Year 2. October 16. When Our Community Comes Together.

2023 DMPG Annual Meeting

Each year, members of the Department of Medicine Practice Group (DMPG) convene in Westwood for their annual meeting where we discuss the current state of the department, the DMPG, and our next steps and goals for our clinical practices. This year, we had the privilege of hosting the UCLA Health leadership team which includes the Vice Chancellor and CEO of UCLA Health John C. Mazziotta, MD, PhD, President of UCLA Health and CEO, UCLA Hospital System Johnese Spisso, MPA, and Dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA Steven M. Dubinett, MD. DMPG faculty had the opportunity to ask our health system leaders questions about how the health system is supporting physician wellbeing, addressing burnout, increasing staffing,  addressing access, the new medical school curriculum and health system finances. The leaders shared perspectives about the investments that have been made in these areas including efforts to sustain staffing levels our hospitals and clinics. We learned that the health system is pursuing opportunities for UCLA Health to expand its reach in the greater Los Angeles area with the introduction of a dedicated neuropsychiatric hospital in the mid-Wilshire area which will help us increase the number of inpatient medical and surgical beds in Westwood, expanding our outpatient presence, and plans to acquire additional hospital facilities elsewhere in the region. Additionally, the health system plans to open an ambulatory care facility in the community of Inglewood in upcoming years. We are grateful to health system leadership for joining us that morning to share these important updates, which should strengthen our presence in communities in need of access to high-quality care.

I also had the opportunity to present some thoughts about the state of our department, plans for growth and potential challenges ahead that we should solve. During the 22-23 fiscal year, we saw record growth within the department with over 2.35 million patient encounters, over 4.5 million wRVUs, and 4.35 months of reserves in our compensation plan. These successes reflect your commitment to our patients and our department missions. We celebrate these accomplishments and as we look to the future know that we will continue to address challenges present in most health systems, which include increasing access, reducing physician and staff burnout, and adjusting to a shifting reimbursement landscape that  is increasingly focused on reimbursing for value and outcomes in contrast to unit cost for care delivered. I am confident that we will continue to succeed in our efforts as we continue to invest primarily in our people through multiple initiatives, while continuing to listen and seek solutions that support our faculty and staff as we strive to improve services to our patients. We are also in the final stage of drafting our strategic plan which will map in detail how we will achieve these and other goals across all of our missions.

It is always a pleasure to meet with our faculty at events like the DMPG Annual Meeting. I hope you enjoy a selection of images from the event which was successfully chaired by incoming DMPG President Dr. Josh Khalili and coordinated by the dedicated team that includes the DMPG Education and Onboarding Team. I look forward to continuing to meet with our faculty and staff at our department events throughout the year.

2023 Internal Medicine Fall Retreat

I always enjoy meeting with our residents and learning about the important work that they do, and initiatives that they lead throughout our hospitals and community practices. I’ve had the opportunity to join them for happy hours in Westwood, I am rounding with them in our hospital wards, and last week, I joined them for the 2023 Internal Medicine Fall Retreat. Over 200 residents gathered at Covel Commons to join the department of medicine (DoM) Internal Medicine Education team for a day filled with informative programming and team building. Our residents reviewed and provided feedback on the six pathways (internal medicine-preventive medicine, health equity, health systems and management, global health, STAR-PSTP, and medical education) available within the DoM, in addition to retirement planning, and other topics including program-specific updates. Our residents and interns also participated in team-building activities, which were enjoyed by all.

I enjoyed the opportunity to provide some opening remarks. We celebrated the exemplary work that our program leaders are doing and discussed the importance of us working together in the upcoming recruitment season. Most importantly, I asked them to think about their mission, vision, and purpose for pursuing medicine. Our house staff are understandably focused on surviving rotations, boards, or fellowships, but I encouraged them to also think about what is going to be their personal mission as a trainee in the program. In 10-20 years from now, when they reflect on their service, what do they hope will be their contributions to medicine? As we map out our educational goals in the strategic plan, I shared that we are committed to developing our residents into leaders who will drive innovation in research, provide exceptional care to communities, and embody our commitment to health equity, diversity, and inclusion. I hope that throughout their careers, our residents will maintain a healthy level of curiosity where they continue to ask the “why?” questions which will help us improve patient care, treatments, and advance the field of medicine. We are privileged to work alongside such bright and talented trainees and will continue to guide them towards excellence. Enjoy a few pictures from the fall retreat!

DoM Faculty and Trainees Shine at Professional Conferences

American College of Physicians Southern California Region - Scientific Meeting

As our DMPG faculty and residents convened in Westwood for annual meetings, so did members of the American College of Physicians Southern California Regions 1, 2, 3 for their scientific meeting. Michael F. Ayoub, MD shared that

“it was a great event, bringing together internists from across Southern California and featuring some great sessions to learn new skills, discuss JEDI in medicine, review updates in internal medicine, and highlight resident and student scholarship. Many members of our department were involved in the conference.”

I am pleased to share with you the various ways that our faculty took center stage at the ACP Scientific Meeting.

  • Michael Lazarus (Governor of Southern California Region I) worked on organizing the conference, and accepted the ACP Chapter Excellence Gold Award for the outstanding work of our Region's ACP Chapter
  • Jarod DuVall received the 2023 ACP Laureate Award for Region1, and served on the Doctors Dilemma Competition Committee
  • Conference committee also included Cameron Hines and Madeline Treasure
  • Danny Kahn organized a POCUS (point of care ultrasound) session, and was joined by Reece Doughty, Patrick Holman, Vanessa Olvera, and Justin Peterson ​as instructors.
  • Arun Karlamangla presented the updates in Geriatric Medicine session.
  • Will Cope was one of the presenters of the updates in Hospitalist Medicine session
  • Jason Napolitano was the discussant in the "Images in Medicine: Clinical Problem Solving" session
  • Lovelee Brown, Utibe Essien, and Daniel Kozman served on a panel entitled "Underrepresented in Medicine: A Journey of Clinical Excellence," moderated by Cameron Hines
  • Erin Baroni served on a panel on Gender-Affirming Care, moderated by George Yen
  • Christopher Graber and Stephanie S. Praw served on the Applying to Fellowship panel
  • Lisa Skinner and Laxmi Suttar (Olive View - OV) served on the Program Directors Panel
  • Several winners of various ACP poster sessions are listed in attached PowerPoint slides HERE!
  • Various UCLA faculty served as poster judges (including Michael Ayoub, Shelly Chawla, Grant Chu, Will Cope, Linda Czypinski, Reece Doughty, Noa Duncan, Jarod DuVall, Neveen El-Farra, Nima Golzy, Roger Lee, Mina Ma, Janet Pregler, Michael Rotblatt (OV), Richard Tennant (OV)

2023 Northwestern Cardiovascular Young Investigators Forum

Meanwhile in the Midwest, colleagues in the division of cardiology attended the Northwestern Cardiovascular Young Investigators Forum (NCYIF) in Chicago, Illinois from September 28th – 30th. The NCYIF provides research and career development training for junior clinician scientists who engage with faculty, peers, and experts in the field of cardiology. This year, we applaud four fellows from the Specialty Training and Advanced Research (STAR) Program who were selected to present at this national conference. Please join me in congratulating the following fellows and their mentors who work closely together to ensure that our trainees are on track to become successful independent investigators.

Kristin Boulier, MD

Evaluating a Coronary Artery Disease Polygenic Risk Score Screening Strategy in a Diverse Electronic Health Record Linked Biobank

Mentor: Bogdan Pasaniuc, PhD

Nicholas Brownell, MD

Analysis of Guideline Directed Medical Therapy Receipt, Healthcare Utilization, and Mortality Among VA Users and Heart Failure Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Mentors: Boback Ziaeian, MD, PhD, and Gregg Fonarow, MD

Elizabeth Hutchins, MD

Predicting Successful ECMO Decannulation: A Novel Machine Learning Approach

Mentor: Alex Bui, PhD

Junior Faculty:
Ashley Stein-Merlob, MD

Mathematical Modeling Predicts Treatment Efficacy in Transthyretin Cardiac Amyloidosis 

Mentors: Alan Garfinkel, PhD and Lihua Jin, PhD

I would also like to highlight that a few miles north, Cardiology Chief Fellow Dr. Sthuthi David presented at the Annual American Society of Nuclear Cardiologys Scientific Sessions in Toronto, as a finalist in the  Barry L. Zaret Young Investigator Awards Competition:

Sthuthi David, MD

Systematic 18F-FDG PET Evaluation of Attenuation CT Findings on 82Rb-Chloride PET MPI

Mentor: Rene Packard, MD, PhD

American Thyroid Association Annual Meeting 2023

In Washington D.C. Clinical Chief of Endocrinology Stephanie Smooke Praw, MD and Assistant Professor of Medicine in Endocrinology Melissa G. Lechner, MD, PhD waved the bruin flag high at the American Thyroid Association’s annual meeting. Both participated in the Ridgeway Trainee Conference which includes a day of lectures and networking with healthcare professionals dedicated to the advancement and understanding of thyroid disease and thyroid cancer.

Dr. Smooke Praw participated on the panel “Keys to Building a Practice,” as part of the clinical symposium. Dr. Lechner delivered the keynote address titled "Sex, Drugs, & Thyroidology" discussing the work her laboratory has done to understand immune mechanisms in Hashimoto's thyroiditis and cancer treatment associated thyroid dysfunction, and how this is affected by male or female sex. I am also pleased to share that Dr. Lechner’s paper, “Clonally expanded, thyrotoxic effector CD8+ T cells driven by IL-21 contribute to checkpoint inhibitor thyroiditis” was recognized as one of the top 5 publications in thyroid research in 2023!

Arjun Deb, MD Publishes, “Fibroblasts in heart scar tissue directly regulate cardiac excitability and arrhythmogenesis,” in Science

In a groundbreaking study published in the journal Science, Dr. Arjun Deb’s research team and collaborators presented insight into how fibroblasts, directly impact heart rhythm which can result in arrythmias. Fibroblasts are made up of scar tissue resulting from a heart injury such as a heart attack. Over 350,000 people in the U.S lose their lives from sudden cardiac death, and in the majority, arrythmias are the primary cause.

According to Dr. Deb, "for decades, scientists have wondered whether the cardiac fibroblasts are electrically passive and just form scar tissue or whether by coming in close contact with myocytes, they directly increase the excitability of cardiac muscle cells and promote life threatening arrhythmias in vivo." In this study, he and colleagues found that fibroblasts are not passive. Fibroblasts can electrically pair with myocytes which results in myocyte excitability potentially emanating from fibroblasts. Current treatment for scar-associated arrhythmias tend to create additional scarring and these new findings may help improve treatment for rhythm related heart problems. Read the full study HERE.

Enrique Rozengurt, DVM, PhD, and Elaine Reed, PhD awarded $3.6M NIAID Grant to Study how Certain Drugs Slow or Prevent the Rejection of Solid Organ Transplants

UCLA Distinguished Professor of Medicine at the Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases  Dr. Enrique Rozengurt and UCLA Distinguished professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Dr. Elaine Reed have received a $3.6 million grant from the National Institute Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to examine how certain drugs slow or prevent the rejection of solid organ transplants in patients. Most current treatments to prevent transplant rejection rely on immunosuppressive drugs that are relatively unspecific. New therapeutic approaches are needed, and the identification of key targets will most likely arise from the elucidation of the molecular mechanism(s) underlying organ transplant rejection. Specifically, the new funds will support research identifying novel mechanisms by which the lipid lowering drugs of the statin family prevent rejection of solid organ transplants. The results of this research could be important in other fields, including counteracting cancer.

Circulating donor-specific anti-human leukocyte antigen (HLA) antibodies are a major mechanism risk for graft loss due to chronic antibody-mediated rejection. Drs. Reed and Rozengurt have a long-standing collaboration and multiple scientific papers elucidating mechanisms by which antibodies directed against HLA molecules instruct endothelial cells, to grow, divide and migrate. The team will use human endothelial cells from multiple donors and preclinical models of transplantation in mice to test novel approaches to prevent transplant rejection caused by circulating antibodies from the host attacking cells of the graft. The investigators will test the hypothesis that statins interfere with the function of a fundamental pathway, known as the Hippo pathway, that regulates the expression of genes that play a critical role in promoting cell proliferation, survival, migration and inflammation, processes that are instrumental in the pathology that culminates in transplant rejection and graft failure. The team received prior funding from the Connie Frank and Evan Thompson Program for Collaborative Restorative Transplantation Research that served to generate key preliminary results that underpinned the new grant proposal awarded by NIAID.

Jihane Benhammou, MD, PhD Appointed to American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) Women’s Initiatives Committee

The American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) Women’s Initiatives Committee promotes gender diversity, equality and professional development of clinicians, scientists and others in the fields of hepatology and liver transplant surgery. Dr. Jihane Benhammou, assistant professor of medicine and staff hepatologist at the Greater Los Angeles VA, was identified as a future leader in the field of hepatology and was selected by the committee to participate in the AASLD Promoting Leadership Potential for Women in Hepatology Mentoring Program.

Congratulations Jihane!

Call for Bi/Multi-lingual Faculty for Media Interviews

As a leading research institution, it is essential that we highlight the diverse voices leading innovative work and high-quality work in our hospitals, community practices, classrooms and labs. The UCLA Health Communications Department is compiling a list of faculty who speak a foreign language and may be available to speak about their areas of expertise when we receive media inquiries. If you are bi/multilingual faculty who would be interested in being added to the media contact list, please send the following information to DoM Director of Communications Rosa Guerrero at

  • NAME: 
  • TITLE: 



In support of Rosa’s request, let me encourage you to sign up as you never know, where on the world stage you might find yourself expounding on your area of expertise.

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