Week 32: Trainee Scholarship, Building the Pipeline

This week I showcase recent work from some of our residents that reflect their commitment to scholarship and underscores the priority that the department of medicine (DoM) will give to fostering and supporting their academic creativity. The examples reflect work that was done at UCLA or initiated prior to their arrival, with ongoing analysis performed here.

Gracie Himmelstein MD, PhD

Our department is committed to building health equity in communities that are traditionally underserved. As such, we are always seeking to understand the challenge as we work to forge local solutions. This week, I was pleased to see a publication by one of our residents, Dr. Gracie Himmelstein, who is providing leadership in a conversation that critically examines how hospital financing and Medicaid reimbursement rates may be contributing towards disparities in care at hospitals which serve majority Black-patients. Using data from Medicare and the American Hospital Association, Dr. Himmelstein and researchers found that the 574 hospitals identified as serving majority Black-patients, received an average of 21.6% lower total reimbursement and averaged a loss of $17 per patient each day. 

This loss in funding inevitably impacts the quality of care, access to services and results in fewer resources for patients. The study is a stark example of how systemic racism has been baked into public financing for health care. Her study challenges lawmakers to reverse the legacy of policies that on the surface might be race neutral, but actually require ongoing reform. I encourage you to read this study which was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine last week.

Last week I talked about my lunch meeting with our nine chief residents. As such, I was pleased to learn about recent publications by two of our chief residents Dr. Rachel Ohman and Dr. Roshni Bhatnagar.

Rachel, with mentorship from cardiology faculty Dr. Jeffrey Hsu, wanted to determine if administering COVID19 vaccination to critically ill patients awaiting heart transplantation would have negative consequences on their cardiovascular (hemodynamic) function. With the exception of one patient who needed medication adjustment, the vaccines were well tolerated in this vulnerable population and any hemodynamic changes were transient. This important study supports the recommendation that COVID19 vaccines should not be withheld from critically ill patients awaiting organ transplantation.

Roshni published two papers. The first publication was an analysis of the rising cost of heart failure therapy, under the mentorship of cardiology faculty Dr. Boback Ziaeian. The annual cost of treating a patient with heart failure now exceeds $30,000 and is largely driven by hospitalizations costs. This data not only makes a strong case for cardiovascular disease prevention, but for creative strategies to shift management and monitoring of these patients to the ambulatory setting.

The second publication was a comprehensive review of mechanisms linking treatments for cancer with changes in cholesterol metabolism, which have significant consequences for future cardiovascular disease risk. The article was a collaboration with Neil M Dixit one of our recent internal medicine residents who is now a cardiology fellow at UC Irvine, and cardiology faculty members Dr. Eric Yang and Dr. Tamer Sallam.

Keep the papers coming!

Meet two New KL2 awardees from DoM.

The overall goals of the UCLA CTSI KL2 Program are to enhance and expand career development support for junior faculty pursuing translational science and to help foster leadership, collaboration, entrepreneurship, and diversity among our scientific faculty.  The KL2 Program is co-lead by Ella Nemeth, PhD and Mitchell Wong, MD, PhD and was recently renewed along with the UCLA CTSI from NCATS. 

After a review of many compelling applications, two junior faculty in the DoM were awarded KL2 support this year.

Jihane Benhammou, MD, PhD: Division of Digestive Diseases

Grant title: A lipid signaling network in the regulation of hepatocellular carcinogenesis through YAP/TAZ activity

A STAR graduate in the division of digestive diseases, Dr. Benhammou graduated from UCSF School of Medicine, completed internal medicine residency at UCLA and obtained a PhD from the UCLA Molecular, Cellular and Integrative Physiology Program (MCIP) in 2019.

Benjamin Meza, MD, MHS: Division of GIM/HSR

Grant title: Examining the effect of collaborative learning on adolescent social networks and substance use

Dr. Meza was recruited to the division of GIM/HSR two years ago after completing a research postdoc and an MHS in epidemiology from Johns Hopkins University.  Dr. Meza graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and completed his residency in med-peds from the University of Miami.


I continue to welcome new faculty members, who joined the DoM since July. Please welcome our new colleagues.


As we continue to welcome new faculty and students to our department, I am pleased to share that on Wednesday, August 17th the DGSOM First Gen Organization and the DGSOM Office for Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion will be hosting the 5th Annual First Gen Community Mixer to welcome our first generation MS1's. Under the guidance of faculty advisors Dr. Alejandra Casillas and Dr. Margarita Loeza, the DGSOM First Gen Organization seeks to provide first generation medical students with mentorship, networking, advocacy and resources focused on well-being and self-preservation. 

All students, post-docs, residents, fellows, faculty and staff are welcomed to attend this event where we will celebrate the newest members of DGSOM and first gen community in medicine. RSVP HERE.



Many of you might not know that Jamaica obtained independence from England on August 6, 1962. This celebration was not lost in Los Angeles. My wife, son, and mom enjoyed Jamaican food in full independence celebratory mode that evening at a favorite eatery in Culver City. The DJ was playing Jamaican oldies and goodies that brought me back to my childhood and my mother to her feet dancing on the sidewalk.

Related Posts