Year 2. October 30. Leaders.
Over the decades of our existence, the department of medicine (DoM) has experienced tremendous growth due to the leadership of our faculty, staff, and trainees who collectively have advanced our missions in ways that have increased our visibility within our community and across the country. As we look towards the future, it is essential for us to continue building on this foundation by identifying key goals, priorities, and strategies that will define our future trajectory. Over the past nine months, the DoM community has continued to demonstrate their leadership by actively participating in the creation of our department’s strategic plan. You attended town halls, participated in focus groups, completed surveys and visited our strategic planning website to submit feedback. Many served on the strategic planning steering committee and on design teams. Everyone who participated in the strategic planning process provided valuable perspective which has informed our goals, priorities, and strategies. I am pleased to share that the strategic planning process has concluded. We have created a multi-year roadmap that will build on the department’s successes by investing in mission-centered goals that will support faculty, staff, and trainees as we strive to achieve our vision to lead in innovation, transform care, and advance health for all.
Our bold vision statement seeks to capture our aspirations to be innovators, driving discovery to transform how we care for our patients, and ensuring that at the heart of all that we do, is a an unflinching commitment to advance health for all. Importantly, our strategic plan is grounded in creating a community in which we value and recognize our most critical assets, namely the people who are the DoM. I hope that you will agree that our vision statement and core values should sharpen our focus on the essential principles that will frame the implementation of our strategic plan.
Our seven core values will guide our decision making and define the framework that will underpin the implementation of our plan and provide a basis through which our actions will be evaluated. You will see that our core values spells LEADERS, as such I hope that you will find it easy to embrace these aspirations as we implement our plan.
Our vision and core values therefore serve as our guiding principles as we work together to execute the following goals within and across our mission areas :
- Research: Accelerate the growth and impact of our research and discoveries.
- Education: Develop leaders who will drive the future of medicine and health sciences.
- Patient Care: Provide the highest quality patient-centered, innovative, integrated healthcare for all.
- Community Engagement & Investment: As a public university, advance health and improve outcomes for our diverse communities.
- Foundational Goal: Build a community within the DoM, grounded in our vision and core values.
While we work to achieve these goals, we will always prioritize our people by investing in recruiting, retaining and developing leaders who embody our core values and aspirations to achieve our vision throughout all levels of our department. Our plan prioritizes justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion to ensure that all members of our community both at UCLA and externally feel supported, valued, and respected. We will prioritize innovation and continue to support the advancement of bold, new ideas. We will prioritize investing in the infrastructure needed to accommodate the growth across all missions, alleviating barriers and increasing efficiencies as we seek to achieve these goals. Our plan will promote collaboration not only across the department, but also the university, the UC system, the broader community and beyond.
Our strategic plan is ambitious, but achievable and I believe that its successful implementation will elevate our department nationally and globally. Members of our department are leaders. This leadership will be realized as we come together and rally behind our vision and our core values to achieve our mission-centered goals. Over the next several weeks, I will be sharing more details about specific goals and tactics in each mission area. We will also build out the infrastructure and identify leaders who will spearhead specific projects. We will be including information about how you can participate in specific ways. If you are interested in serving, please let us know!
I will now highlight a few of our colleagues and recent events that already embody many of the goals of our strategic plan.
RESEARCH AND COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
Dr. Lucinda Leung‘s Commitment to Innovative Health Impact
Lucinda Leung MD, MPH, PhD, assistant professor of medicine and psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and staff physician at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center, has spent her career at intersections: the intersection between medicine and public health, the intersection between physical and mental health outcomes, and the intersection between research, policy, and practice. Her work at these intersections began during her medical training, where she opted to pursue a Masters of Public Health in family and community health, and served as a researcher for Partners in Health on a psychosocial intervention for HIV-affected families in Haiti.
In fields that could become quickly siloed, Dr. Leung continues to push past normative barriers to work across disciplines and expand the impact of her work. Today, having completed her PhD in health policy & management at UCLA and graduated from UCLA’s STAR program, she is focused on improving health outcomes for primary care patients with physical and mental comorbidities at the VA and Los Angeles County safety net. Drawing on her interdisciplinary training, Dr. Leung’s research program works towards this goal by investigating how we can redesign primary care to address mental health needs using teams and technology and by evaluating program/policy impact on healthcare utilization, medical spending, and clinical outcomes.
While Dr. Leung stays busy and wears many hats, she shared that embracing this complexity is crucial. In order to make research impactful for a society that is as large and diverse as the U.S., you need researchers and practitioners who are also diverse and tackling problems from different, new angles. Two of Dr. Leung’s actively funded projects – of many – that are currently underway demonstrate her commitment to this philosophy: One is an R01 funded-study examining how state telehealth policy expansion impacts patients accessing mental health care, and a second study is examining how the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted depression care processes at the VA. We are proud to share that Lucinda’s innovative work was recently honored with her selection as one of ten leaders selected to serve in the National Academy of Medicine’s Emerging Leaders in Health and Medicine (ELHM) Scholars Program (pictures courtesy of NAM below).
EDUCATION AND RESEARCH
Cardiovascular Research Theme Symposium - Leadership by DoM Faculty
On the morning of Thursday, October 12, nearly 300 people gathered in the UCLA Covel Commons for the UCLA Cardiovascular Theme Symposium -- the first full in-person iteration of the one-and-a-half-day event since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. As one of the seven core research themes at DGSOM, with a mission to pioneer innovation and discovery for the prevention, detection, and treatment of cardiovascular diseases, the cardiovascular research theme is at the center of cardiovascular research at UCLA.
The symposium brought together leading scientists in cardiovascular research from UCLA and institutions across the country to foster scientific collaboration and exchange in the field of cardiovascular research. This year, six total sessions were held -- including one targeted to post docs, residents and fellows titled "Early Career Investigators,"; over fifteen speakers presented, and more than twelve institutions were represented among speakers. In addition, an unprecedented nearly sixty abstracts were submitted for poster presentations providing students and trainees with the opportunity to present their research. Eight trainees/early career investigators received poster awards, which contrasts with three awards in prior years.
I had the privilege of attending and was able to witness some of the groundbreaking research presented, which included: Dr. Arjun Deb's highlight of a new therapeutic antibody engineered by his laboratory that could reduce scar tissue following heart attacks. I enjoyed listening to talks by experts from Penn, Columbia, Utah and Los Angeles, describing how metabolism of the heart muscle changes during heart failure, the role of mitochondria in heart health and novel research on biomechanical regulation of cardiovascular development and genetic regulation of atherosclerosis. The buzz in the room across the two days was palpable. Dr. Deb agreed, sharing that the event "was really scientifically invigorating." He also shared that many of the external speakers commented that this was truly a national level symposium. This undertaking is a significant collective effort, and to that end, we want to share our many thanks and congratulations to the planning team, which consisted of Drs. Julia Mack, Marlin Touma, Pearl Quijada, Rene Packardand Arjun Deb.
PATIENT CARE AND COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
Tackling Addiction Head-On: Dr. Jonathan Quach on The Bridge Clinic and a Patient’s Success in Sobriety
In the DoM, our physicians aren't just providing exceptional care, they are addressing deeply engrained public health challenges at their roots.
In his decision to pursue a career in internal medicine, Jonathan Quach, MD, assistant professor of addiction medicine, envisioned his work as a physician involving treating patients in acute need -- yes -- but also getting to know patients deeply, engaging with his surrounding community, and helping to prevent future health challenges. While the path to achieving this vision was not direct, Dr. Quach has reached it, and now reflects on what this work means to him through the success story of a patient.
Towards the start of 2023, Dr. Quach sat bedside at Ronald Reagan UCLA Hospital with an 80-year-old man suffering from Alcohol Use Disorder who had fallen while intoxicated. Ending up in the hospital can often be one of the lowest points for some patients. And while this experience can be painful and even traumatic for some, Dr. Quach saw this as a critical intervention point.
Through a unique combination of medical evaluation, personal conversation with the patient and his daughter, and a form of motivational interviewing, Dr. Quach was able to get through to the patient and follow up with him at the new UCLA Addiction Medicine's Bridge Clinic. The Bridge Clinic, created about one year ago, offers immediate access to substance use disorder treatment, to patients using a non-judgmental and personalized approach.
Now, nearing the end of 2023, that patient is nine months sober.
Dr. Quach explained that this is just one of many success stories he feels privileged to have played a role in:
"For me, it's really special to be that [intervening] doctor for a person because you're the only one who's listened to them in that capacity. It's really rewarding as a physician because you can connect with people and care for them deeply."
There has been an overwhelming demand and interest in addiction medicine, which has been historically under-resourced. The hope for Dr. Quach and Dr. Kumar Felipe Vasudevan -- who worked with Dr. Quach on the development of the Bridge Clinic and the inpatient addiction consult service -- is that this field continues to grow, both for the physicians who can experience the benefits of engaging in this meaningful work, and for patients whose lives it changes.
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AND INVESTMENT:
Dr. Kimberly Narain Turns Children Author in Response to 2020’s Racial Violence
Kimberly Narain, MD, MPH, PhD, assistant professor-in-residence in internal medicine, first began thinking of writing a children's book on structural racism in the U.S. out of personal need. It was 2020, a tumultuous year marked by mass protests and public discourse around police violence. Dr. Narain was trying to figure out a way to contextualize what was happening in America to her seven-year-old daughter, and found herself coming up short.
"I worried that my daughter was going to hear something taken out of context,"Dr. Narain shared.
This need in her own life prompted Dr. Narain to reach out to experts in relevant fields such as education, pediatrics and psychiatry, and to dive into the research herself. What she found is that a body of evidence from developmental psychologists indicates that having direct conversations with kids about difficult topics is far more likely to be beneficial than harmful. She went on to explain that though it may seem counterintuitive, science shows us that kids are already coming up with justifications for what they see in the world, and without any direct support to fill those gaps, the justifications they come up with are more likely to fall within stereotypes.
These findings illustrated to Dr. Narain the need for a children's book that directly and accessibly explained structural racism in the U.S. Luckily, Dr. Narain is a skilled researcher focused on investigating health disparities, so she put on her research hat and began to identify the past historical events most connected to the racial differences we see today. Ultimately, "The Cycle of a Dream: A Kids' Introduction to Structural Racism in America" was born.
“All adults can relate to the feeling of wanting to do right by any children in their lives,”
says Dr. Narain, who hopes that this book can serve as a resource for adults who interact with children.
She goes on to share,
"I’m hoping that kids exposed to this book walk away with understandings that some differences across racial and ethnic groups have to do with societal choices. There's a strength in knowing we don't have to accept the status quo. Kids have the power to create a world that they want to see, a world that is more just for everyone."
We want to congratulate Dr. Narain on the three-year anniversary of her book, and for the recognition of her accomplishment by her alma mater, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
I hope you all agree that our strategic plan’s core values “LEADERS” is already embodied in our department as we are poised to leverage these strengths to further elevate our work.
I recently saw that Culver City has its own sign, so not just Hollywood and easier to get to.