Women’s History Month: Trailblazing leaders

UCLA Health women have played an important role in breaking glass ceilings.

Women’s History Month was designated in 1987 to reflect on the ways in which women have historically been overlooked, to celebrate their resilience in overcoming barriers and to honor the pioneers who have contributed to the fabric of this nation. 

Throughout history, women have challenged barriers to advancement, decried gender biases, confronted stereotypes and have overcome hurdles to secure positions in leadership and historically male-dominated fields.

Women have made tremendous advancements in the fields of science and medicine – they have launched people into space, made breakthrough inventions and discoveries and have conducted life-changing research.

This decade alone has seen many historic triumphs for women in leadership: Kamala Harris as the first woman U.S. vice president; Sarah McBride as the first openly transgender woman elected to state senate; Sonia Sotomayor nominated to serve as associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States; Nadine Burke Harris as the first surgeon general of California; Vivian W. Pinn as the inaugural director of National Institutes of Health's Office of Research on Women's Health; and others.

Women represent 40% of physicians, 52% of medical school admissions, 89% of registered nurses and 87% of health care support roles in the U.S. Though women dominate the industry as a whole, only 19% of women lead hospitals and 19% lead medical schools.

UCLA Health is a proud industry leader, with women in directing roles across the organization. The following women are leaders within the UCLA Hospital and Clinic System and the David Geffen School of Medicine:

Johnese Spisso, MPA, is the first woman to hold the positions of president of UCLA Health, CEO of the UCLA Hospital System and associate vice chancellor of UCLA Health Sciences. In 2020, Modern Healthcare named Spisso one of the 50 most influential clinical executives and in 2019, the magazine named Spisso one of the top-25 women leaders in health care; in 2017, she was named a “Health Care Leader to Know” by Becker’s Hospital Review.

Kelsey Martin, MD, PhD, is the first woman dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Dr. Martin is a neuroscientist and in her namesake lab studies how experiences change brain connectivity to store long-term memories. In 2016, Dr. Martin was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine. In 2017 she was appointed by the governor to the state’s Precision Medicine Advisory Committee.

UCLA Health currently has number of first women to chair their respective departments:

Sherin Devaskar, MD, Department of Pediatrics; Sarah Dry, MD, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine; Maie St. John, MD, PhD, Department of Head and Neck Surgery; Deb Krakow, MD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology; and Linda Liau, MD, PhD, Department of Neurosurgery.

UCLA Hospital and Clinic System leadership:

Tanya Andreadis, chief of marketing

Jane Boubelik, chief counsel of UCLA Health

Medell Briggs-Malonson, MD, interim chief, Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Ashley Busuttil, MD, chief medical officer of UCLA Health

Rhonda Curry, chief of communications

Farah Elahi, chief of operations, ambulatory and community practices

Eve Glazier, MD, president, Faculty Practice Group

Karen Grimley, PhD, chief nursing executive

Desert Horse Grant, senior director, research and innovation

Johanna Klohn, chief risk officer

Janet Rimicci, RN, senior director, UCLA Santa Monica Medical Center

Susi Takeuchi, chief human resources officer

Lindsey Williams, assistant vice chancellor, Health Sciences Development

David Geffen School of Medicine leadership:

Emilie Marcus, inaugural executive strategy officer

Tess Elconin, inaugural senior counsel

Lynn Gordon, inaugural senior associate dean of EDI

Anja Paardekooper, senior associate dean, finance/administration & CFO

Judith Currier, MD, chief of the division of infectious diseases

Helena Hansen, MD, PhD, and Rochelle Dicker, MD, inaugural co-leaders of the new research theme in Health Equity and Translational Social Sciences

Arleen Brown, MD, PhD, leader of a statewide coalition addressing COVID-19 misinformation and clinical trial diversity

We honor these leaders and all of our other women trailblazers this month and throughout the year.


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