USU Ph.D. Education Lays the Foundation for Yale Professor’s Success

Dr. Stephen Huot, a professor at Yale's School of Medicine and the first Ph.D. graduate from the Uniformed Services University (USU), credits his USU education as important to his success.

Stephen Huot, M.D., Ph.D., pictured center. (Photo credit: Dr. Stephen Huot, Yale School of Medicine)
Stephen Huot, M.D., Ph.D., pictured center. (Photo credit: Dr. Stephen Huot, Yale School of Medicine)

April 4th, 2023 By Vivian Mason

In 1977, Stephen Huot became the first graduate student enrolled at the Uniformed Services University.  Four years later, he received the first Ph.D. degree awarded by USU. 

“When I was here as a student, all the buildings weren’t even all there,” says Huot. “Sometimes, when you got to the end of the building, it was roped off. By the time I graduated, only four of the main buildings were finished. Today, the campus is dramatically different.” 

Dr. Stephen Huot, Yale School of Medicine
(Photo credit: Dr. Stephen Huot, Yale School of
He grew up knowing that he loved science and wanted to pursue that as a career. Huot knew that graduate school was going to be a very challenging environment, but he realized that if he stayed focused and did not allow himself to get discouraged, then he could be successful. He found that success at USU.

“I came across USU when I attended an information session given by William Alter, Ph.D., a physiologist who was a college alum of mine. He discussed the new Ph.D. program opportunity available at USU, and I reached out to him. He explained that the first M.D. class had been selected and the Ph.D. program, which was available to both civilian and military candidates, was accepting applications in the physiology department, which was Huot’s area of interest. “So I wrote to the physiology department, submitted an application, and was accepted.”

At USU, his area of study was in cardiovascular physiology, specifically looking at the role of circulating peptides on vascular reactivity in animal models of hypertension. The model that he studied was a reduced renal mass model. Later in his career, this interest in renal disease, cardiovascular physiology, and hypertension would come together in ways that he had not anticipated during the time of his graduate studies. 

Huot remembers his experience at USU fondly. He remarks, “It was such a unique opportunity to be at a place that was just getting off the ground. There was so much direct access to the faculty and mentors. The amount of direct lab time that I had with one-on-one senior research mentoring was amazing, exciting, and a lot of fun.” He made many friends with the medical students he attended classes with. “I felt very much a part of the USU community in every way,” he admits.

Huot also enjoyed the relative independence of the brand new university. “I liked being the first at something,” he explains, “and knowing that how well I performed really mattered. How you did was how people were going to think about those who came after you. So, I felt some responsibility for that.”

During his time as a doctoral student, Huot worked closely with USU faculty member Dr. Francis Haddy, who was the chair of the then-Department of Physiology. His dissertation advisor was Dr. Motilal Pamnani. Both of his professors were M.D./Ph.D. professionals. “Working with them,” says Huot, “was my first exposure to the M.D. side of a career in science. It had a lot to do with my decision to add the M.D. degree to my Ph.D. training.” 

Because he was not in the military, he chose to attend Duke University School of Medicine. Through their program and because Huot already had such a strong science background with his Ph.D., he was able to complete the full M.D. program in only two and one-half years. 

Dr. Huot, pictured second from the left, with three other graduate students in physiology in 1980. (Courtesy of USU)
Dr. Huot, pictured second from the left, with three other graduate students in physiology in 1980.
(Courtesy of USU)

Currently, Huot is a professor of medicine (nephrology) and the senior associate dean for Graduate Medical Education at Yale School of Medicine. He also oversees a hypertension referral clinic, precepts residents, and provides direct patient care. His research interests include hypertension education, hypertension management, and quality improvement in medical education.

He acknowledges that his current position at Yale is directly related to what he learned and experienced at USU. “In USU’s Ph.D. science program, I learned how to ask questions constructively, and I apply that pretty much every day in what I do. My research has evolved from human physiology and hypertension to medical education and hypertension quality improvement.” 

Huot adds, “There are things I know and understand at a deep level today that I learned when at USU. While the specifics and the details are more molecular than what they were back then, those concepts that I learned have really stood the test of time. I’m proud of and grateful for that.” 

He’s also thankful for the independence required to be not only the first Ph.D. graduate at USU, but also for a while the only graduate student. He grew up a lot and “that was really good for me,” he says. “I’m always proud to let people know that I’m a graduate of USU. Hopefully, I represent the institution well.”

Huot has returned to the USU campus a few times over the years, but was unable to make the last reunion of the class of 1981. 

“Actually, several medical education research colleagues of mine―Drs. Richard Hawkins, Eric Holmboe, and Louis Pangaro―were all on the faculty at USU at some point, and all have had major medical education leadership careers. Once, I brought a team of about 15 faculty members from Yale to USU with me, and we worked on faculty development with these colleagues, taking advantage of the state-of-the-art education simulation facilities. That was a great trip!” 

He tries to stay socially connected with the university and with his USU friends. He notes that Yale’s emergency medicine residency fellowship director, Dr. David Della-Giustina, is also a graduate of USU. 

Huot advises future Ph.D. students to take advantage of opportunities that unfold in front of them that they might not have thought would become part of their life’s plan. He encourages students “to have the confidence and courage to step in a different direction when you encounter things that you really get excited about and that you can see yourself being passionate about, even if it’s something that wasn’t on your horizon in the beginning.”

Although his path is his own, Huot knows he’s part of the innovative legacy of USU that helps keep the world moving forward.