Year 2. February 6. Leadership

Faculty in the department of medicine (DoM) represent not only our lifeblood, but that of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and UCLA Health. We are also leaders in our communities and many examples of this have recently been evident.

Tackling the Opioid Drug Crisis

Last September, Chelsea Shover, PhD and David Goodman-Meza, MD were awarded a 5-year $3.1 million-dollar R01 grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to develop methods to identify overdose hotspots in Los Angeles County.Today, I am pleased to share that Dr. Shover has been awarded the NIH’s HEAL Director’s Trailblazer Award because of this innovative research which is aimed at addressing the opioid crisis through a new direction.

The multi-year study will be performed in partnership with five local agencies to aggregate local population data on overdose, substance use disorders, and harm reduction services. Researchers will develop methods to rapidly process data from these local agencies to “nowcast,” or predict the present status, based on incomplete surveillance data. They will use natural language processing and machine learning tools to estimate difficult-to-measure outcomes including non-fatal overdose, injection drug use, and opioid use disorder with the goal of creating a public dashboard which informs the placement of addiction treatment and harm reduction services in LA County.

"It's an honor to receive this award, which to me emphasizes the innovative work we are doing here in Los Angeles to try to prevent overdose deaths and better serve people who use drugs,”

states Shover.

I hope this will represent a roadmap to ultimately impact the pernicious impact of opioid abuse in many communities across the country. You can read more about Chelsea’s research surrounding the opioid crisis in this latest piece in the LA Times

Some pharmacies in Mexico passing off fentanyl, meth as legitimate pharmaceuticals

If you walk down the right side street, the offers are plentiful, even in broad daylight. Young men in plain T-shirts draw near and call out their wares: Pills. Cocaine. Guns. But if you wave them away and go just a few feet farther, you can walk into a pharmacy where you might get something just... Learn More.

Our Track Record in Caring for COVID-19 Patients

The COVID-19 pandemic imposed an incredible stress on our health system including taking a strong toll on our staff. It also impacted the lives of many who turned to UCLA Health for life saving care. The graphic below spotlights recent COVID-19 statistics from UCLA Health, illustrating the large numbers of tests performed, the numbers of patients cared for in the outpatient setting and who were hospitalized, including the number of patients who were admitted to our intensive care units.  There is much to digest here, but I want to bring your focus to our outcomes.

The incredibly low mortality rate in our inpatient and ICU population can be attributed in part to the amazing pulmonary/critical care fellows and faculty, internal medicine residents, hospitalists, and our trusted ID colleagues. Much credit also goes to the ICU nurses and respiratory therapists for their meticulous supportive care of these patients. These numbers should also be taken into context -- much of the care during COVID was provided during a number of inpatient surges during which our pulmonary/ICU faculty had to take care of critically ill patients in non-ICU settings such as the ward and also in atypical care models with ICU attendings working alone without housestaff.

Despite this they were able to provide outstanding care and contribute to much of the research that ultimately guided the optimal ICU care of these patients all across the world. The research was largely led by Steven Chang MD, PhD (MICU director), Nida Qadir, MD (associate MICU director and co-director of the Pandemic Response Team), and Tisha Wang, MD (clinical chief of pulmonary/critical care and co-director of the Pandemic Response Team). This team along with many of the pulmonary/critical care faculty was able to contribute to >50 publications shaping COVID care in high-impact journals including JAMALancet RheumatologyBMJJournal of Clinical InvestigationClinical Infectious DiseasesJournal of Infectious DiseasesAJRCCM,among others.

Importantly one publication on our own UCLA experience with COVID led by Thanh Neville, MDand colleagues "Survival After Severe COVID 19: Long-Term Outcomes of Patients Admitted to an Intensive Care Unit" surveyed almost 300 COVID ICU survivors and found positive health outcomes six months after discharge.

98% of these patients were glad to have received life-saving treatment. Undoubtedly many of these positive long-term outcomes are due to the well-established post-ICU clinic at UCLA run by Drs. Nida Qadir and Kristin Schwab which engages a multidisciplinary team to help survivors of critical illness return to a normal functional life. This clinic has recently partnered with the LA Opera to help these patients slowly restrengthen their damaged lungs.

Long COVID-19 patients at UCLA Health are breathing easier with help from LA Opera vocalists

A UCLA Health/LA Opera program that helps long COVID-19 patients strengthen their lungs through singing and breathing exercises has proven such a hit that it could expand to a wider audience. Since May 2021, 45 UCLA Health patients who are struggling with post-infection symptoms including... Learn More.

LA's Top Docs

Our impact in clinical excellence transcends our superlative care of COVID-19 patients. As such I was pleased to see that 10 out of 14 UCLA Health physicians recognized as LA’s “Top Doctors” are from the DoM. Join me in congratulating our colleagues who were recently selected as Top Docs by the Los Angeles Business Journal. The Top Docs annual list recognizes physicians who help our society live healthier and have made significant strides in helping Los Angeles receive better healthcare.


Leadership in Clinical Trials

I am pleased to congratulate our DoM colleague Arash Naeim, MD, PhD on his appointment to associate dean for clinical research for the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA (DGSOM). An oncologist and bioengineer with appointments in the school of engineering, the divisions of geriatrics and hematology-oncology, Dr. Naeim’s research focuses on health services, informatics, health policy and quality-of-care issues.

He was recently named the inaugural Neria and Manizheh Yomtoubian Endowed Chair in Cancer and Risk Sciences in the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, has served as the co-director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), and the associate director of the UCLA Institute for Precision Health, and the chief medical officer for clinical research (CMO-CR) for UCLA Health. In his new role, Dr. Naeim will develop the vision and strategy for the UCLA Office of Clinical Research to ensure that UCLA remains a leader in clinical research.  I am hopeful that as Arash takes up this new leadership role we will witness ongoing transformation in our clinical research infrastructure and trajectory. We look forward to collaborating with you.

Training Future Leaders in Clinical Investigation - the IGNITE Program

The IGNITE Program is a new department of medicine (DoM) program that provides funding support for four fellows per year to enroll in the Masters of Science in Clinical Research (MSCR) Program. IGNITE will provide 50% fellow salary support and tuition during the 2-year MSCR graduate program. The purpose of the program is to develop a pipeline of physician scientists interested in clinical research/biomedical informatics who can successfully apply for and obtain NIH funding.

Overview of MSCR: The MSCR provides training for physician scientists in the design, analysis, and conduct of high quality clinical and translational research. The MSCR enrolled its first class in 2002. A total of 127 students have graduated from the program. MSCR accepts students across the UCLA School of Medicine (and its affiliated hospitals) including: medical students, residents, fellows, and junior faculty.

MSCR Tracks: MSCR students have the choice of focusing their clinical research education through one of two tracks- 1) Clinical Trials/Translational Research Track, or 2) Biomedical Informatics Track.

Who can Apply? Fellows who are interested in developing an academic career in clinical research should apply for the IGNITE program. Prospective students may apply beginning in the first year of their fellowship program. Applicants should obtain approval from their program director prior to applying to the IGNITE program. Applicants will also need to have an identified mentor and it is strongly recommended that they have plan for a research project. In addition, candidates should contact and schedule a meeting with the IGNITE/MSCR co-directors Dr. Elashoff ( and Dr. Ranganath (, prior to submitting the application.

When to Apply? The IGNITE Admissions Committee will review submitted applications by May 15th, 2023. In subsequent years, the application deadline will be earlier. The following link provides additional information on the MSCR application requirements and more information about the MSCR program courses and requirements.

Accepted Candidates Requirements: Candidates accepted into the IGNITE program will attend monthly seminar meetings in addition to their required courses. Students will complete their Capstone project and develop a grant application by the end of the 2-year program.

Long-Term Expectations of IGNITE Graduates: Upon completing the IGNITE program, graduates are expected to: 1) Critically evaluate the medical literature to identify unmet needs, 2) Design a clinical study and compete for funding through NIH, foundations, and/or industry, 3) Conduct the clinical study and analyze the data, 4) successfully publish the research in high impact journal and improve clinical practice.

DoM Faculty Lead DGSOM's Efforts to Increase the Physician Scientist Pipeline

Our department has had a longstanding commitment to developing the careers of the future generations of physician scientists and we will continue to support and expand these initiatives. The dean’s office in the DGSOM recently expanded school-wide efforts to expand capacity for physician scientist training across the entire medical school. I was pleased to see that our faculty are assuming leadership roles within the Physician Scientist Career Development Program at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. After undergoing a competitive selection process, the five co-directors are all from the DoM! These leaders will be working within the DGSOM to identify and implement key strategic priorities for ensuring that UCLA becomes a distinguished center of excellence for physician scientists training in all specialties. Among their goals is the development of a strategic plan aimed at recruiting and supporting diverse, research-engaged, medical trainees at all levels, and creating programs to ensure the career success of all DGSOM physician scientists.

Join me in congratulating our distinguished colleagues as they assume these new roles.

DMPG Annual Retreat Kicks Off Today

Today begins the Department of Medicine Professional Group (DMPG) Annual Retreat. All DoM faculty and staff are invited to tune in today at noon and join Keith Norris, MD, PHD for the kick-off session entitled “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in the Department of Medicine.” A reminder email with the zoom link will be sent out at 11:30 am. I encourage all to attend.



Last Friday I visited the University of Nebraska to receive an award. It was cold! Here is what my window looked like when it was 1º Fahrenheit outside. Count your blessings Southern California when it dips down to 40º overnight.

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