Dr. Spencer Willet joined the Department of Medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology as an Instructor in October, 2019.
Dr. Willet grew up in Franklin, Tennessee and attended The University of Tennessee at Knoxville for his undergraduate studies, matriculating to Vanderbilt University for his doctorate training. Dr. Willet earned his PhD in developmental biology at Vanderbilt University in the laboratory of Dr. Christopher Wright studying endodermal development and pancreatic organogenesis. In 2014, he began to pursue his postdoctoral studies working in the laboratory of Dr. Jason Mills at Washington University School of Medicine exploring the cellular changes in metabolism and differentiation that occur in adult gastric injury and disease models. During his time in the Mills lab, Dr. Willet has been the recipient of several awards and distinctions, including a 2015 travel award from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) for his presentation on GI homeostasis, and another travel award and Poster of Distinction in 2016 from the James W. Freston Single Topic Conference for his presentation on intestinal metaplasia in the esophagus and stomach. These were followed in 2018 by Dr. Willet’s award of the Debbie’s Dream Foundation- American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Gastric Cancer Research Fellowship for his work entitled “The Role of the HIPPO Pathway in Gastric Tumorigenesis.”
As a research instructor, he will work with his mentors, Dr. Jason Mills (Washington University School of Medicine) and Dr. Richard DiPaolo (St. Louis University) to continue to pursue important topics related to how cells change their identity in response to injury and disease in the stomach and other GI organs. His appointment to Instructor of Medicine and his K01 award will grant him significant protected research time to hone his research skills. Dr. Willet plans specifically to gain bioinformatics skills to fully utilize large data sets and develop in vitro models to supplement his established in vivo mouse models.