Year 2. October 23. Recruiting the Best.

Recruitment Season is Heating Up

Resident and fellowship recruitment season is underway! While we anticipate the results of the subspecialty fellowship match a few weeks from now, residency interview season is about to begin. Through mid-December, Internal Medicine Residency Program Director Dr. Lisa Skinner and her recruitment team will be reviewing over 300 residency applications, and meeting with these prospective trainees who were selected from thousands of applications submitted to the department of medicine (DoM). Over 700 trainee interviews will be led by our faculty who will use a holistic review approach to evaluate a range of factors for each candidate, which includes medical school performance, emotional intelligence, leadership potential, and demonstrated commitment to service.

This approach to our applicant review is shown to be highly predictive of our ability to recruit and develop leaders in medicine from diverse backgrounds, with the skills and compassion necessary to excel in any aspect of our field and compete for the most selective fellowship training positions or professional career opportunities across the country and globe.

As we enter this season, we must keep in mind that recruitment is a team sport and our active participation in the process contributes importantly to our ultimate success. We must all consider ourselves recruiters, and as such, proactively share with prospective resident trainees the many opportunities for high-quality training, mentorship, and research that are available within the DoM. Equally, we must emphasize the uniquely welcoming and diverse environment that comprises UCLA's DoM as well as Los Angeles overall, and the opportunities for unparalleled opportunities  that promote health equity and community engagement.

Over the next months, cross-disciplinary teams of faculty and current residents will be hosting interview days, Discover UCLA IM sessions, and our well-loved social hours to show case to applicants the many amazing facets of our competitive program. I invite you all to take part and help us contribute to another successful recruitment season by participating in any of the following opportunities:

  • Interview applicants
  • Attend the evening UCLA IM Conversations Panel
  • Speak with applicants who are interested in your area of research
  • Attend noon conference as a faculty expert
  • Mentor current residents in research, fellowship, and job searches

To engage in any of the above, please reach out to Dr. Lisa Skinner at

As we prepare to recruit the best and the brightest, I invite you to hear from our residents about why they chose to come to UCLA and about their experience in the DoM thus far. We are fortunate to guide this talented group of trainees on their journey towards becoming leaders in medicine, research, and education.


“I chose UCLA for the culture of the program. It was immediately apparent from the socials, the meet and greets, interviews, that UCLA had such a loving and close knit community. I felt that I would be supported here by the peers and faculty regardless of where my career took me”

Cameron Hines, MD, UCLA Drew (Primary Care)

“For me, choosing UCLA was easy once I learned more about the atmosphere of the Internal Medicine residency program and the Department of Medicine. Through the recruitment process, it was clear how supportive and friendly residents are and how responsive the program was to resident concerns. It was important to me to have a program that supported my professional and personal growth. The culture of the program has lived up to all my expectations!"

Laura Santangelo, MD, U Chicago (Primary Care)


"The camaraderie, the support, and the happiness that I witnessed during the recruitment process are all a very real part of the cultural fabric that have made these last two years in residency some of the best, even when the days get long. Despite originally being from the Midwest, moving to LA and getting to experience everything it has to offer has truly been a dream come true. From walking/biking on the beachfront every week to eating my way through the city, I truly could not imagine a better place to live while also being a trainee."

Jay Shah, MD, U Chicago

"Los Angeles is new for me. I don’t have family here, which I was worried about. In spite of that, I chose UCLA for a few reasons. Obviously the clinical training is top notch, and I wanted the multiple clinical sites. 

  • One: the weather is beautiful - what can beat beach volleyball while the sun sets over the ocean? 
  • Two: the city has so much to offer. Diversity, dancing! (latin dancing in my case), amazing food, hikes, museums. I feel like I could explore it for a lifetime and still not get through it all.
  • Three: the people were great in the interview. It just felt like I fit in even though I have been all over the country with my education. I was excited to see a new place, and how it felt to settle a bit."

Alani Estrella, Columbia University

"I gravitated to UCLA for the program culture. I come to work smiling and leave work smiling (even on the tough days!) because I am surrounded by people who are committed to going above and beyond for their patients and colleagues. Whether we're caring for patients on the wards, creating a differential during a noon conference, or going to the beach on the weekend, I always feel incredibly grateful to be part of the Bruin family."

Tyler Morad, MD, Loyola

"I chose UCLA for the top tier patient care, the rich near peer and faculty mentorship support, the vast array of research opportunities, the robust medical education pathway, and the chance to train at a rigorous institution where we also have the lucky gift of beautiful weather year round to enjoy during our precious time off."

Jenny Chen, MD, UCLA

“UCLA was my dream residency program! I chose UCLA because not only would it grant me unparalleled clinical exposure and academic rigor, it would accomplish that within a nurturing and supportive community that actually cares about its residents. Most importantly, at UCLA we have the privilege of serving one of the most diverse cities in the country."

Nico Valle, MD, Meharry

"As a kid originally from Southeast LA County, making the move to the west side was an intimidating transition. However, prior to submitting my rank list, my mentor, Dr. Efrain Talamantes, emphasized the importance of selecting a residency program that genuinely supported and championed its residents; a program that would have my back. Fast forward nearly two and a half years into my training, I can confidently say that UCLA's Internal Medicine program has been the perfect fit for me. I've had the privilege of crossing paths with inspiring mentors who have become lifelong guides. The Minority Housestaff Organization (MHO) has given me the opportunity to represent UCLA at two LMSA conferences and strengthen our relationship with URiM medical students. Our program's leadership, from the dedicated chiefs to our program director, Dr. Lisa Skinner, consistently demonstrates that they prioritize treating us as human beings first and residents second. The entire clinical faculty stands unwavering in their commitment. It truly does take a village and I am proud to say that the UCLA Internal Medicine Residency program is a part of mine."

Walter Solorzano, MD, USC

“I chose UCLA because of the amazing community we have here and I’ve loved the opportunity to both live and learn in sunny LA!”

Rohan Karanth, MD, U Virginia

“Coming to UCLA from the east coast was a major decision, but I knew I had made the right decision when I learned about the collegial culture, academic opportunities, and perfect weather (who needs seasons). I’ve been pushed at UCLA to be the best resident I could be amongst a kind, supportive environment with some lifelong friends and I would make the same decision to come to UCLA in a heartbeat.”

Kush Fansiwala, MD, NYU

“UCLA always had a special place in my heart after moving here from abroad for college, and I always wished to come back and train here for residency. I am so grateful to learn from such amazing teachers every day and to be surrounded by co-residents that have become best friends in the process.”

Sammy Sayed, MD, USC

“I was drawn to UCLA because of its combination of both top notch clinical training and research. I've found an amazing community of health services researchers at UCLA, who are genuinely committed to my development as a clinician and scholar. This emphasis on mentorship at UCLA has opened more doors for me as a resident than I ever thought possible."

Gracie Himmelstein, MD, PhD, Mt Sinai

"The collective shared practice of humanism, intellectual curiosity and community building by my co-residents and mentors at UCLA informs and motivates my practice of medicine daily. I chose UCLA for my internal medicine training in order to be in an environment that wholeheartedly and dually promotes my personal growth and professional growth as a physician and scientist during residency. Reflecting on residency in my third year, I am immensely grateful to be at a program with excellent and rigorous clinical training while having the support to pursue my additional interests in computational biology and global health in one of the most vibrant cities in the country."

Ashley Pournamdari, MD, UCSF


“I chose UCLA for two reasons. First, I knew the breadth of clinical experiences paired with cutting edge medical research would expand my outlook as a physican-scientist. Second, I felt the warm and welcoming community physicians at the Internal Medicine program at UCLA would be an ideal learning environment for me as a resident"

Phil Nussenzweig, MD, PhD, Cornell (PSTP)

"Having Dr. Abel as the department chair is a game-changer. He is as strong of a champion for physician-scientists in internal medicine as anyone in the country and we are extremely lucky to have him leading the way. The changes he has made or is making, are already palpable!" 

Kevin Qian, MD, PhD, UCLA (PSTP)

UCLA STAR GI Fellow Dr. Tim Zaki Explores the Changing Global Epidemiology of Colorectal Cancer in Nature Gastroenterology & Hepatology

UCLA DoM's STAR GI Research Fellow Dr. Timothy Zaki, in collaboration with Dr. Caitlin Murphy from UTHealth Houston, recently published a review in Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology on the changing epidemiology of colorectal cancer (CRC) globally. The premise of the paper is that the incidence and mortality of what we consider to be early onset CRC -- diagnosis of CRC prior to age 50 -- is on the rise worldwide and cannot be solely explained by the classical risk factors of CRC among individuals age >50, nor by genetic factors or increased detection via screening.

Noticing these trends and the gap in our understanding of the additional risk factors contributing to this increased risk of CRC at earlier ages, Dr. Zaki and Dr. Murphy turned to birth cohort data to better understand how this risk has changed over time and examine what early-life exposures and emerging risk factors may be at play. Their findings indicate that persons born in or after 1950, with the exception of those born in Europe and Central Asia, are at increasingly higher risk of developing CRC in their lifetime; with incidence as high as twofold higher among people born in the 1980s and 1990s than among those born in 1950–1954.

Dr. Zaki and Dr. Murphy argue that this increasing incidence of CRC by birth cohort since 1950 implicates exposures in early life as risk factors. Some of those potential early-life exposures explored include environmental chemicals, antibiotics/antiemetics, pesticides, and radiation during fetal development, childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. Findings from this paper indicate that future research should use high quality prospective cohort studies with a life course epidemiology approach to focus more on potential early exposures and expand how we typically study CRC and other cancers. The findings also suggest that we could benefit from moving beyond the binary of pre-50 and post-50 age cutoff and instead think of individual risk as a spectrum based more on birth cohort than age at diagnosis. Dr. Zaki is continuing this research alongside Dr. Murphy and Dr. Folasade May, associate professor of medicine in the UCLA Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases.

You may read the study HERE.

Breakthrough in Understanding Heart Cell Maturation May Enhance Cardiac Repair

image of Jijun Huang in the lab
Jijun Huang, PhD

A recent publication in Circulation highlights a groundbreaking discovery made about an essential internal control mechanism that can promote the maturation of human stem cell-derived heart muscle cells. Led by Dr. Jijun Huang a project scientist in the Division of Endocrinology, in collaboration with the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, these new insights offer us a deeper understanding of the journey of heart muscle cells from their immature fetal stage as naïve muscle cells to their mature adult form -- a complicated process that, thus far, has been poorly understood.

The research involved in-depth transcriptomic analysis that led researchers to observe that an RNA splicing regulator named RBFox1 was considerably more prevalent in adult heart cells than in newborns in rat and mouse hearts. Analyses of existing single-cell data from human stem-cell derived heart cells also found a sharp rise in RBFox1 during the maturation of heart cells, validating the observation from these preclinical models. These findings suggest that RBFox1 may be a key missing piece of the puzzle which hides mysterious mechanisms modulating maturation of heart cells derived from human stem cells, indicating that by merely altering RNA splicing, we could encourage the significant maturation of heart cells derived from human stem cells. While this mechanism needs further exploration, it could have important applications for disease modeling and future cell-based therapies for heart conditions. You can read the full publication HERE.

Dr. Olujimi Ajijola Awarded the 2023 Sir John Burdon-Sanderson Prize Lecture at Oxford

Since 2012, the Cardiac Centre in the University of Oxford's Department of Physiology, Anatomy, and Genetics has hosted a series of lectures in honor of English Physiologist Job Burdon-Sanderson. This year's prestigious lecture was delivered by UCLA's Associate Professor of Medicine Dr. Olujimi Ajijola. On Monday, October 16, Dr. Ajijola delivered his lecture, "Realizing The Promise of Cardiac Neuromodulation: Clinical & Laboratory Insights Paving the Path," after a black-tie dinner at Merton College, Oxford University -- established in 1264. The lecture series is awarded each year to one accomplished international researcher conducting cutting-edge cardiovascular science. Dr. Ajijola shares this honor with just nine other luminaries in cardiovascular research from the past eleven years.

Dr. Ajijola's award lecture centered on the function and crosstalk between the heart and the nervous system, in the context of chronic cardiac injury. His research demonstrates that while initial structural and functional remodeling of neuronal and non-neuronal elements in the nervous system following a cardiac event can initially represent a positive adaptation, they become deleterious for the heart over time and even enhances the risk of arrhythmia and sudden death. While the link between the heart and nervous system has long been established, Dr. Ajijola's breakthrough efforts to bring that knowledge to practice by using neuroscience-based therapies is a novel development that has the potential to transform the long-term treatment of chronic cardiac injury.

Dr. Ajijola was motivated to pursue this novel approach, based on his experiences in the clinic, when a patient in his care was dying of a heart condition that only improved following an unusual form of neuromodulation. This experience shifted his career trajectory, which, as we know as physicians, is never linear. Having started his tenure at UCLA DoM as a STAR fellow following a move from Boston in what he describes as a "leap of faith," Dr. Ajijola is an estimable example of long-term growth and leadership within the DoM. Upon asking for any reflections on his experience delivering the awarded lecture, Dr. Ajijola shared the following:

“It was truly humbling. It helps you feel like you're on the right path and doing the right thing, and it helped me connect the dots in terms of the rich lineage of people who have done important work in physiology over centuries."

Dr. Ajijola is grateful to all of his mentors at DoM and beyond, who have championed his work.

Dr. Olujimi Ajijola (left) receiving the Burdon Sanderson Prize Lecture 2023 at Oxford University.

Distinguished DoM Faculty Honored at Annual DGSOM Celebration 

On Tuesday, October 10th, we joined Dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA Dr. Steven M. Dubinett to celebrate the extraordinary achievements of the DGSOM faculty over the past year. Three members of the department of medicine were honored alongside other DGSOM faculty whose research and leadership have earned them national distinctions in the field of medicine. Our DoM honorees included:

Alejandra Casillas, MD, MSHS, who was elected to the National Academy of Medicine Emerging Leaders in Health and Medicine Scholars. Her research interests include the study of health inequities, medical care access and interventions that improve the quality of life for people of color, and those from limited English-speaking populations. Election to the NAM Emerging Leaders in Health and Medicine Scholars provides early to mid-career professionals a platform to engage in activities supported and sponsored by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Lucinda Leung, MD, PhD, MPH, joins Dr. Casillas as a National Academy of Medicine, Emerging Leaders in Health and Medicine Scholar. As a member of the division of general internal medicine and health services research and the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Dr. Leung’s work focuses on innovating team-based care models with a focus on improving outcomes for primary care patients in need of physical and mental health services.

headshot of Lucinda Leung in black coat

Tisha Wang, MD, was honored for her appointment to the Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM) Program. The ELAM Program is a one-year competitive fellowship aimed at increasing the national pool of qualified women candidates for leadership positions in academic medicine. Dr. Wang is currently the senior clinical vice chair of the department of medicine. In this role, she is providing exceptional leadership to refine our departmental clinical operations and strategy. 

Please join me in congratulating Drs. Casillas, Leung, and Wang for their achievements. We are proud to count on them as members of our DoM community whose contributions positively impact us in the DoM and in the broader community. Enjoy a few pictures from the event below.

Let me close by thanking and acknowledging everyone who provided feedback in response to our letter to the DoM regarding the ongoing middle east conflict. The feedback included many words of gratitude, but also some disappointment that our words did not go far enough to address concerns on both sides of the conflict. Importantly the feedback and discourse were civil and underscored shared values that support our concern for the well-being of each other and those who continue to suffer. The DoM must continue to be a safe space for discourse about truly challenging issues, while we continue to collaborate in our missions of service to those who entrust their lives to us.



I am sharing  sunset and sunrise picture that I took recently. The sunset was on my way home the other day. The sunrise was during a weekend 10K run in the hills. Seeing these reminded me of why many of us enjoy living in LA, and importantly encouraged me to double up my commitment to strive for a better future. The sun is not giving up on us yet!

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