Year 2. February 13. Award Winning Week

2022-2023 Bruin Scholars Award: Jane Fazio, MD

Jane Fazio, MD, a pulmonary and critical care medicine fellow and health policy and management PhD student in the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health through the STAR Program, was selected as part of the inaugural cohort awarded the 2023-2024 Bruin Scholars Award from the dean’s office in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. The Bruin Scholar Award is a two year $100,000 grant that will be used to fund scholarly projects, which are committed to diversity and service to underserved or structurally vulnerable populations.

Dr. Fazio’s exemplary commitment to justice, equity, diversity, inclusion, anti-racism, and service to underserved populations was recently featured in Public Health Watch, So-Cal Public Radio, and Univision, where she spoke about her advocacy focused on exposing a recently recognized emerging outbreak of pulmonary silicosis, a progressive and often fatal preventable occupational lung disease, among engineered (AKA quartz/artificial) stone countertop fabrication workers. She is an affiliate researcher at the California Department of Public Health - Occupational Health Branch and developed the largest US-based patient registry of silicosis cases, which demonstrated that the disease effects young Latino immigrant men who present at an advanced stage and are commonly misdiagnosed, leading to delays in care.

Dr. Fazio’s work is based out of Olive View-UCLA Medical Center where she will serve as site director for the “California Artificial Stone and Silicosis Study” which aims to evaluate the merit of enhanced screening for silicosis among engineered stone countertop workers with Chest Computed Tomography and full Pulmonary Function Tests, compared to the current OSHA standard of Chest Radiograph and Spirometry.

“As physicians, we rarely find ourselves in a position to completely prevent unnecessary disease and save the lives of young productive individuals otherwise in the prime of their life. This award will enable me to do just that, for a group of incredibly vulnerable workers,”

states Fazio.

2022-2023 Popják Scholar Award: Xu Xiao, PhD and Yang Cao, PhD

Xu Xiao, PhD, from the Tontonoz Laboratory, and Yang Cao, PhD, from the Lusis Laboratory, are the recipients of the 2022-2023 Popják Scholar Award. The Popják Scholar Award was established in the UCLA Atherosclerosis Research Unit to honor George Joseph Popják, MD, DSc, FRS, a renowned investigator, and faculty member in the UCLA Department of Biological Chemistry, who defined the reactions involved in the biosynthesis of cholesterol. The Popják Scholar Award honors outstanding contributions in atherosclerosis research.

Dr. Xiao’s research focuses on elucidating the functions of Asters, a new cholesterol transport protein family, in cellular cholesterol transport and sterol homeostasis in vivo. He is currently investigating tissue-specific roles of Asters in cholesterol metabolism. Last year, Assistant Project Scientist Dr. Yang Cao had a phenomenal year publishing a series of landmark papers in the area of cardiovascular disease and metabolic disorders. Her research combines cellular biology, cardiometabolic diseases, and systems genetics to study diastolic dysfunction in heart failure. Drs. Xiao and Cao join a distinguished list of prior awardees, including current UCLA faculty listed below.

I invite you to learn more about Dr. George Joseph Popják’s research, the history of the Popják Award and the complete list of awardees HERE.

American Society for Clinical Investigation: 2023 Young Physician-Scientist Award: Utibe Essien, MD, MPH

Utibe Essien, MD, MPH was selected for the American Society for Clinical Investigation’s 2023 Young Physician-Scientist Award (YPSA). The YPSA recognizes early-stage physician scientists in their first faculty appointment who have made notable contributions in their research.

Dr. Essien recently joined the department of medicine (DoM) in the division of general internal medicine, as an assistant professor of medicine in residence in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA (DGSOM), an investigator in the Center for the Study of Healthcare Innovation, Implementation, and Policy at the Greater Los Angeles VA, and the associate vice chair of the Office of DoM Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. His research interests focus on racial and ethnic disparities in the use of novel medications and technologies, particularly in the treatment of cardiovascular disease. His research is funded by a VA Career Development Award, the Harold Amos Faculty Development Program, and the American Heart Association.

VA HSRDS Under Secretary’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Health Services Research: Donna Washington MD, MPH

Finally, we congratulate Donna Washington, MD, MPH, recipient of the Under Secretary's Award for Outstanding Achievement in Health Services Research from the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Services Research & Development Service. The Under Secretary’s Award is the highest honor for VA health services researchers.

The award recognizes Dr. Washington’s leadership in women’s health research and addressing health disparities affecting vulnerable and underserved populations, that include racial/ethnic minorities and women veterans. Her research has informed national VA policies regarding the delivery of care for women and has garnered her additional accolades that include the VA’s Career Development Award, the 2015 Society of General Internal Medicine’s Herbert Nickens Award, and the 2019 Congressional Black Caucus Veterans Braintrust Award. Dr. Washington a professor of medicine in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and serves as the director of Health Services Research for the VA Greater Los Angeles Department of Medicine.

DoM EDI Black History Month Grand Rounds

Over the past two weeks, the DoM has celebrated Black History Month with a series of Grand Rounds showcasing our imperative to address health inequities impacting medically underserved communities and increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in the field of medicine. We kicked off the series on Wednesday December 1st, with Executive Vice Chair, Department of Medicine for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Keith Norris, MD, PhD who presented on “Affirmative Action and Equity in Academia: To be or not to be,” where he discussed the origins of Black History Month, the history of health disparities and affirmative action in America, and an overview of key Supreme Court cases about affirmative action. As the Supreme Court weighs the fate of affirmative action, research from faculty members Dan Ly, MD, PhD and Dr. Essien presented the outcomes of affirmative action bans in selected states across the country demonstrating that it resulted in  decreased representation of racial/ethnic minority groups in U.S. public medical schools. As a department committed to advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion we will continue to advocate for reviewing candidates for medical school and residency through a holistic review process. We envision a future in which our faculty and staff reflect the diversity of the communities we serve.

During Black History Month Grand Rounds, we were also fortunate to be joined by Elaine Batchlor, MD, MPH, CEO of Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital for “Healthcare as a Radical Act of Social Justice,” in which she discussed the need to address social determinants of health and the need for payment reform in order to build equity in traditionally underserved communities. It was a compelling discussion and as a department, we will continue to seek partnership opportunities with organizations that allow us to reach all members of the diverse communities in our region, including those that historically have been medically underserved.

As the DoM EDI Black History Month Grand Rounds series enters the third week, Dr. Essien will be presenting “Pursuing Pharmacoequity: Race and Novel Drugs in the US.” Make sure to tune in HERE.



I do not know who you supported last night for Super Bowl LVII. But what a game!!
I must confess, that I was partial to the team from the Midwest seeing that I just spent 9 years next door to MO. I am aware of at least one senior faculty who drove to Arizona on Saturday night to support the Philadelphia Eagles and returned home in the wee hours of Monday morning! Although the Eagles did not win, I applaud the commitment to support their "hometown" team. So close, especially after the first three quarters.

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