Year 2. December 18. LEADERS in Innovation.

This week I want to highlight many ways in which members of our faculty are leaders in innovation and the impact of their work within our region and across the country.


I suspect that many in the department of medicine (DoM) might not be fully aware of the initiative known as UCLA Biodesign, a cross-university initiative that seeks to transform medicine through the development of novel research and technologies that combat health inequities.

Launched in 2019 by UCLA Health, UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine, the UCLA Anderson School of Management, and the UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute with the support of faculty from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering, UCLA Biodesign centers entrepreneurial education, training, and partnerships through a number of core activities. The current leaders of this program are DoM faculty, Executive Director Jennifer McCaney, PhD, and Clinical Director Rushi Parikh, MD alongside Program Development Director Onike Williams, MSN, NP-C.

The cornerstone of their efforts is the Biodesign Fellowship Program, which offers three tracks: 1) The Discovery Fellowship, a one-year postgraduate fellowship for emerging leaders in medical technology spanning the disciplines of business management, engineering, nursing, and medicine, including clinical residents and fellows, 2) The Accelerator Fellowship, a year-long series of monthly workshops and mentorship focused on project-focused deliverables for UCLA Health faculty and staff, and 3) The Translational Fellowship, which is a program for clinical trainees and junior faculty who want to build out their experience of healthcare innovation through clinical study design, strategy, and execution for novel technologies.

Applications for the next class of Biodesign Fellows will open in spring 2024. This inclusive program is available not only to faculty and trainees, but also to nurses and staff.

The number of UCLA Biodesign Fellow graduates is growing. Their impact is impressive, as a number of graduates have gone on to initiate startups and file patents.

A core tenet of the program is its commitment to equity as embodied in the TechQuity Accelerator, launched in 2021 and funded by a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. TechQuity is a cross-functional initiative led by Dr. McCaney and Medell Briggs-Malonson, MD, MPH, Chief Health Equity Diversity, and Inclusion Officer at UCLA Health, alongside Ms. Williams and Chase Richard, MD, MBA, Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine. The TechQuity Accelerator's purpose is to support underrepresented company founders and to implement technologies that directly address health inequities among underserved and vulnerable patient populations. This past year – culminating in December with the graduation of TechQuity’s second cohort – the focus was on bringing together founders of early-stage startups that have developed a solution to overcoming any of the following 3 barriers to equitable health outcomes: healthcare access, environmental justice, and mental health and youth wellbeing.

UCLA Health TechQuity Accelerator 2023 Demo Day

Welcoming the New Class of Biodesign Fellows

While the last TechQuity cohort just graduated, the journeys of a separate cohort of Biodesign Fellows are just beginning. Join me in welcoming the new cohort of 18 Biodesign Fellows for the 2023-2024 cycle, which includes four department of medicine members:

The theme for the 2023 - 2024 Biodesign Discovery Fellowship cohort is Cardiovascular Critical Care. Each year, the program identifies an emphasis area, and cardiovascular medicine was chosen given our leadership in the DoM and UCLA Health in this area and our institutional commitment to excellence in cardiovascular innovation. We look forward to seeing how these exceptional fellows will leverage their training into medical innovation. We wish you every success as you leverage the unique environment of UCLA Health and the city of LA to foster innovation while promoting diversity.

When asked about the importance of UCLA Biodesign, Dr. Parikh noted,

"Often people use “innovative” as an adjective attributed to activities and individuals. What this fails to capture is innovation in and of itself as a noun, as an academic discipline. The practice and implementation of innovation is a learned skill that can be honed and mastered. And in contemporary academic medicine, I see it as a fourth pillar alongside the classic three pillars of clinical practice, education, and research." He continues by adding that "innovation can either span these pillars or stand on its own."

Thank you, Jennifer and Rushi, for your leadership!

Faculty and Trainees across the DoM shine as LEADERS in regional and national meetings

As leaders in clinical care, research and education, our faculty and trainees continue to make an impressive impact in their respective fields as demonstrated by their participation in national meetings.

Fall is one of the busiest times for professional conferences across many subspecialties in medicine. It was difficult keeping up, but we will try by highlighting a number of the conferences in which our UCLA DoM faculty and trainees featured prominently.

American Heart Association Scientific Sessions (AHA 2023)

The American Heart Association Scientific Sessions, is one of the premiere global events focused on advancements in cardiovascular science and medicine. At this year’s AHA Scientific Sessions, residents and fellows from UCLA and Olive View-UCLA Medical Center contributed thirteen total abstracts or presentations in addition to lectures and presentations by our faculty.

The abstract and session topics from our trainees ranged from examining the relationship between heart failure hospitalizations and housing insecurity, to the use of mathematical modeling to predict treatment efficacy in patients with transthyretin cardiac amyloidosis, to telemedicine use in cardiology clinics during the pandemic.

In addition to the trainee contributions, UCLA faculty were leaders in the conference as plenary session speakers, debate discussants, and moderators. For example, Eric H. Yang, MD, Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine in Cardiology and associate director of our fellowship program, contributed to a session on the growing role that cardio-oncology plays in addressing the cardiovascular health needs of cancer survivors.

Me and Medicine Resident, Amier Haidar, MD, MPH at AHA Scientific Sessions. Amier presented a poster on Abdominal Visceral Fat Area and Density Are Associated With Coronary Artery Calcification: A Cross-Sectional Analysis of the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis.

Here is Eric Yang. Is he big or am I small?

US Professional Association for Transgender Health (USPATH) Scientific Symposium

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) is an interdisciplinary nonprofit formed in 1979 committed to promoting evidence-based care, education, research, and advocacy regarding transgender health. WPATH is represented by regional chapters across the world that host meetings to supplement bi-annual global meetings. This year, the WPATH regional US Chapter (USPATH) held their 2023 Scientific Symposium in Westminster, Colorado.

Hosted over three days, the regional conference was attended by 900 care providers in person, and more virtually. Five UCLA faculty including Allison Clement, MPHEmery Chang, MDMaliha Khan, MDRebecca Rada, DO, MS, MBA, and George Yen, MD facilitated a workshop on how to strategically implement gender health focused training at the attendees’ institutions.  They illustrated the exercise demonstrating our own SWOT processes for how we organized our upcoming system-wide LGBTQ+ training and our experience in the new LGBTQ+ health curriculum at DGSOM.

As leaders in UCLA’s LGBTQ+ focused programs, these questions around improvement of care and education for high quality gender health are ones that Drs. Chang and Yen routinely think about and prioritize. Dr. Yen, who also directs to LGBTQ+ Fellowship at UCLA, shares,

"Everyone at the symposium is committed to gender affirming care, but because health education doesn't deliver this specific training to most trainees, we all need to take time to learn more.

Dr. Chang follows up by sharing

"The idea of a safe haven is really important. With threats [against trans people] in our country, we are trying to figure out how we can better create places that support the people that are under threat, where people can trust that they can and be heard."

American College of Rheumatology Convergence 2023

The American College of Rheumatology hosts their annual convergence as the leading educational event for clinicians and scientists focused on treating and investigating arthritis and rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases. This year at ACR 2023, our faculty and trainees contributed to over 40 poster presentations and multiple oral presentations across topics at the cutting edge of the field. Topics ranged from innovations in clinical practice such as improved disease measures in vasculitis and connective tissue disease-associated interstitial lung disease, to rheumatological disparities like the extent to which racial variability in immune responses explain differences in the severity of systemic sclerosis.

In addition to our substantive contributions, we made strides towards recruitment. Christina Charles-Schoeman, MD, Chief of the Division of Rheumatology at UCLA, shared that UCLA’s career fair table led by Clinical Chief, John D. Fitzgerald, MD, PhD, MBA, had great foot traffic and distributed 42 flyers to interested physicians. It's evident that physicians were interested in UCLA due to our strong representation in sessions, but also due to our leadership recognized in four awards we received:

  1. UCLA Rheumatology: “ACR Knowledge Bowl Spirit Award,"
  2. Samuel Good, MD, UCLA Rheumatology fellow: "Emerging Investigator Excellence Award" for abstract,
  3. Dr. Charles-Schoeman: “Rheumatology Research Foundation (RRF) Innovative Research Award” 2-year grant award, and
  4. UCLA Rheumatology Fellowship Program: “RRF Fellowship Training Award.”

By far the “splash” of the meeting was the winning of the Spirit award at the ACR Knowledge bowl led by UCLA Associate Fellowship Program Director, Heather E. Bukiri, MD, and Rheumatology fellows Vincent Tran, MD and Travis Welsh, MD. And while Dr. Charles-Schoeman shares that they plan to take the overall title next year, she says they all felt like winners as the STAR fellow, Ashkan F. Ara, MD, MPH, put on a Bruin bear costume and ran laps around the stage. The team had a great time at ACR 2023 Convergence and UCLA spirit was in full form!

UCLA Diabetes Symposium

The 11th annual UCLA Diabetes Symposium, held in mid-November represents one of the major regional CME conferences targeting primary care providers, bringing updates on contemporary management of diabetes and its complications. Considered the most popular diabetes symposiums in southern California, this year's multidisciplinary symposium boasted a robust full-day agenda attended by over 200 attendees and featuring three outside invited speakers, all world-renowned endocrinologists. These keynote speakers included Ken Fujioka, MD from Scripps University, Irl B. Hirsch, MD from the University of Washington, and Steven V. Edelman, MD from UC San Diego. Topics ranged from understanding the risk and benefits of incretin medications for type 2 diabetes to recognizing the heterogeneity of diabetes and how accurate diagnoses can help inform treatment.

In addition, the DoM was represented by our own speakers, including Dianne S. Cheung, MD, MPH, who spoke on the role of SGLT-2 inhibitors, Jennifer S. Siani, MD, MBA, who presented on how to better manage underserved populations with diabetes, and E. Dale Abel, MD, PhD, also a Keynote Speaker, who discussed heart failure in patients with diabetes. Overall, the symposium was an impressive mix of experts and specialties that went above and beyond the baseline of most academic conferences. Rather than simply delivering talks on individual studies, the goal of this meeting was to distill key advancements in the research and treatment of diabetes to keep clinicians at the forefront of clinical diabetes management. We are proud of the success of this event and are grateful to the course directors Dr. Cheung and Matthew J. Freeby, MD for continuing to push that standard of success forward for 11 years in a row!

ACTG Lab Center Retreat: Learning from Systems Biology and Bioinformatics

ACTG is the world’s largest and longest running clinical trials network focused on HIV and other infectious diseases and the people living with them. It is funded by the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and collaborating NIH Institutes. Founded in 1987, ACTG conducts research to improve the management of HIV and its comorbidities; develop a cure for HIV; and develop innovative treatments for tuberculosis, hepatitis B, and emerging infectious diseases. With teams spanning four continents, the ACTG seeks to advance science that meaningfully impacts the lives of the people we serve.  

This year's ACTG Leadership Retreat was hosted at UCLA in early December by Judith S. Currier, MD, MSc, Professor of Medicine, Executive Vice Chair for Research in the DoM and Chair of the ACTG. The collaborative energy was palpable from session one at this two-day event that featured over 25 speakers and multiple discussion sessions.While there were numerous high priority items on the event's agenda, some of the key topics included reviewing the latest literature on targets for HIV treatment, identifying more streamlined approaches to studying viral and immune assays, and discussing opportunities for advancing the integration of machine learning and AI-based bioinformatics into ACTG research. We applaud the groundbreaking work of Dr. Currier and all ACTG leadership and look forward to continuing to support the network in its continued progress towards decreasing the burden of HIV and its comorbidities.

ACTG Leadership Retreat at the UCLA Luskin Conference Center.

CHEST: Hosted by The American College of Chest Physicians

Since 1935,  The American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST) has held its annual conference known as CHEST. The conference brings together thousands of experts on pulmonary medicine, critical care and sleep medicine with the goal of championing the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of chest and related sleep conditions through up-to-date clinical and empirical best practices. This year's meeting, hosted in Honolulu, Hawaii, was represented by the largest UCLA contingency we've had in years, with 15 pulmonary fellows present in addition to a number of key faculty including DoM Senior Clinical Vice-Chair Tisha S. Wang, MD.

Each of the 13 trainees presented original work at the conference that spanned a range of priority areas in the field; Jessica Channick, MD, for instance, shared about how we can reimagine the standard of care for patients with sarcoidosis through identifying the factors that influence short and long-term readmission for patients with this disease. Daniel Hoesterey, MD, coming from another perspective, shared about the potential value of computer-assisted image analysis for identifying combined pulmonary fibrosis and emphysema. And Dr. Cher Huang addressed the continued concern for survivors of severe COVID-19 infection in her presentation on temporal changes in post-acute care for COVID survivors. 

When the fellows weren't busy leading and participating in conversations about the cutting edge of chest medicine, they had time to explore beautiful Honolulu and even snorkel! The significant UCLA representation at this year's CHEST and how all UCLA participants represented UCLA DoM as a leader in the field of pulmonary medicine was impressive.

I hope you will agree that faculty across the DoM were on the move this fall, demonstrating our leadership across many facets of medicine across the globe.



I met my grandson this weekend. Meet Abel, 7-days old.

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