State of the Union

This week, President Biden will give the State of the Union address. A talk that will no doubt be influenced by issues that have impacted us in health care, such as the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic. We will no doubt also hear of implications of the terrible events that we are witnessing taking place in Ukraine, which remind us as health care providers, that wars and conflict, wherever it occurs, take a disproportionate toll on human health particularly those who are most disadvantaged. 

I am also working on two State of the Union talks as well. This Friday, I will give the Presidential address in my role as President of the Association of Professors of Medicine, at our annual meeting, the first time that we will be meeting in person since the pandemic started over two years ago. The following week, I will be giving the State of the Department address at the department of medicine’s professional group (DMPG) annual retreat, also being held in person, with a hybrid option for those who are unable to attend in person. These talks have allowed me to reflect on the future of Academic Internal Medicine and will underscore what I have shared before, that successful departments of medicine in the 21st Century must excel in all our missions, that include the traditional ones such as educating the next generation of physicians, excelling in research and innovation and providing the best possible care to those who entrust their care to us. However, we will not truly be an excellent department if we do not also focus on championing health equity, a topic that I have heard from many of you represents an opportunity for us at UCLA to better serve the health needs of all Angelinos.  That said, I will be giving shout outs, to members of our department who have taken steps to make a difference outside of our walls. These include members of our pulmonary division, Drs. Iain Smith, Stella Cohen, Scott Hu and Maryum Merchant, who have partnered with the Grossman Burn Center at West Hills Hospital to provide state of the art burn care for these patients many of whom are from underserved areas. 

We will not be an excellent department of medicine (DoM) without a focus on providing robust mentorship to all our colleagues particularly those who are early in their careers. I was pleased to hear this week about initiatives being developed in the department to provide coaching, including peer support to our trainees and clinical faculty. This is a start, but an important one as we focus on attending to the well-being of all members of our teams.  I would like to see these initiatives extend to establishing mechanisms to support our physician scientists particularly as they make career defining transitions from mentored training to independence. We will not be a strong department without a strong focus on diversity, equity and inclusion by ensuring that we create an environment in which all voices and perspectives can be heard and that the playing fields are level for all our members. Finally, we will not be an excellent department if collaboration is not woven into our DNA, as I alluded to last week when I talked about “It Takes a Village”.

Enough of this for now but tune in to the State of the Department address for more! 

Last week I had the privilege of hanging out for a couple of hours with our outstanding primary care residents at their annual retreat. You are an impressive group. I was struck by your commitment to each other as colleagues, your embrace of continuous improvement, your commitment to doing the best by your patients and your laser focus on health equity. Kudos to Drs. Mina Ma, Lisa Skinner, Gifty-Maria Ntim, Arash Nafisi, Brianna Cowan and Marielle Bolano for your leadership.

On the other end of the career arc, I have had a chance to hear from some of our emeritus faculty, whose contributions have been recognized, or who are thriving in their second acts. These include Dr. Chris Cooper, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, who was one of the campus wide recipients of the Edward A Dickson Emeritus Awards at UCLA. Congratulations Chris. Let me share some of the history that Dr. Cooper provided me about this award. 

In Academic Year 2019-2020, I was one of the campus-wide recipients of the Edward A Dickson Emeritus Professorship Award to honor outstanding research, scholarly work, teaching, and service performed by an Emeritus Professor since retirement. The announcement below shows there will be an Emeriti Virtual Awards Ceremony on February 16th. The only other time this award has gone to a member of the Department of Medicine was in 2010-2011 when my colleague, also from the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Dr. Donald Tashkin was one of the recipients. I thought you would be interested in this little piece of Departmental history.”

Not to be outdone Dr. Jim Weiss, our former Chief of Cardiology and Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Medicine just published his first non-medical book. I am sure that Jim will not mind me sharing his thoughts about this with you.

I am enjoying retirement. Central coast is a beautiful area for beach, mountains, ocean and wineries, music, etc., where I've been busy writing, surfing and making jazz recordings. My first book came out this past October - The Surfer and the Sea Lion: A Conversation about Being, a Socratic dialogue between a surfer (the spirit of humanity) and a sea lion (the spirit of nature) discussing what science can and can't tell us about nature, life and ourselves. It's available on my website below if you're interested.  As for music, I'm attaching my jazz version of a song by one of your most famous countrymen, to go along with a Red Stripe and one of your Golden Krust specials when you need to break.”

Thanks for sending the mp3 file, Jim. Now that I have found Golden Krust, I will be on the lookout for Red Stripe!

I received a wonderful tribute from UCLA Health Physician Alert honoring Dr. Robert Oye, described as the “Man Behind the Curtain”. Robert has been credited with overseeing the tremendous clinical growth from Westwood to over 250 sites throughout Southern California. We will have a lot more to say about Robert in future communications!

Rosa Guerrero our communications director starts today, and we will be developing and disseminating the many stories that we have received in the inbox that many of you have sent in. Please keep the stories coming. Also, our DOM Twitter account @DOM_UCLA is now live, please follow us, if you are a Twitter user.



We accepted an offer on our house in Iowa on Sunday, after it had been on the market for 72 hours, so I guess we have to stay here now. So on to the DMV, now that our cars have passed their smog tests

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