied to fellowship programs, I was interested in four things: 1) a strong program that would prepare me clinically for independent practice as a rheumatologist 2) a program that would support my goals as an aspiring bench-based research scientist 3) a program with a collegial divisional and departmental culture 4) a family-friendly, affordable location with quality living.

What are the strengths of the Duke Rheumatology program? 
The Duke Rheumatology program checked every box on the list above. Although this is definitely a busy program, it above and beyond prepares its fellows to practice independently as rheumatologists. It provides both breadth and depth of clinical exposure at both the Duke University and Durham VA Hospitals and engages fellows in a variety of weekly educational conferences and activities. Fellows have the opportunity to see patients in both general rheumatology clinics and round on inpatient consults. In addition, fellows can participate in a variety of rheumatology subspeciality clinics that are staffed by our renowned expert faculty. Our program leadership really tailors each fellow's schedule to his or her individual goals and needs. Fellows and faculty truly support one another and collaborate fruitfully on research projects. The overall culture of the division and the program are just incredibly positive.

What are your observations about the relationships between faculty and fellows?
Faculty treat fellows like colleagues. More than anything, they recognize that fellows could have gone onto independent practice but instead chose to train as rheumatologists. They treat us with respect and prioritize our learning. They are always there to support us and are very approachable at all times of the day. 

What has surprised you most about Duke?
How much Duke values its trainees and junior faculty. There are so many outstanding initiatives geared towards supporting and building the careers of clinician researchers and educators. The institution is well integrated and allows you to take advantage of all that Duke has to offer.

About Life in Durham

What's best about living in Durham and the Triangle? 
The Triangle is an incredible place to live. There is so much diversity and so much to do, yet it remains so affordable relative to many other cities that house large, academic centers. Each city within the triangle has its own special culture and thus it is very hard to get bored here. The restaurants and local bars are all really good, and the people have so much pride in their history, the sports teams, and the universities. The Triangle is open to people of all backgrounds and lifestyles, and you just can't beat the glorious weather that will permit you to be outside all year round.

What advice would you give to someone looking to move to Durham?
If you are interested in a physician-scientist career pathway, please reach out to a current fellow or faculty member at Duke to discuss your plans/goals. We can help you figure out if Duke is the right training environment for you.

What do you like to do outside of medicine? 
As a mom, a physician, and a scientist, I never take free time for granted, but the best part of rheumatology is that it lends itself to a high quality lifestyle! Pandemic aside, our weekends are typically spent socializing with friends and taking our children out to various fun places around the triangle. This is truly a fantastic place to raise kids. I also love to cook, read, and spend time enjoying the gorgeous NC weather. My husband and I especially enjoy attending shows at the Durham Performing Arts Center.

House Staff