Dr. Jonathan Yap, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral fellow who studies the inflammatory effects of heart attacks (myocardial infarction) on the body. He works at the University of Hawaii Center for Cardiovascular Research, excelling in a career that was once out of reach for a person like him. As a teenager growing up in Hawaii, Dr. Yap crashed into a wave while surfing and sustained a spinal cord injury that left him quadriplegic. He had to redefine his entire life’s purpose and, thanks to his love of science, found cardiovascular research. Through it all, the joy he finds in the beauty of Hawaii has never waned. 

Fast facts: Dr. Yap is a former trainee in T32, an NIH program dedicated to helping students at institutions whose mission includes serving populations overly affected by health disparities. He was also a F31 Predoctoral Fellow, an award granted to students with disabilities and who are part of underrepresented populations. Both programs aim to help increase the diversity of the scientific workforce. 

Sweet inspiration. Dr. Yap says he is driven by “the support and concerted efforts” of family and friends. “I've had amazing mentors.” He cites his principal investigator, William Boisvert, Ph.D., as someone he can always count on, just as he can other faculty at the Center for Cardiovascular Research. All eagerly promote his work, he says, and encourage his engagement with the scientific community.

photo of Dr. Jonathan Yap in his labBig impact. NIH and NHLBI have helped fund Dr. Yap’s lab costs and propel his career development in the direction he desired. This funding gave him technical assistance and opportunities to demonstrate his talent while also working independently in his lab. He recently received the Maximizing Opportunities for Scientific and Academic Independent Careers (MOSIAC) K99/R00 Award for Diversity to help bring more diversity to institutional faculty positions. "Part of the mission of NIH is to promote diversity, and to me that's extremely important,” says Dr. Yap. He is especially thankful to be part of NHLBI’s efforts to develop scientists and sponsor research that tackles health disparities to benefit underrepresented communities. 

Bright future. Looking ahead, Dr. Yap wants to continue studying heart attack recovery, as well as ways to reduce tissue damage and scarring during the early stages of heart attacks. He hopes his findings can one day be translated into real-world clinical practice.