Year 2. August 21. Wellbeing and Community.

Meeting our DoM Colleagues and Trainees in the Northeast San Fernando Valley

For decades, our department has forged a productive partnership with the Olive-View UCLA Medical Center (OVUMC), a county hospital providing care to medically underserved communities in the San Fernando and Antelope valleys. Throughout OVUMC, our faculty and trainees provide the high-quality patient care that we are known for, and our trainees are gaining an outstanding training experience, addressing health concerns of many who are otherwise medically underserved. This training rooted in addressing health inequity and disparities in health care is an important element of our commitment to developing leaders in medicine.

I had the pleasure of visiting OVUMC on Monday, August 14th to meet with hospital leadership and the department of medicine (DoM) faculty and trainees who are based at this site. Our visit was hosted by Dr. Soma Wali, who serves as the chair of medicine at OVUMC and vice chair for affiliate programs in the DoM. I was joined by DoM Senior Executive Vice Chair Dr. Gregory Brent. Throughout the day, we learned about the impressive accomplishments in clinical care, teaching, and research taking place at OVUMC under the leadership of Dr. Wali, Olive View DoM Division Chiefs, department leaders, and OVUMC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Benjamin Waterman, who is a graduate of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and our internal medicine residency program. Throughout our discussions, we recognized how our partnership is critical in advancing the missions of the DoM, but most importantly in making a difference in the lives of patients in northeast Los Angeles. I reiterated our commitment to working with OVUMC to continue to jointly recruit faculty who will advance our mutual vision.

(Pictured below: Dr. Abel and Dr. Brent with OVUMC leadership, division chiefs, and department leaders.)

Dr. Waterman noted:

“Combining our unending commitment to the underserved with the academic rigor of the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, the OVMC-UCLA partnership has allowed hundreds of doctors to provide outstanding care to those in need while simultaneously training the next cadre of great physician leaders. It was a pleasure to host Dr. Abel and Dr. Brent at OVMC, and we thank them for their unparalleled support of Olive View and its patients.”

While we celebrated our collective achievements, I had the opportunity to share about the current stage of our strategic planning and discuss opportunities to strengthen and expand our collaboration during a town hall hosted by OVUMC for faculty and trainees. We enjoyed a freshly prepared Mediterranean lunch while we discussed future opportunities to strengthen our partnership, and Dr. Brent shared several DoM initiatives targeted to faculty in the health sciences series.

(Pictured above: Dr. Abel and Dr. Brent speaking with faculty and trainees at OVUMC town hall.)

Our visit concluded with a personal guided tour of the OVUMC campus by Drs. Waterman and Wali (pictured below, left). We had the opportunity to see the inpatient wards, ICU, emergency department, the new primary care village and the site of the new ambulatory care center. Olive View-UCLA Medical Center is in the northeast corner of the San Fernando Valley and sits at the foot of beautiful mountains, near Angeles Crest Forest, with hiking and equestrian trails, creating a “park-like” surroundings for patients, faculty, trainees and students.

Lariza Johnson Recognized as Champion Leader in the Central Coast

Headshot of Lariza Johnson in black blazer with plants in background

This week, we celebrate Lariza Johnson, MPA, regional director of ambulatory services in the Central Coast, who was recognized as a Healthcare Champion Leader by the Pacific Coast Business Times, the business journal for the Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. We have been fortunate to count on Lariza’s leadership at UCLA Health for nearly two decades.

Lariza noted,

“I am truly energized by healthcare’s promise to bring positive transformation, not only for individuals, but for the broader community.”

Her passion for healthcare has helped guide expansion of services in the Central Coast and optimized the workflows across several sites allowing us to provide high-quality patient care in the community. As a leader in the DoM, she manages an administrative team and healthcare professionals in the cardiology and endocrinology specialties and is a coordinator for the expansion of clinics, overseeing construction, budget, and project management. She served as a clinic administrator in our Santa Monica clinic prior to re-locating to the Central Coast. Lariza earned her bachelors at UCSB. While at UCSB, the community left such an impactful impression on her that she returned and has distinguished herself as a leader in building healthier communities on behalf of UCLA Health.

“I am proud of the work we do at UCLA Health to care for the community and our patients,” adds Lariza.

The DoM is proud to count on Lariza’s leadership and to work alongside her in advancing our clinical mission. Congratulations Lariza!

You may access her profile in the Pacific Coast Business Times HERE.

Fund Managers Reunite at Appreciation Lunch & Meeting

We had several social events taking place in the DoM last week. Our fund managers who serve mission-critical roles in our divisions were celebrated at the 2023 DoM Fund Managers Appreciation Lunch. For the past ten years, the department has hosted this event as an expression of our gratitude to fund managers for their commitment and efforts to advance the DoM’s missions. Fund managers wear multiple hats as articulated by Director of Research Administration Catherine Rujanuruks, in her remarks:

  • They are administrators: helping PIs manage projects on a high level, ensuring sponsor and University guidelines are followed, completing any required administrative paperwork for fund management.
  • They are budget analysts: creating contract and grant budgets, generating and reviewing financial statements, ensuring funds are spent in an appropriate and timely manner.
  • They are sometimes assistants: assisting PI with their research administrative and financial needs, guiding the PIs in the contract and grant world, helping put together proposal applications, trouble shoot various aspects of research funding and working with the appropriate central office or sponsor contact

The meeting’s keynote speaker Dr. Judith Currier, executive vice chair for research, shared the following remarks:

"The thriving research enterprise in the department of medicine would not exist without the tremendous support of our research administrators and fund managers. We rely on your expertise and guidance to manage extramural funds coming in through a myriad of sources with ever-changing rules and regulations. The partnership between PI and fund manager is the bedrock of our research operations and we are grateful for all the hard work and attention to detail. Thank you for everything you do."

It was the first time that over 80 fund managers and MSOs were able to meet in-person since 2020. As you can see from the pictures, it was a joyous afternoon filled with laughter, camaraderie, games, and mingling. On behalf of the department, I extend my sincerest gratitude to this cohort of DoM leaders.

DoM Wellness Town Halls - Round 2.

The well-being of our faculty and staff is one of our highest priorities in the department. We are very fortunate for the passionate and committed leadership of our DoM Well-Being Committee who have implemented multiple initiatives in the DoM to help improve workflows and address factors that adversely impact work-life balance this past academic year. I have enjoyed visiting with and engaging in dialogue about these achievements with over 200 faculty and staff  thus far, and to discuss ongoing concerns. We launched the 2023 DoM Wellness Town Hall series with two sessions in Westwood with our research faculty and clinical faculty. We shared the latest findings from our 2023 Physician Wellness Survey, the new compensation plan, and where we are with our strategic planning process.

(Pictured below: faculty at the DoM Wellness Town Hall)

The 2023 survey results demonstrate that there has been an improvement in the rate of physician burnout relative to the 2022 survey, however there is still much work to do. Of concern is the disparity in burnout rates between male and female faculty, particularly among physician scientists. Positives noted by our DoM colleagues included appreciation of our strong approach towards wellness, a commitment to providing high quality care, training opportunities, competitive compensation, and support from department and division leadership. As we look to expand on these strengths, a few of the areas of ongoing focus include expansion of professional coaching, strengthening inbasket support, a focus on recruitment, retention and training of staff, expanding pharmacy support, and optimizing physical space. These are only a few of the areas that we will be focusing on in our quest to improve faculty well-being. It is important to note that these initiatives align with the goals that are identified in our department’s strategic plan.

During the townhalls, I provided a high-level update on the progress of our strategic planning process. We are currently in phase 3 of the process where we will finalize our vision, values, goals, and strategic framework. We have formed four strategy design teams who will develop strategies and tactics to help us achieve the department’s goals in our four missions of clinical care, research, education and community engagement. I am pleased to share a draft of our core values that will guide our department as we look towards the future. You can expect to hear more about our LA-RISE campaign embodying the core values of our DoM strategic plan soon.

I truly enjoy meeting with our faculty and staff at our town halls. I hope that you will join me at one of the following sessions that is closest to you. Your perspectives are welcomed we continue shaping together, the future of our department.

Upcoming town halls:

  • September 6: Westlake Village Inn, 5 pm – 7pm (Faculty and staff from North Valley, Central Coast, and East Campus)
  • September 18: Marriott Torrance/Redondo Beach, 5 pm – 7pm (Faculty and staff from Downtown LA and South Bay)
  • September 27: UCLA Luskin Center, 5 pm – 7pm (Hospitalists faculty and staff)

For those of you, who have not yet attended a town hall, I look forward to seeing you.



Growing up in Jamaica, we were always aware of the risk of hurricanes and nervously watched out for tropical storms each summer. Interesting, in my years growing up there, I never actually experienced a hurricane, although the island was hit a couple of times since I left. So, in a sense I have been running away from hurricanes my whole life and thought that I would remain safe, then I moved to Southern California.

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