Week 6: Champions

The nice thing about having the Superbowl on the West (best) Coast is that it’s over before we all should be going to bed. I hope that you did not stay up all night celebrating. Members of our department are champions too. This week our Cardiology Fellows Liz Hutchins, Adrian Castillo, and Prashanth Venkatesh, became the California State, Fellow in Training Jeopardy Champions, sponsored by the American College of Cardiology, after they defeated our friends to the north, Stanford. We are off to the Nationals now, so more celebration in their future hopefully. Their success got me thinking about the quality of our training programs. Earlier this month we learned that all but one of our ACCGME training programs (4 Residency Programs) and (21 Fellowship Programs) received full ongoing accreditation, and for the one program that received a warning, we are working hard to rectify the issues that contributed to this. I want to acknowledge the hard work of our program directors and associate program directors, core faculty, division leadership, program administrators, UCLA GME faculty and staff and of course our amazing residents and fellows. 

There are many manifestations of what a successful trainee looks like. In addition to excellent clinical skills and leadership in education and advocacy, our training programs should be characterized by scholarship. I am always pleased to hear about publications authored by our trainees and want to share an example with you from one of our Medicine residents Jaqueline Vuong and Cardiology fellow, Ashley Stein-Merlob published recently in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Speaking of champions, one of our own, Dr. Tamer Sallam, was successfully elected to the American Society of Clinical Investigation, a selective honor society for physician scientists. Dr. Sallam is a graduate of, and now a leader in our STAR program and embodies an outcome that I want to see repeated many times, amongst the graduates of our training programs. As mentioned in an earlier post, the department will be doubling down on our support of physician scientist mentoring and training. More to follow...

Our educators are champions too…Two of our distinguished educators, clinicians, mentors and role models, Drs. Marmar Vaseghi and Rachel Brook were appointed this week as Co-Chairs of the DGSOM Academic Medicine College.  In this position, they will play a critical role in the career development of DGSOM medical students. This was crystallized in the following quote from Dean Braddock announcing their appointment:

The Colleges are critically important in providing further clinical training for fourth year medical students in preparation for sub-internships and residency and advising and mentorship for the residency application process. The Academic Medicine College is unique in its additional focus on the support and guidance of medical students particularly interested in pursuing careers in academics, including research. Both Dr. Brook and Dr. Vaseghi bring significant experience that will undoubtedly enrich the senior year curriculum moving forward.”

Our Clinicians are also champions. This is brought home so clearly when they are recognized by the exceptional contributions that they make to the communities that they serve. It is therefore fitting to honor the distinguished career of Dr. Sittiporn Bencharit one of our gastroenterologists who practices in Santa Clarita. Dr. Bencharit who is retiring this June, received this Friday, the Healthcare Hero award from the Henry Mayo Hospital for his decades of service to the community.

I also learned via the DOM_News@mednet.ucla.edu about the work done by the UCLA Health Ambulatory Marketing & Community Outreach Team who were recently recognized by the Cancer Support Community Los Angeles (CSCLA) with the Spirit of Community Award.  

In acknowledging their work, the CEO of CSCLA noted:

During this very uncertain time for our patients and families, your team has been a treasured champion and partner, helping our members receive the quality, educational information they’ve needed to navigate their lives with cancer during this pandemic.  CSCLA is celebrating its 40th Anniversary in 2022. We felt there would be no better way to commemorate this milestone than to celebrate the UCLA Health marketing and community outreach team! By working alongside us, you have all held a space of comfort and strength for those dealing with cancer.”

Thank you Jac Folkert, Nickie Bonner, Claudia Dunn-Martinez, and Gabrielle Rodriguez, for your work to support all the patients who are cared for by our faculty in our extensive community-based cancer program. 

COVID rates are falling, and we are hopeful that the current surge will soon be behind us. Many in the department stepped up during this unprecedented public health challenge that saw the confluence of very high infection rates, increasing patient volume, coupled with significant staffing shortages resulting from the need for COVID+ staff to isolate.  The words of Dr. Eric Curcio, who provided major operational leadership during this surge crystalizes what championship looks like in the following quote.

Inspiring to see how many people came together to make sure our patients were able to get the care they needed during this public health emergency, often sacrificing time with their loved ones over the holidays to ensure that our patient’s needs were met.  With help from our clinical faculty, research faculty, residents, and fellows we were able to see hundreds of additional patients each day, keep our immediate care sites fully operational, and ultimately prevent countless visits to our already crowded emergency departments”. 

With teams like this, not hard to be proud.



You know that you are settling into a new community, when you start finding your childhood comfort foods. In this case Golden Krust (yes that is Krust with a “K”), Jamaican meat patties. My sister who lives in St. Paul, got a tip from her Jamaican hairdresser about where to find these. Like a good sib, she rapidly disseminated this information to her far flung sibs and we are all now very happy to find a reliable local source for this quintessential Jamaican street food.

Related Posts