Year 2. June 20. Juneteenth.

Juneteenth, or Freedom Day, was celebrated yesterday, June 19. It is a time for reflection and celebration as we commemorate the final emancipation of enslaved Black people in the United States in 1865. I found it personally gratifying when Juneteenth was recognized as a federal holiday in 2021. Juneteenth is an opportunity for us to reflect on what freedom means to us and engage in discourse and education 0about the legacy of slavery and how we can work together to break down institutional racism throughout our community. Our history influences our present policies and the social structures that continue to maintain inequality throughout our society. My hope is that by acknowledging the history, we can learn to recognize where inequality exists and work towards removing the factors that support it. I had the opportunity to speak with Cell recently about what Juneteenth means to me and invite you to read the full article HERE. I am also linking the PDF of the article to this post, along with an article by Dr. Hannah Valantine, from Stanford University  that was also published in the same issue.

Over the past 37 years of my career, I have witnessed progressively more investment in ensuring that access to the field of medicine and science is not limited to a privileged few, an increase in women pursuing careers in medicine, and greater focus on providing mentorship to individuals from underrepresented backgrounds in science and medicine. Within the department of medicine (DoM), we are committed to supporting an environment which embraces values of equity, diversity and inclusion where all members of our community feel valued, respected and welcomed. This Juneteenth, I recognize that we still have a lot of work to do in building an equitable and diverse community in our field.

However, I am proud to celebrate the faculty and staff who embody the department’s commitment to EDI by taking part in important initiatives that will help us train talented and diverse physicians and physician scientists that reflect our broader community.

DoM Faculty Appointed to Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Academic Mentoring (JAM) Program at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

Several members of the DoM faculty have been invited to participate in the Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Academic Mentoring (JAM) Program at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Established in 2021, the JAM Program is a one-year fellowship that pairs mentors and mentees with extensive coaching, networking, and opportunities aimed at expanding the professional development and retention of faculty with clinical and research backgrounds and careers who have navigated intersectional barriers associated with underrepresented or marginalized experiences. The program seeks to expand the pathway to career development opportunities to faculty who are underrepresented or traditionally marginalized, decrease the attrition rate of these faculty, and create a community of mentors and mentees who are committed to addressing retention and promotion of faculty who are underrepresented or traditionally marginalized. Please join me in celebrating Hana Hashim Khidir, MDMonica Tsai, MD, and  the following faculty who have been selected to participate in this year’s JAM Program:

The JAM Program exemplifies the importance of developing peer networks that will support  the professional development and growth of all members of our faculty.

2023 LIFT-UP Conference

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to speak at the UCLA LIFT-UP (Leveraging Institutional support For Talented, Underrepresented Physicians and/or Scientists) Conference. The LIFT-UP Program is a mentorship program that seeks to support increased diversity among scientists pursuing research careers in nutrition, obesity, and diabetes. It provides a teaching and mentorship curriculum that builds confidence and motivation among research fellows and junior faculty from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups (URGs), to help them successfully obtain research funding and progress to research independence. I reminded conference attendees about the importance of networking, building a community of peers, and developing the habit of actively lifting each other up at every stage of their advancement throughout their career. I shared the tremendous value that such peer mentorship played in my own career. Lift-Up scholars had the opportunity to present their latest research to faculty and other participants.

Dr. Pearl Quijada presents at the LIFT-UP Conference.
Dr. KImberly Narain presents at the LIFT-UP Conference.
LIFT-UP conference participants.
Dr. Anthony Covarrubias presents at the LIFT-UP Conference.

They also heard from DoM faculty that included Arleen Brown, MD, PhD who shared about the opportunities in the Clinical & Translational Science Institute at UCLA, Keith Norris, MD, PhD who discussed the role of EDI in optimizing success in research careers in the 22nd century, Mitchell Wong, MD, PhD who discussed the top 10 rules for presenting research, and Andrea Hevener, PhD who led a workshop on research cores. It was an inspiring and productive day of presentations in support of the current cohort of highly accomplished early career URG scientists whose passion and careers are devoted to preventing and treating obesity and diabetes, and working to achieve health equity in disease areas aligned with the mission of the National Institutes of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK).

Dr. Keith Norris presents at LIFT-UP Conference.
Dr. Dale Abel presents at LIFT-UP Conference.
Dr. Tannaz Moin presents at LIFT-UP Conference.

The UCLA-LIFT program is funded by a U54 Grant from the NIDDK that is led by O. Kenrik Duru, MD, MS, professor of medicine, and Carol Mangione, MD, chief of division of general internal medicine and health services research.

The current cohort of LIFT Fellows are (name/institution/department or division):

  • Dr. Anthony Covarrubias, UCLA, Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics
  • Dr. Kimberly Narain, UCLA, General Internal Medicine & Health Services Research 
  • Dr. Pearl Quijada, UCLA, Integrative Biology & Physiology
  • Dr. Estelle Everett, UCLA, Division of Endocrinology 
  • Dr. Evelyn Vazquez, UC Riverside, Social Medicine Population & Public Health
  • Dr. Matthew Romero, UCLA, Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics
  • Dr. Laura Cortes, UCLA, Integrative Biology & Physiology
  • Dr. Karina Cunha e Rocha, UCSD, Medicine Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism
  • Dr. Gloria C. Galvan Alvarado, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Surgery Department, Division of Urology

Celebrating the graduates of the Professional Development Coaching Program for the Internal Medicine Residency

Another facet of our commitment to supporting career development of our trainees is the Professional Development Coaching Program for the Internal Medicine Residency. I had the opportunity to join Rachel Brook, MD, FACP and Tina Mosaferi, MD to celebrate the inaugural year of this program that was launched in December 2022.  Over 100 faculty coaches were recruited from our VA and UCLA clinical sites, who underwent specific training in professional coaching with Kerri Palamara McGrath, MD, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and primary care general internist at Massachusetts General Hospital. It was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our residents and faculty who expressed that they found the coaching program beneficial not only in connecting each other with peers but also providing critical professional development. Enjoy a few pictures from the celebration below. 

Arthur G. Gomez, MD Awarded the Sherman Mellinkoff Faculty Award from DGSOM

Arthur G. Gomez, MD, was this year’s recipient of the Sherman Mellinkoff Faculty Award from the DGSOM. The Mellinkoff is DGSOM’s most prestigious award and honors physicians who use scientific knowledge for the benefit of patients, promoting a beneficial exchange between doctors and their patients, and therefore sustaining the science of medicine. Dr. Gomez was a longstanding member of the DoM, who has dedicated his career to training the next generation of leaders in medicine on health care disparities, caring for vulnerable patient populations, improving physician-patient communications, and delivering patient centered care.

On behalf of the department of medicine, I congratulate Dr. Gomez on this achievement which reflects his commitment to ensuring our trainees are able to provide the best care to all patient populations that we serve.

Catherine Elizabeth Durant, MD Awarded the Olga Levin Inspiration Award

Next, I would like to highlight Catherine Elizabeth Durant, MD, recipient of the Olga Levin Inspiration Award. The Olga Levin Inspiration Award is awarded by faculty to the senior resident who inspires others through their example. Dr. Durant approaches every encounter with humility, kindness and an abiding commitment to excellence. Faculty describe her as an “exceptional” physician who is “passionate and proactive about learning and growing as a clinician.” Deeply humanistic, Dr. Durant is “patient and kind with interns and patients alike.” Her interns identify her as “a role model who sets a good vibe for everyone” and “a total rock star.” She inspires medical students with her unflappable commitment to patients and optimistic demeanor. One learner captured the impact of Katie’s presence on teams, saying, “She is the GOAT. I want to be Katie when I grow up!”  Dr. Durant will be a pulmonary critical care fellow at UCLA in the coming academic year.

Strategic Planning Update

Last week, we concluded a series of five strategic planning townhalls in which I had the opportunity to share the most recent findings from the strategic planning process with faculty and staff from across the region. Over the past five months, the strategic planning committee has been working to identify the critically important areas where we can be world leaders and determine how we can invest in achieving our goals.

One thing is that came across loud and clear, is that we must continue to invest in advancing our EDI values which was identified as  one of the top three core values that should be embodied in our strategic plan. Members of our department also shared that excellence, integrity, compassion, and well-being were key elements that should embody the core values of our department. This tells me that while we strive to be the best, we want to make sure that we are accomplishing this while also being mindful of the well-being of all members of our department, whether it be faculty, trainees or staff.

It has been a privilege to hear your feedback  and suggestions regarding the next steps for the department of medicine and I encourage you to remain involved as we continue the finalize our strategic plan. In the next steps, we will host strategic design teams to help inform the strategic planning committee about how we can invest in our priority areas. The four strategic design teams include research, education, clinical, and community engagement.  Members of these teams will work towards making recommendations about how we can invest in the people in our department, in JEDI, infrastructure, collaboration and partnerships, innovation, and leadership, within these four domains. We encourage you to volunteer to participate in a design team.

To learn more information about this initiative, please visit our strategic planning website or to volunteer, please email



Sunday was Father’s day. For all the fathers in the DoM, I hope that you had the opportunity to connect with your offspring in a meaningful way. I was in Chicago late last week, to attend the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society. While there, I had the chance to visit with my granddaughter and her parents before my flight back to LA on Saturday night. Here are some pictures from our visit in their neighborhood park.

A few years ago, my daughter gave me a Father’s Day present, which I try to wear every Father’s day. Here I am wearing it, when I visited my mom and older brother in Jamaica in the before-times prior to COVID. That’s my mom’s birthday cake in the foreground.

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