Jul 16, 2019 11:00 AM


Photo of Yelena Wu

Video Transcript

I forget how lucky we are here to have the colleagues we do and the resources we do until I talk to people at other places and they say things like, “Wow! people are so friendly. They’re so collaborative.”

My name is Yelena Wu and I’m an assistant professor in the Department of Dermatology and an investigator at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

What is the focus of your research?

The work that my team and I are doing is focused on skin cancer prevention, especially in children and in families, many of whom are at higher risk for skin cancer, including melanoma—the deadliest form of skin cancer.

What are the challenges your team faces in their research?

A lot of what we do is trying to help children and their families think about how they change their behaviors. So we know that things like using sunscreen and using protective clothing is helpful for preventing skin cancer, but it’s one thing to tell people to do those things and a whole other thing to get them to actually do it. So we try to help people understand what is their risk for skin cancer, and then how can we make it easier for them to implement these preventive behaviors like sunscreen use?

What’s something your colleagues might not know about you?

I grew up playing the cello and so I spent probably my entire Saturdays at a conservatory and a prep program taking lessons, playing chamber music, taking theory classes, participating in orchestra. It was really challenging at times. I hated having to practice every day and have my Saturdays basically be gone. But I also loved meeting other kids who were not from my school, and as a result I got to travel internationally with my orchestras and have some really cool experiences.

We heard you’re a rock climber. How did that come about?

I started rock climbing in college. I think I was a freshman in college, and there was an outdoor club and they offered to take new people for free. And so I just started doing it then and then I joined a climbing gym, and ever since then many of my friends have been climbers, I met my husband through climbing, and it’s become a way to both travel and get exercise, get social interaction and really help me de-stress too from other things going on in my life.

Growing up, what was your dream job?

As I started to go to school more and things like that, I realized that I really love both working with families but also being able to be really intellectually stimulated and contribute to sort of the research side of the literature and how we can improve things for children that way. I think over time this is probably sort of my dream job. Especially now that I also get to do some clinical work in my role here at Huntsman Cancer Institute. It really is melding all of my big interests.

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