Year 2. May 30. Educational Excellence.

As we celebrate the accomplishments of our trainees and the students at the David Geffen School of Medicine (DGSOM) this graduation season, I am reminded of the tremendous contributions of our faculty in guiding the professional development of our future leaders in medicine. From the medical school admissions process, to completing residency or fellowship training, department of medicine (DoM) faculty are actively involved in the recruitment and education of talented physician and physician-scientists who will continue to build on our reputation of providing excellent patient care, training, and leading innovative research.

I would like to start by highlighting the faculty who volunteer for the DGSOM Admissions Committee. Each year, volunteers evaluate hundreds of applicants using a holistic review process to ensure that we recruit an outstanding class of medical students. Faculty volunteers are key to ensuring that our incoming medical students are not only academically exceptional but also embody our values and commitment to creating an equitable health care system where the workforce reflects the diversity in the communities we serve. The co-chairs of the admissions committee share the following about this important role:

The lifeblood of the admissions committee, the engine of its holistic review processes, and the diverse perspectives contributing to its acceptance decisions all depend upon passionate faculty and their continued engagement. Faculty participating on the admissions committee sometimes work anonymously as they generously offer their valuable time for the benefit of the medical school. Within the committee, faculty may act as judges and ambassadors (sometimes at the same time), carefully considering each unique applicant and their productive journeys to arrive at our doorstep. This requires interviewing around 600 applicants for the traditional DGSOM program alone, and considering around 750 applicants for DGSOM, Charles Drew, PRIME, and MSTP programs combined. Every applicant meets more than one faculty interviewer, and each of them is discussed within a large, multidisciplinary meeting of faculty and current medical students to arrive at their life-changing acceptance decisions. The opportunities to meet and learn the stories of our remarkable applicants is itself a gratifying reward often cited by participating faculty.”

DGSOM Admissions Committee Co-Chairs

Thank you to Airie Kim, MD, PhDSerena K. Wang, MD, and the following faculty for their work and commitment to our school of medicine and its students.

Next, I would like to acknowledge our faculty’s role in education in the school of medicine. I begin by celebrating four faculty members who received a 2023 DGSOM Education Excellence Award.


Each year, the medical school awards the Kaiser-Permanente Award for Excellence in Teaching to faculty who have carried an exceptional teaching load with sustained excellence over the years, created educational innovations, managed an education component with skill, innovation, enthusiasm, success, and played a key role in interdepartmental educational activities. I am pleased to share that Rachel P. Brook, MD, FACPTyler B. Larsen, MD, and Wendy M. Simon, MD are three out of the six recipients of this year’s Kaiser Permanente Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Drs. Larsen, Abel, Chen, Simon, and Brook at the 2023 DGSOM Education Awards Ceremony.

Below are a few of their reflections:

Dr. Brook:

I am incredibly honored to receive the Kaiser Permanente Teaching Award.  Working with our medical students and residents has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my career. Our outstanding learners keep me curious, humble, engaged, and fulfilled. They help remind us of the many reasons why we love the field of medicine. I also want to thank all of the exceptional teachers in the DoM and DGSOM that took the time to teach and mentor me, including the DoM leadership for whose support I am so grateful. Thank you so much again for this honor.

Dr. Larsen:

I am truly humbled and honored to receive the Kaiser-Permanente Award for Excellence in Education. As someone who benefited from so many phenomenal teachers at UCLA, particularly the many here in the DoM, it is a distinct privilege to educate the next generation of students and trainees and to be named in the company of such a group of educators.

Vice Dean for Education in the DGSOM Dr. Clarence Braddock and Dr. Rachel Brook.
Dr. Larsen and Dr. Braddock.

Dr. Simon:

I’m honored and humbled to receive the Kaiser-Permanente Award for Excellence in Teaching. I love working with the talented and diverse medical students and residents at UCLA. I am continually inspired by them and the many dedicated faculty and staff in the department of medicine who bring their passion, creativity, and kindness to medical education. It was extra special to celebrate with amazing co-recipients, colleagues, mentors, and friends.

I am pleased to share that Grace Chen, MD was awarded the Renata and Peter Landres Award for Clinical Teaching and Research Excellence in Honor of David B. Reuben, MD. This award was established in 2021 to recognize and support senior level faculty who have demonstrated excellence in teaching or public facing community engaged research that improves the health and well-being of older persons. Dr. Chen shared the following reflections:

I am inspired and awed by Dr. Reuben and appreciate his mentorship. He is a master clinician, master researcher, and master educator. To be given this award in honor of Dr. Reuben is humbling and an amazing treat for me… I am grateful for the opportunities available at all levels for me to work with learners and colleagues, to teach and spread geriatrics.”   

Dr. Simon and Dr. Braddock.
Dr. Chen, Renata Landres, and Dr. Reuben.

In addition to earning a teaching award, Dr. Larsen has been appointed co-chair of the DGSOM Internal Medicine Clerkship. The internal medicine clerkship is a core clerkship for second year medical students in the HEALS curriculum at DGSOM. It is an 8-week experience where students will care for patients in a mix of inpatient (6 weeks) and ambulatory experiences (2 weeks). During this clerkship, students integrate into internal medicine teams in a variety of contexts and learn about general internal medicine and subspecialty care of both acute illness and chronic disease management. Students may rotate on internal medicine at one of six healthcare sites across Los Angeles County and care for a diverse group of patient populations. As a core clerkship, this is a formative rotation for many students on their journey to become physicians as they learn to hone their knowledge and skills acquired during their preclinical year.

As Dr. Larsen prepares to assume this new leadership role, he noted:

It was in large part my experiences on the internal medicine clerkship as a medical student that led me to pursue a career in Internal Medicine. I was inspired by the dedication, curiosity, and compassion of the attendings and residents I worked with on the rotation, and I am honored to be able to help lead the clerkship for a new generation of students.” He adds, “my goals for the clerkship include continuing to build on the work of current co-chairs Drs. Wendy Simon and Mark Munekata by continuing to deliver high quality educational experiences to our medical students. I hope to continue the tradition of making the internal medicine clerkship a valuable and welcoming learning experience where all students, whether interested in careers in IM or not, are challenged, inspired, and equipped to become clinically excellent, humanistic physicians.”

These are just a few examples of our faculty’s service to the DGSOM. Many more are involved throughout the four years of the curriculum and with the help of Jason Napolitano, MD, associate dean for curricular affairs for the DGSOM, we include an in-depth look at the faculty who are leading important education initiatives that are shaping our future leaders in medicine. Click HEREfor more details on the many other faculty who are shaping our medical school curriculum.

We know that developing the future leaders in medicine begins well before they step foot on a medical school campus. You will often find our faculty engaging young learners in middle schools and high schools to introduce them to the field of medicine and scientific research. Early this month, Karol Watson, MD, PhDTamara Horwich, MD, and Marcella A. Press, MD, PhD from the division of cardiology, participated in the Early Cardiovascular Health Outreach Event at a Saturday science academy hosted at Charles Drew University.

Drs. Watson, Horwich, and Press at Early Cardiovascular Health Outreach Event.

Over the course of 90 minutes, the cardiologists met with middle schoolers to discuss the anatomy of the heart, what causes heart disease, how to support heart health, and encouraged them to consider medical careers. The students were thrilled to engage in a Q&A, and one student declared that they wanted to become a pediatric cardiologist. Faculty shared the following reflections about their experience:

Dr. Watson:

Giving back to the community and mentoring young minds are some of the most important things we can do as physicians. Seeing the spark of excitement in these students’ eyes and helping to nurture their hopes and dreams keeps us inspired.”

Dr. Press:

It was so wonderful to meet so many kids excited to learn about heart health. Preventing heart disease starts in youth, reaching out to the kids in our communities and sharing our knowledge about learning to live healthy was so gratifying.”

Dr. Horwich:

I was absolutely amazed at the level of knowledge as well as the enthusiasm of these middle schoolers. If I can inspire just one young person in the Los Angeles community to pursue a career in medicine, there may be important downstream positive effects on improving healthcare in Los Angeles, and that is gratifying.”  

Read more about the Early Cardiovascular Health Outreach Event HERE.

Middle-schoolers learn about heart health from UCLA Health cardiologists

Three UCLA Health cardiologists participated in a Saturday Science Academy program at Charles Drew University... Read More.

An Award-Winning Administrator

I am thrilled to announce that Cristina Punzalan has received the UCLA Academic Senate Staff EDI Award. Cristina joined UCLA as an administrator over 20 years ago and has embodied and lived EDI values in every position that she has held. She currently serves as the program administrator for the DoM’s Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. She has fully embraced this role by working in partnership with Executive Vice Chair of EDI Keith Norris, MD, PhD and our DoM EDI team to plan and execute departmental EDI activities. She is especially proud to work with faculty who will devote time to working at federally qualified health centers throughout communities in Southern California that are in need of access to quality health care. She also has been the administrative project director for the NIA-funded: Minority Aging Research Center for Health Improvement of Minority Elderly (RCMAR CHIME) over the past six years. In this role she mentors young URM faculty, provides guidance on research project administration, and oversees operations of the center.

Cristina joined the administrative staff at UCLA after serving three years in the Peace Corps and two years supporting its recruitment efforts in Northern California and UC Berkeley, where she earned her undergraduate degree in Social Welfare. She has been an administrator at UCLA since 2001 and earned her master’s degree from the UCLA School of Public Health in 2005. 

"What an honor to be nominated by my peers and faculty and recognized by the UCLA Academic Senate. I am so grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this important work in the department of medicine,"

states Christina.

It is critically important to remember that devoted, mission driven staff members like Cristina are the key to implementing almost everything that we do at UCLA, and it is fantastic to see her work honored with this award,”

adds Dr. Norris.

Update on the DoM Strategic Planning Process

Our strategic planning initiative is well underway and on track based on the established timeline. I am grateful for the high level of engagement and contributions of so many members of our department who have contributed to the process thus far. I am confident that our strategic plan will  reflect the diverse and thoughtful input that we have received thus far and expect to continue to receive during the ensuing months.

 Phase 1 (February – April): Where is DoM today?

  • Over 115 department of medicine stakeholders participated in focus groups and interviews in February and March.
  • Department of medicine chairs from peer institutions Duke, UCSF, and Vanderbilt were interviewed in March and shared benchmarking data with us across all missions, against which we will compare our performance and identify how we can learn and grow from respective strengths and challenges.
  • The focus groups and interviews informed a survey that was distributed to the DoM community in April. We received 1,096 survey responses that provided additional ideas and opinions which will help to shape DoM’s vision, values, and strategic priorities.

 Phase 2 (May): Where should DoM be in the future?

Last week, our strategic planning steering committee convened for an all-day retreat. The purpose of the retreat was to present the committee with data collected in phase 1 and to discuss the findings. Informed by the findings, the committee then held preliminary discussions to begin to define the DoM’s vision and core values and outline strategic priorities for the future. The committee was fully engaged in the process and ended the day energized by possibilities for DoM’s future. I would like to express my thanks to the steering committee members for taking a day out of their busy schedules to participate; to Gilma Rodriguez, Marilyn Pis-Mier, and Oceana Smith for managing the logistics of the day; and, to Arlene Bieschke, Albert Haro, Nathan Lee, Samuel Martinez, Cristina Punzalan, Cathy Ryu, and Juan Varela who all helped to provide and prepare data presented to the committee.

What’s coming up:

Are you interested in hearing more about the strategic planning initiative? I will be holding a series of town halls in June for the DoM community to share in more detail what we have learned so far and what will occur in the next phase of planning. Please look for an announcement later this week and RSVP if interested.

As always, stay up-to-date on the strategic planning initiative by bookmarking our website. Questions or feedback can be submitted anytime to



I hope that you had a good Memorial Day weekend. If you remained in town, I trust that the May Gray lifted sufficiently to give some SoCal sunshine.

If you wondered what the May Gray looks like from above, here you go. May June Gloom be brief.

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