Week 17: Multiple Dimensions of Leadership

The department of medicine (DoM) develops tomorrow’s leaders in medicine. This should not be taken for granted. Nor should it be assumed that the outcome will be assured based on those that we recruit here. There needs to be a mind-set and a commitment to work to ensure that all of us will seek every opportunity to be a mentor and to pay it forward even if it costs us time and resources to do so.

Keith Norris, MD, PhD

I was therefore pleased to learn that two of our devoted faculty mentors Drs. Keith Norris and Carol Mangione were nominated and selected to join the Faculty Mentoring Honor Society. Supported by a UCOP grant, the Faculty Mentoring Honor Society recognizes UCLA faculty who have given much time and effort to mentoring early and mid-career faculty, especially underrepresented faculty at UCLA.  The notice of appointment stated:

“The work of mentoring is too often invisible and unrecognized, and such faculty contribute disproportionately to mentoring on campuses and deserve recognition.  The society honors the mentorship of underrepresented faculty with respect to identities such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and disability.”

Carol Mangione, MD, F.S.P.H., F.A.C.P.

Carol and Keith join 10 other UCLA full-time ladder faculty members in this group of inaugural members of the Faculty Mentoring Honor Society. This is a wonderful recognition of your commitment to supporting junior faculty to achieve their full potential as leaders. The list of beneficiaries of your mentorship is long and impressive.

The work of developing leaders who represent the diverse tapestry our city, state, country and world is a marathon and not a sprint. The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA recently initiated the Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Academic Mentoring (JAM) Council.  The JAM Council has been designed specifically to meet the mentorship needs of scholars with clinical and research backgrounds who have navigated intersectional barriers associated with underrepresented or marginalized experiences. The stated goals of JAM include: (1) Expand the pathway to promotion and career development for faculty with underrepresented and/or traditionally marginalized experiences; (2) Decrease the attrition of faculty with underrepresented and/or traditionally marginalized experiences at DGSOM, thereby expanding the diversity of associate and full professors at DGSOM; (3) Expand the community of mentors and mentees committed to addressing retention and promotion of faculty with underrepresented and/or traditionally marginalized experiences; and (4) Improve mentorship skills and visibility through an institutional initiative.

I was pleased to learn of 7 faculty members in the DoM who were selected to the inaugural JAM Council. I base this on nominations that were shared with me directly. Let me know if I missed anyone. Please congratulate the following DoM faculty nominated to JAM.(Pictured from left to right): Drs. Evan Shannon, Gifty-Maria Ntim, Lovelee Brown and Nisha Viswanathan from the division of general internal medicine, Dr. Estelle Everett from the division of endocrinology and Drs. Didi Mwengela and Folasade May in the division of digestive diseases. I am excited to see the impact that you will make on the DoM and beyond!

Another emerging leader in our department is Dr. Gloria Yiu. Gloria was the recent recipient of an A.P. Giannini Postdoctoral Research Fellowship and Leadership Award. Dr. Yiu, a fourth-year rheumatology basic science STAR fellow, will receive three years of funding from the A.P. Giannini Foundation for her research exploring how the molecule RORγt affects T-cell development in the thymus. This molecule promotes the activation of inflammatory Th17 cells that contribute to many autoimmune disorders such as Lupus. Unfortunately, blocking RORγt in mice predisposes them to developing cancers. Whether this is true in humans is unclear.

By utilizing a novel approach developed in her mentor Dr. Gay M. Crooks’ lab, Dr. Yiu is using the artificial thymic organoid (ATO) to address this question. Imagine an organ in a dish. Her initial results now provide the basis for examining the feasibility of testing RORγt inhibitors in human patients in the future. Dr. Yiu noted:

“I am excited to continue this work to understand scientific mechanisms that may impact human disease. For a physician scientist, like myself, investigating the questions that lie at the interface of science and medicine is how I advocate for my patients, and hope to improve their lives.”  

She also credits her mentor, who she describes as being deeply dedicated to growing the career of early scientists.

Dr. Yiu joins three prior UCLA STAR Program fellows, Drs. Janai Carr, Lisa Kohn and Olu Ajijola who previously won this prestigious award. I was intrigued to learn that the A.P. Giannini Foundation was endowed by Amadeo Pietro Giannini, the son of Italian immigrants born in San Jose. He founded the Bank of Italy that eventually grew to become Bank of America. The A.P. Giannini Fellowship and Leadership Award supports innovative research in the basic sciences and applied fields and trains fellows to become established investigators and to pursue scientific leadership positions in academia, industry, public and non-traditional career pathways. Research projects should advance the translation of biomedical science into treatments, preventions, and cures for human diseases.

Last week I recognized our outgoing chief residents who truly exemplify the best in leadership. This week, I would like to introduce you to the incoming chief residents.


Roshni Bhatnagar
Ronald Reagan Medical Center & Santa Monica HospitalChief Resident

Roshni is delighted to be an incoming internal medicine chief resident. Her interests lie in resident research and scholarship, mentorship, ultrasound, and EDI. Her clinical and research interests are in preventative cardiology and health services research focused on improving the delivery of high-value, equitable care. During residency she enjoyed being involved in the Health Systems Management Pathway, the Women in Medicine group, and playing the drums for the residency band Ultrasound. She received her BA and MD from Northwestern University prior to shedding her winter coats for sunnier days in LA. Outside of work, she enjoys dancing, running by the beach, and playing with other people's dogs.

Cameron Henneberg
Greater LA VA Chief Resident

As a Los Angeles native, Cameron always planned to return home for residency after obtaining his undergraduate degree in anthropology from Princeton University and his MD from Boston University School of Medicine. His clinical and research interests include gastroenterology, metabolic diseases, and the effect of chronic diseases on patients' psychosocial wellbeing. Outside of work, he enjoys swimming, hiking, language learning, and struggling with the New York Times' Saturday and Sunday crosswords.

Patrick Holman
Ronald Reagan Medical Center & Santa Monica HospitalChief Resident

Patrick grew up in San Diego and studied bioengineering at UCSD. He attended medical school at Chicago Medical School/Rosalind Franklin University where he was heavily involved in student leadership and education. He was thrilled to come to UCLA for a combined residency in internal medicine & pediatrics and has participated in a variety of medical education, informatics, clinical research, and QI projects during residency. He will be applying for a pulmonary and critical care fellowship this summer.

Rachel Ohman
Ronald Reagan Medical Center & Santa Monica HospitalChief Resident

An ocean lover from San Diego who thrives on new adventure, Rachel went to the University of Chicago for college where she majored in biology and minored in medical anthropology via the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science and Medicine Program. She then spent two years doing translational neuroscience research at the NIH via the Post-Baccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award Program, where she integrated her bench research with a developing passion for health disparities. She returned to California for medical school at UCLA and chose to stay for the rigorous clinical training, diverse patient population, and palpable sense of community. Over the course of residency, she and her husband Francis (and now their Rhodesian ridgeback Leo) have tried to maximize their ocean, mountain, and cultural explorations in the City of Angels.

Rachel Sarnoff
Ronald Reagan Medical Center & Santa Monica HospitalChief Resident

Rachel Sarnoff hails from New York City but has fallen so in love with the community she has found at UCLA and in Los Angeles that she may set permanent roots here - just don't tell her family! Within the walls of the hospital, she is passionate about medical education (including POCUS!), mentorship, and communication (with a special interest in professional feedback). The arts make up the fabric of who Rachel is, and she is one of the proud leaders of UCLA IM's Ultrasounds band. You can find her hosting a potluck in her backyard, playing charades with her family, traveling the world, or trying out a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in the neighborhood with her fiancé, Nolan. She has a background in brain-gut-microbiome research and hopes to design her own fellowship in the space of functional bowel disorders.

Brandon Smith
Greater LA VA Chief Resident

Brandon was born and raised in Oakland, California. He attended college at Harvard University where he studied human evolutionary biology and Spanish. After graduating, Brandon worked for an agricultural development nonprofit in rural Tanzania where his work centered around managing a small chicken-business with local Tanzanian partners. He then returned to complete his medical degree at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University before finally returning to the west coast to start his residency training at UCLA. Brandon has enjoyed participating in the Health Systems and Management Pathway during residency and his career interests include both clinical medicine as well as administration and leadership within medicine. Brandon will be one of this year’s equity, diversity, and inclusion chief residents.

George Tran
Greater LA VA Chief Resident

George grew up in Fountain Valley, California where he developed a love for basketball and the Los Angeles Lakers, tennis, and music. He obtained a B.S. in biological sciences at UC Irvine, and then attended medical school at Duke University. He was thrilled to be able to return to Southern California for internal medicine residency at UCLA and plans to pursue a fellowship in palliative care. He has interests in resident wellness, medical education, and healthcare access and affordability. In his free time, he can be found exploring new restaurants, playing the guitar, watching musicals, or playing tabletop board games. 

Rebecca Tsevat
Primary Care Chief Resident

Rebecca grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and attended college at Washington University in St. Louis, where she pursued a double major in English literature and biology and a minor in Spanish. She subsequently obtained a master’s degree in narrative medicine at Columbia University and continued her studies in medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. She was excited to attend residency in internal medicine and pediatrics at UCLA and has enjoyed being involved in the Medical Education Pathway, medical humanities initiatives, and research and QI projects related to adolescent and young adult health. She hopes to pursue a career that combines her interests in primary care, medical education, and health services research.

Yuliya Zektser
VA Chief Resident in Quality & Patient Safety (CRQS)

Dr. Yuliya Zektser, originally from Ukraine, grew up bi-coastal moving from Connecticut to California during high school. After attending college at UC Berkeley, she was sold on the west coast. However, her major in molecular and cell biology led her to work in a cancer genomics lab in Boston. She then came back to UCLA for medical school and hasn’t been able to leave ever after! Yuliya has done a mix of research spanning from basic sciences to health delivery projects. She is very excited to take on her role as QI chief. In her free time, she loves exploring Los Angeles’s neighborhoods, traveling domestically and abroad, skiing, playing tennis, ocean-swimming, and spending time with her family in San Diego.

You will see that our chiefs play major roles in coordinating training and clinical activity for our residents across our major affiliates including the Veterans Administration hospital (VA) and Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center (RRUMC). Although our trainees care for patients in both sites, moving patients from the VA to RRUMC for advanced care and procedures when indicated, has always been easier said than done. 

Ali Nsair, MD

However, thanks to the leadership of Dr. Ali Nsair, Director of the Heart Transplantation and Mechanical Circulatory Support Program at UCLA, on April 21, 2022 the UCLA TAVR team performed the first transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) on a patient referred from the VA to RRUMC. This feat was two years in the making. Nsair and division leadership worked closely with the UCLA health system, and VA leadership to overcome the health coverage barriers experienced by veterans when trying to access tertiary and quaternary care.

Historically, veterans accessed care at neighboring hospitals or at the VA Palo Alto Health Care system for their structural and heart failure/heart transplant needs. However, after contract negotiations with insurance carriers, veteran referrals were accepted at UCLA Health beginning in February 2022. Nsair’s team developed heart transplant and TAVR workflows to ensure patients undergo their initial evaluations at the VA, which makes perfect sense, seeing that our faculty care for patients in both places. Once patients are presented and cleared for these advanced procedures, they obtain their 

procedure at UCLA and are brought back to the VA to ensure continuity of care. Nsair notes:

“Our VA patients are often marginalized and under-resourced, despite having served our country. We’re very proud and honored to be able to help our VA patients get the complex care that they deserve.”

This is leadership.



I am penning this on the long plane ride back to LA from Athens Greece, where I attended my first international scientific conference abroad for more than 2-years. Some of you might have received email responses from me last week at 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning (pacific time), and you might have wondered why I was up so late or awake so early. Now you know. I was working in my “home away from home” office.If you see me wandering around aimlessly today… jet lag.

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