Year 2. December 11. Family

Department of Medicine’s Strategic Plan Brochure

For over 10 months, the department of medicine (DoM) has worked diligently to create a strategic plan that will guide the growth of our core mission areas over the next few years. With broad input from the DoM community, the strategic plan steering committee and our design teams, our implementation leaders will now move forward to ensure that the strategies and tactics to advance the mission pillars and goals identified in the strategic plan are developed and executed. Our strategic plan includes detailed strategies that we will implement in our mission towards expanding our role as a premiere academic department of medicine. With that, it is my pleasure to introduce you to our strategic plan brochure which provides a high-level overview of our plan. This brochure provides easy access for you to learn about our plan’s mission pillars, goals, strategies, the core values that will guide our decision making, and the leaders whose efforts have helped us now arrive at the point of implementation.

I hope you enjoy reading the plan and are inspired to join us as LEADERS who will innovate, transform care, and advance health for all.

Welcome Dr. Sun M. You, Our Newly-Appointed Chief Wellness Officer in the DoM!

Dr. Yoo will be dedicating her time and expertise to the mission of improving well-being among all faculty within the DoM. We spoke to Dr. Yoo to learn more about her goals and aspirations in this new role, and what motivates her to focus on wellness in medicine.

In Conversation with Dr. Sun M. You, DoM Chief Wellness Officer

What events in your life led you to pursue a career in medicine?

Growing up in an immigrant household, I found myself translating for family members at medical appointments starting at 5 years-old. I saw how often details were left out due to embarrassment about circumstances or care being deferred. These experiences, along with my passion for the sciences and improving the lives of others, steered me toward medicine. This passion was crystallized when I lost a family member to advanced cancer in her 40s. I saw how the outpatient system failed our sickest patients, leaving the hospital as our only choice. I wanted to be part of changing the ambulatory care delivery system that would help us meet the needs of those with the 
highest medical and/or social complexity.

How did you become interested in wellness and burnout prevention within medicine?

When the pandemic hit, we all witnessed burnout skyrocket in our physicians and staff. A combination of uncertainty around disease management, inadequate staffing support, concerns around personal protective equipment (PPE), safety of our family and loved ones, the health of our at-risk patients, and widening health disparities, led to moral injury and burnout. In this situation, I also saw how many individuals in our department stepped up. In addition to the brave work of frontline providers in the hospitals and ICUs, our ambulatory physicians, care coordinators, and clinic staff rallied in careful outpatient management of COVID-19 patients at risk for hospitalization through direct care, education, and development of protocols. It was inspiring to witness individuals connected with the mission and finding joy in their work at a time where that felt impossible. This made me realize the power of engagement and its impact on well-being. It also reminded me of the trauma many providers and staff went through -- whether due to professional or personal circumstances -- and the moral imperative of our system to provide support for our employees, as we would for our patients. The pandemic also highlighted many opportunities for structural changes that would improve the working environment and experience of our physicians and staff. This motivated me to be part of this change.

What unique challenges do physicians face regarding wellness and what strategies have you worked on thus far to promote department-wide well-being in the face of these challenges?

We recruited a passionate group of physicians for our well-being committee representing our regions and divisions to explore the contributors to physician burnout. The committee’s work, along with our DoM wellness survey and regional town halls, has opened up communication mechanisms with leadership and has allowed leadership to get insight on the challenges our frontline providers face. These insights have led to creation of a DoM inbasket oversight task force, wellness training for leaders, division wellness funds to improve social connection, and exploration of factors leading to burnout of women in medicine. We, however, have only scratched the surface of the work that needs to be achieved to counter the challenges we face below:

  • Sense of loss of autonomy and control in our work
  • Staffing support for optimal team-based care in the era of the electronic health record
  • Alignment with leadership in the department and health system
  • Building and maintaining community and social connection
  • Leadership training and accountability

Although some of our well-being work will be through direct interventions and measurement of the interventions, much of our work will be in advocacy and accountability of the entities that control the practice environment of our physicians. Our goal is that DoM leadership will take into account wellness with each policy or structural change that is considered. Although not every decision can be pro-wellness, we strive for transparency and conversation that reflects the respected partnership between our physicians and the DoM.

What is your vision and/or goals for building on your existing work to further improve wellness?

Our team’s vision is to improve the well-being of our providers and staff through advocacy for structural change, increased transparency and communication, and fostering an organizational culture that connects individuals to the mission(s) of the department. 

We hope to achieve this through creation of a DoM Well-being Center composed of broad representation reflecting the composition and missions of our department with focus on the following areas:

  • Organizational Culture:
    • Contribution to an organizational culture where physician and staff well-being is considered with every decision or policy 
    • Enhanced leadership training opportunities on wellness 
    • Accountability of leaders on wellness 
  • Evaluation of Well-being Interventions:
    • Launch of well-being initiatives and measurement of its impact on physician well-being
    • Quality improvement and scholarship opportunities for faculty, house staff, medical students, and staff
  • Evaluation of Wellness Support Services:
    • An evaluation of current resources to support the wellness of our providers and staff in the department and the health system
    • Making recommendations to leadership on identified gaps
  • Increased Community and Social Connection:
    • Improve social connection among our providers and staff
    • Increased communication opportunities between leadership and frontline providers and staff

What inspires you to lead work around wellness?

I love seeing individuals connected with their work and finding work-life integration that works for them. Physicians and staff engaged and inspired by their work will pass that on to patients. Well-being is paramount in maintaining an effective workforce. With the access challenges we face, it is more important now than ever that we comprehensively incorporate wellness into our strategic plan and DoM culture. We have worked hard to recruit the best people – the “secret sauce” of our department – and it is important we take care of the individuals that have committed their lives to this noble profession.

We are delighted to welcome Dr. Yoo into this important position. We also want to recognize the many faculty members, faculty-led initiatives and department-supported initiatives already underway to promote wellness. An example  of those efforts is the Women in Medicine group, that has been launched by the DoM's Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

Women in Medicine Group Supports Gender Equity and Wellness in the DoM

Over the Veteran's Day weekend, our Women in Medicine group sponsored a gathering of faculty with infants. A group of DoM physicians and their infants came together for a get-together in Douglas Park in Santa Monica. The adults mingled in the sun, bonding over the joys and challenges that come with parenthood, as their babies socialized with other babies. This gathering, was hosted by Drs. Alice Kuo, med-peds section chief, and Stacey Weinstein, faculty in the med-peds section.

This event, sponsored by the DoM Women in Medicine group, is part of a larger effort to increase opportunities for female physicians and all physician-parents to connect with others sharing similar experiences, as we continue our efforts advance gender equity for DoM faculty. Please enjoy a few pictures below.

The Women in Medicine group has been active in many ways, for instance by strongly advocating for salary equity for female faculty within the DGSOM. Following their initial effort setting up a Salary Equity Taskforce, the group held two virtual town halls that were attended by approximately 35-40 women faculty in October to learn about specific stressors they face at work.including strong advocacy for salary equity for female faculty within the DGSOM. They held two virtual town halls attended by approximately 35-40 women faculty in October to learn about specific stressors they faced at work. Outcomes of these conversations included recognition of the need to connect with other women faculty, particularly around issues involving balancing work with raising children and a strong desire to learn from senior women faculty about their career paths. Several women also shared specific challenges related to returning to work from parental leave after a newborn arrives. Participants also gave suggestions for ways that junior faculty women could best participate in activities outside of work.

Under the guidance of Teresa Seeman, PhD, associate vice chair for EDI, a leadership team for the DoM Women in Medicine group was developed, with Drs. Seeman and Grace Chen, MDoverseeing a mentoring committee; Drs. Kuo and Weinstein chairing the networking committee; and Drs. Mina Ma and Mridula Watt chairing a policy review committee. These efforts are also supported by EDI staff Cristina Punzalan and Moira Ann Desphy, MPH. This leadership team will continue to examine and develop ways to support all women faculty in the DoM.

Dr. Kuo noted, this is only the beginning.

"We know from research that parents are the most isolated when their children are 0 to 2 years of age. Back in the day, women had more support from extended family and built-in support systems. These supports are increasingly missing in society today. We have many women faculty in the DoM with children across all ages, women who are empty-nesters and women who do not have children. Our vision is that we have layers of support for all women in the DoM and multiple opportunities for women to connect with each other."

The DoM Shines Bright at the 2023 JEDI Trailblazer Awards

Let me also congratulate Dr. Kuo on her recent recognition as a recipient of one of three JEDI Trailblazer Awards recently conferred by the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. This distinction celebrates leadership and excellence in advancing ideals of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion throughout our communities. The award honored Dr. Kuo’s commitment to advancing these values in the department of medicine and her advocacy for access to and delivery of developmental services, promoting cognitive and language development in young minority children, and developing services for children and adults with autism and other neurodevelopmental disabilities.

Dr. Alice Kuo (center) received the JEDI Trailblazer Award from DGSOM.

Additionally, I was honored to receive the Community Engagement Award on behalf of the DoM. I was immensely proud to see the incredible work that you are leading to advance health equity throughout the communities we serve be celebrated by our peers. Kudos to the DoM’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and many faculty who are changing the culture of medicine by advancing JEDI values.

Dr. Abel received the Community Engagemgent Award on behalf of the DOM at the JEDI Trailblazer Award ceremony.

Med-Peds Faculty Host a Visit from the Rwandan Ministry of Health, Minister of State and Rwandan Ambassador

In mid-November, the DoM was pleased to welcome the Rwandan Ministry of Health, Minister of State Yvan Butera, MD, and the Rwandan Ambassador Mathilda Mukantabana. This meeting was hosted by our own Dr. Emery H. Chang, a DoM med-peds clinician, as part of an effort to expand the collaboration between the nonprofit TIP Global Health, the Rwandan Ministry of Health, and UCLA.

This collaboration began in 2006 through a chance circumstance in which Dr. Chang and Dr. Wendy Leonard from Santa Cruz, CA were both connected with the Clinton Health Access Initiative that had an ongoing project in Ruli, Rwanda. Dr. Leonard and subsequently Dr. Chang, participated in the program for six weeks each, during which time they each separately carried out continuing education programs with local care providers primarily on HIV treatment and prevention of mother to child transmission. Their time as volunteers in this specific program had an end date, but their time working with the community in the region would endure.

Dr. Leonard, who had expected to oversee the implementation of HIV protocols established by the Rwandan Ministry of Health, found instead a community confronting profound basic health challenges. In response, she started TIP Global Health and recruited Dr. Chang. Together, they began pushing forward initiatives focused on expanding access to basic health services in partnership with the local community. Their first project involved securing a grant through UCLA to install solar panels on medical care centers across Rwanda to improve the electrification at clinics. Next, they moved onto a 5-year project centered around childhood nutrition that involved nutrition supplementation, farming co-ops, training gardens, and community centers to promote cyclical and community-based nutrition sustainability. Ultimately, their farming co-ops became so fruitful that the excess fortified grain could be sold commercially to sustain the organization and the community. A digital health platform, E-Heza Data Solutions, was created to rapidly expand their model across Rwanda.

These programs have been a model of success in Rwanda, but also in the region. That success and the continued partnership prompted the visit this fall. During the trip, Ambassador Mathilda Mukantabana and Minister Dr. Yvan Butera met leaders from the Global Health Program, the LGBTQ+ Health program, the Gender Health program, the CARE Center, and the med-peds section to discuss topics including the significant progress in health outcomes nationwide and increasing health care capacity in Rwanda. Also top of the agenda was future collaboration on research, education, and bilateral exchanges. Please join me in congratulating Dr. Chang and his colleagues on a successful visit, and for setting a strong example of engaging UCLA leadership in establishing global health partnerships that advance health for all.

L to R: Drs. Cecily Gallup, Raphy Landovitz, Minister Yvan Butera, Alice Kuo, Ambassador Mathilda Mukantabana, Drs. Rebecca Rada, Danny Flautero and Justine Lee.
L to R: Drs. Cecily Gallup, Hijab Zubairi, Ambassador Mathilda Mukantabana, Drs. Emery Chang, Minister Yvan Butera, Alice Kuo.
L to R: Drs. Emery Chang, Minister Yvan Butera, and Ambassador Mathilda Mukantabana
Dr. Emery Chang (right) with the medical team at Hospital de Ruli in Rwanda.

Dr. Wendy Leonard with medical team at Hospital de Ruli in Rwanda.

Otto Yang, MD, Infectious Diseases

"Here’s Why a Lack of Sleep Can Mess With Your Immune System"

"The cells that are part of the immune system consume a lot of energy to do their job."

Dr. Otto Yang, an immunologist and the associate chief of infectious diseases at UCLA Health.

Here's Why a Lack of Sleep Can Mess With Your Immune System

Your body does a lot of restorative work while you're snoozing. Learn why getting enough quality sleep supports your immune system, straight from experts.

Antoni Ribas, MD, PhD, Hematology-Oncology

"Study reveals hidden immune defense against cancer"

“UCLA researchers uncover new details about how the immune system can recognize and kill cancer cells, unlocking potential new strategies to treat aggressive cancers”

Study reveals hidden immune defense against cancer

Researchers at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center have found certain immune cells can still fight cancer even when the cancer cells lack an important protein that the immune system relies on to help track down cancer cells.

In Memoriam: Angela Lai, MD

I was saddened to share the news that our colleague Angela Lai, MD suddenly passed away early this month. Dr. Lai was an esteemed physician in our VA GLA Health Care System who provided exceptional care to all who walked through the doors at the primary care clinics at the Sepulveda VA site. Her colleagues described her as talented, compassionate and a fierce but gentle advocate for her colleagues and her patients. We mourn her loss and extend our deepest condolences to her family and all whose lives she touched.



We are a family, so I am happy to share some good news that my family expanded over the weekend. Early on Sunday morning, our daughter gave birth to our second grandchild. An 8 lb.,11oz boy!! Everyone is healthy and very VERY happy!

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