Week 24: Our Stars

Earlier this week I was privileged to attend the 2022 STAR Program graduation and delivered the keynote address.


The STAR (Specialty Training and Advanced Research) program is one of a kind. It was conceived in 1991 by current director Dr. Linda Demer and launched in 1993 with the support of our former chair Dr. Alan Fogelman. It is a rigorous graduate program designed to create a robust pipeline of physician scientists and since its inception, many leaders in academic medicine at UCLA and beyond have been graduates of this innovative program. By my estimate there are now more than 200 graduates from the program, the large majority of whom have remained in academia and most of those have specialized in internal medicine or its subspecialties.

This year we celebrated the graduation of another accomplished class of STAR graduates, and I want to use this venue to introduce you to them and share some of their accomplishments.

Dr. Olawale Amubieya MD, PhD is a pulmonary and critical care fellow who will be joining the faculty of UCLA as an assistant clinical professor in the UCLA Heart and Lung Transplant Program, division of pulmonary & critical care. Wale graduated from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and completed his medicine residency here at UCLA. He conducts research on the social and environment impacts on lung transplant outcomes under the mentorship of John Belperio, MD, Sam Weigt, MD, Keith Norris, MD, PhD and Ninez Ponce, PhD.

Xinjiang Cai, MD, PhD is a cardiology fellow who will be joining the faculty of UCLA as a clinical instructor in the division of cardiology. Xinjiang graduated from Hunan Medical University and completed residency in medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (Bronx) Program. He conducts research into the regulation of vascular calcification by adventitial endothelial cells, under the mentorship of Kristina Bostrom, MD, PhD.

Srinivas Chivukula, MD, PhD is a neurosurgery resident at UCLA. He graduated from University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He has studied functional surgery, neuroprosthetics, and pain processing under the mentorship of Richard Anderson, PhD at Caltech.

Amy Cummings, MD, PhD is a hematology and oncology fellow who will be joining the faculty of UCLA as an assistant professor in the division of hematology and oncology. Amy graduated from Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California and completed her medicine residency here at UCLA.  She conducts research on integrating multimodal data for personalized models of cancer, under the mentorship of Alex Bui, PhD.

Ardalan Davarifar, MD, PhD is hematology and oncology fellow who will be joining the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville as an assistant clinical professor.  Ardalan graduated from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and completed his medicine residency at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He conducts research on reconstruction of evolutionary trajectories in primary tissue and patient-derived tumor organoids in patients with metastatic osteosarcoma under the mentorship of Alice Soragni, PhD.

Tasha Lin, MD, PhD is a hematology and oncology fellow who will be joining the faculty of UCLA as a clinical instructor in the division of hematology and oncology. Tasha graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School and completed her medicine residency at the Mayo Clinic. She conducts research on role and function of IGF2BP3 in MLL-AF4-mediated leukemogenesis under the mentorship of Dinesh Rao, MD, PhD.

Katie Strobel, MD, MSCR is a neonatology fellow who will be joining the faculty in the department of pediatrics, division of neonatology at University of Washington/Seattle Children as an assistant professor. Katie graduated from the Medical College of Wisconsin and completed her pediatrics residency at UCLA. Her research is investigating the influence of maternal insulin resistance and adiposity on fetal body composition in the third trimester of pregnancy using 3D free-breathing MRI, under the mentorship of Kara Calkins, MD.

Amy Vandiver, MD, PhD is a dermatology resident who will be joining the faculty of UCLA as a clinical instructor in the division of dermatology. Amy graduated from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and completed her dermatology residency here at UCLA. She conducts research into mitochondrial genetics in cutaneous aging under the mentorship of Michael Teitell, MD, PhD and Jon Wanagat, MD, PhD.

We also celebrated the graduation of our two final year ProSTAR-PSTP graduates. The ProSTAR program takes candidates directly from medical school, into our UCLA medicine residency program in the physician scientist training track, where over the course of 5 years our trainees will complete training in medicine and conduct up to 2 or 3 years of research in a subspecialty fellowship of their choosing.

Sriram Anbil, MD graduated from the University of Texas School of Medicine in San Antonio and will be moving on to the University of Pennsylvania for hematology and oncology fellowship training.  

Kathleen Fenerty, MD graduated from Indiana University Medical School and will be remaining at UCLA as a fellow in hematology and oncology. 

We acknowledge the outgoing Chief STAR Fellows Dr. Marie “Catie” Cambou (pictured left), a STAR fellow in the division of infectious diseases and Amy Vandiver who is a graduate. We welcome the new chief fellows for 2022-2023 that include Dr. Ashley Stein-Merlob (center) a current STAR fellow in cardiology and Dr. Carlos Irwin Oronce (pictured right) a current STAR fellow in general internal medicine.

An additional highlight of the evening was the announcement of the second recipient of the Alan M. Fogelman Mentorship Award that was awarded to Dr. Carol Mangione this year. For all of us who know Carol, we will agree that this recognition is richly deserved.

Carol is the second recipient of this award following in the footsteps of Dr. Judith Currier who was the inaugural recipient of this award last year. It should be no surprise that these two leaders of our faculty were recognized earlier this year by their induction into the Association of American Physicians.

Although not featured in the Star Program graduation, I want to bring your attention to one other physician scientist pipeline training program within the department of medicine. This is the R38 Research Scientist Training Program (RSTP) program. Funded by an award from the NIH it provides salary support for up to one year of research training during residency and eligibility to compete for early faculty career development awards. Our current RSTP trainees are Dr. Stephanie Wang who was mentored by Kalyanam Shivkumar MD PhD (cardiology) and John Belperio MD (pulmonary). Stephanie is planning on pursuing a career in pulmonary and critical care medicine and I will be one of the first to tell you about her publication from her studies in neural control of respiration in disease states when it comes out!

Our other RSTP fellow is Dr. Richard Leuchter who is conducting health services research in various topics including a machine learning model to predict response to diuretic therapy and a novel EHR-based nudge to reduce inappropriate transthoracic echocardiograms without hard stops, under the mentorship of Catherine Sarkisian, MD, MSPH. Richard has already published a couple of papers including a recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine.

We are pleased that he will be staying on at UCLA as a junior faculty in the division of general internal medicine.

My profound thanks to the leadership of these programs.

Also, a big thank you to all the faculty members in the department of medicine (DoM) for your commitment and hard work towards training the next generation of academic physicians and physician scientists. Developing tomorrow’s leaders in academic medicine will always be an integral part of the legacy of the DoM and we will work to increase the national recognition of our best and brightest trainees.

Speaking of the future, I met a few of our incoming interns this weekend on the PaceMakers run this weekend.  Hard to keep up with (from left to right) Drs. Jake Roberts, Jason Hyun, Richard Brack and JiaJia Zhang, and of course our fearless chief resident Patrick Holman. Grateful that you slowed down at the end on the way back up the California incline after a 4-mile run on the beach!

There were two holidays this weekend. For those of you who are fathers, I hope that you enjoyed a wonderful Father’s Day either with your kids, or your dad, or at least heard from them!

This weekend was also Juneteenth. I will share with you excerpts of a message that I wrote to my colleagues in Iowa on Juneteenth 2020. I hope this will inspire you to work together to strengthen a community where everyone has a real chance to achieve their dreams.



My kids surprised me on Father’s Day. They know that I do not like cold feet. This is one time that I will deliberately wear mis-matched socks.

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