Year 3. April 8. Rockstars at the VA GLA

Our faculty who serve at the VA Greater Los Angeles Health Care (VA GLA), are an integral part of the department of medicine (DoM). As a department, we are proud to partner with the VA system to provide care for our nations veterans, advance scientific research and provide rigorous training opportunities for our trainees. We recently celebrated Phyllis Guze, MD for her contributions to medical education, along with the VA GLA’s excellence in securing federal research funding. I continue that celebration by highlighting additional VA DoM LEADERS who are advancing our department's mission, vision and values.

Dr. Elizabeth Yano’s Groundbreaking Contributions to Women’s Health Lead to the White House

Women’s History Month may have concluded but our celebration of women faculty continues. It is an honor to highlight Elizabeth Yano, PhD, adjunct professor of medicine in the UCLA Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research and the director of the VA HSR&D Center for the Study of Healthcare Innovation, Implementation and Policy at the VA GLA, for her groundbreaking work in advancing women’s health research. Dr. Yano is a member of the White House Interagency Work Group for the Women's Health Research Initiative, which advanced recommendations leading to the Executive Order on Advancing Women’s Health Research and Innovation. On March 8th, President Biden signed the executive order which represents the most comprehensive set of actions taken to advance women’s health research, innovation, and address disparities. The executive order allocates $12 billion in new women’s health research funding across federal agencies to offset disparities in effective detection, diagnosis, and treatment of conditions that affect women disproportionately and those that present differently in women.

Dr. Elizabeth Yano with President Joseph Biden.

Dr. Yano’s path to the White House began with her leadership on the VA’s Women's Health Research Network which is comprised of a national consortium of over 300 Women's Health researchers and clinician educators; a VA Women's Health Practice Based Research Network comprised of 76 VA medical centers and over 300 community clinics to foster Women's inclusion in VA Research; and a multilevel stakeholder engagement arm to facilitate women veterans as partners in research design to accelerate implementation of research evidence into practice and policy.

During last year’s National VA Research Week, Dr. Yano was honored by the VA Secretary and Under Secretary for Health for her research impact on women's health care in general, and veterans in particular. In her award acceptance speech, she shared that despite the skepticism that she faced early in her career, she persisted in championing women’s health research. She highlighted a few of the accomplishments she has achieved alongside colleagues that include Dr. Susan Frayne, Alison Hamilton and many others.

"When I started my VA career in the same year [1989] as the 'Born on the Fourth of July' movie I was told my interest in women’s health research would never amount to anything and that the VA would never fund women’s health research because of their numerical minority, yet here I am receiving an award for everything we’ve accomplished ever since:

  • Supporting a national community of women’s health researchers.
  • Making it easier to conduct women’s health research.
  • Increasing women’s health research funding.
  • Accelerating research impact on women’s health practice and policy."
Elizabeth Yano, PhD

Dr. Yano and her colleagues are transforming the landscape of women’s health research and we are proud to call them colleagues in the DoM and VA GLA. I invite you to join me in celebrating their unwavering commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of women across the nation.

Matthew B. Rettig, MD Awarded the 2023 John B. Barnwell Award for Outstanding Achievements in Clinical Science

Next, I am pleased to announce that Dr. Matthew Rettig has been honored with the prestigious 2023 John B. Barnwell Award for Outstanding Achievements in Clinical Science. This esteemed accolade, the highest recognition bestowed by VA’s Clinical Science Research and Development, celebrates senior VHA investigators who have earned international acclaim for their exceptional clinical research contributions, all while demonstrating unwavering dedication to patient care.

Dr. Rettig's accomplishments will be celebrated on May 13 during National VA Research Week 2024. Notably, he is the first faculty member from the VA GLA to receive the John Blair Barnwell Award.

Reflecting on this achievement, Dr. Rettig expressed gratitude, stating:

"I have been so fortunate to have pursued an academic career within the VA. I am particularly proud of the opportunity to enhance the lives of our veterans, who have selflessly served our nation. This award is a testament to the collective efforts of my colleagues and staff, whose dedication has been instrumental in developing and implementing innovative clinical trials and delivering optimal care to our veterans."

Matthew Rettig, MD

Dr. Rettig is a distinguished genitourinary medical oncologist and chief of Hematology-Oncology at the VA GLA. His clinical research primarily focuses on advanced prostate cancer, encompassing bench, translational, and clinical research programs that address diagnostics, prognostics, therapeutics, and drug development in genitourinary malignancies.

Dr. Rettig also serves as the national co-director of the VA Precision Oncology Program for Cancer of the Prostate (POPCaP) and holds the position of professor of medicine and urology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Additionally, he serves as the medical director of the Prostate Cancer Program at UCLA. Dr. Rettig obtained his medical degree from Duke University and completed his internal medicine residency at the University of Washington, followed by a hematology-oncology fellowship at UCLA.

Dr. Zhaoping Li, chief of medicine at VA GLA, commended Dr. Rettig's pioneering work, stating:

"Dr. Rettig's groundbreaking contributions to clinical research have significantly advanced the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer within the veteran population. His sustained dedication has resulted in improved evaluation and treatment strategies, ultimately enhancing the outcomes of our veterans."

In Conversation With… Chris Moriates, MD, Chief of Hospital Medicine at VA GLA

Dr. Chris Moriates joined the DoM VA GLA last winter and I invite you to learn more about him in our “In Conversation” series.

What events in your life led you to pursue a career and/or research in medicine?

When I was an undergrad at UCLA, I didn’t want to fully admit to myself that I was going to be a doctor. I was enjoying going to concerts every week and getting to interview some of my rock star heroes, as Music Editor for the Daily Bruin. I was playing guitar in an awful punk band that practiced in a basement on Gayley Ave. Sure, I was taking the classes so that I could go to medical school if I chose, and I might even pull out some chemistry flashcards while waiting between sets at the Universal Amphitheater, but I didn’t want to think it was my only destiny. Then one of my non-medicine-bound friends encouraged me to check out the UCLA Mobile Clinic, which set-up each Wednesday night at Sycamore & Romaine to care for people experiencing homelessness. I loved having the opportunity to help, and I admired the knowledge and skills of the medical students and doctors who could offer assistance in ways that those of us without medical training could not. I wanted to have those abilities. The other thing I loved was being around people who were driven to help. Then, I asked a family friend who was a physician if I could follow him around one day, and the pace of his work and his energy and the people he met really inspired me. I remember realizing that writing and music were things I really liked to do, but a doctor is what I wanted to be.

How have you seen the field of academic medicine evolve over the course of your career?

The advancement of our capabilities in medicine since I completed residency training are astounding: we can cure hepatitis C; we can treat certain cancers with effective targeted therapies; we have entire new classes of medications that can change outcomes for people with heart failure or diabetes or obesity. The pace of breakthroughs has felt breathtaking. Yet, despite our technical capabilities, we still often fail to answer the question, “how much will this cost, and how will we ensure that those who need these therapies will be able to receive them?” There are more financial and structural barriers than ever before. As a hospitalist, I see the work of my colleagues and I am increasingly focused on serving as systems experts who help patients navigate the complex systems of healthcare. We must work diligently to improve them.

What are some of the challenges that are currently being faced in your field?

People continue to routinely get both too little helpful healthcare (underuse) – those things we know improve outcomes for patients -- and too much harmful healthcare (overuse) – those things we know do not improve outcomes. These failures are costly physically and financially. They also exacerbate underlying health inequities.

What research question are you most interested in solving? How have you approached solving it?

I am a real-world clinical innovator focused on driving impactful practice change through education, value improvement, and clinical programs that improve care delivery for patients. I want to know how we can make the clinical care we deliver safer and more affordable for patients.

What is your vision and/or goals for addressing a few of these challenges in your new leadership role?

The coolest thing about my new role as Chief of Hospital Medicine at the VA Greater LA Healthcare System is that I work directly with 25 faculty hospitalists who are some of the most talented clinicians, educators, investigators, and improvers I have ever met. If I can help them do their work to the best of their ability, and to make this the best possible environment for them to work, I will be contributing to a tremendously broad collective impact.

By catalyzing change agents, including through the national medical student program I direct called STARS (, I hope to contribute to a generation of health professionals that will reshape our healthcare system to be more affordable and equitable.

What inspires you to do the work that you do?

Training environments have long-lasting, if not lifelong, effects on the attitudes and practices of physicians. Thinking about the ripple effects from impacting learners, across both space and time, is exceptionally inspiring to me. Working alongside others who share this commitment to strive to be world-class clinicians AND teachers, is why I particularly love being here at the VA and UCLA.

What advice do you have for our aspiring physicians and physician-scientists?

Find your people – the people who motivate you and that you want to hang out with. That community will help sustain a career. I am here now because of the many relationships I developed across the country over our shared big dreams of improving healthcare. They continually spurred me to pursue this work. They taught me and showed me the way – and still do.

Would you like to share anything else?

A quote hanging above my desk: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Also, I am hoping this interview gets me an invite from Dr. Abel to go on a run with him, even if I worry he will kick my butt.

Our DoM faculty share their latest research and perspectives about issues affecting our community at-large. Find out who was in the news this past week.

Heart Pump Is Linked to 49 Deaths, the F.D.A. Warns
The New York Times

If a wall of the heart is torn by a device, “it’s a surgical emergency that very rarely people survive from,” said Dr. Boback Ziaeian, a cardiologist and an assistant professor of medicine at University of California, Los Angeles.

Boback Ziaeian, MD

California Fentanyl Crisis: State Distributes Test Strips Amid Opioid Deaths

“It’s a good step,” said Chelsea Shover, PhD, an assistant professor-in-residence at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. “No one solution is going to solve the overdose crisis, but test strips, along with the naloxone and other strategies, are an important part of the solution.”

Chelsea Shover, PhD

Post-ICU Syndrome: The Long Road to Recovery

Interview with Dr. Nida Qadir, associate professor of medicine and associate director of the medical ICU at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and the co-director of UCLA's Post-ICU Recovery Clinic.

Nida Qadir, MD

Lastly, twice per month, the chief residents at the VA GLA issue a Morning Report Roundup, summarizing some of the more challenging cases that the medicine team at the VA are caring for, and importantly how these patients’ presentation, diagnosis and treatment provide a tremendous resource for learning and training the next generation of master clinicians and compassionate physicians. Our patients that the VA GLA are fortunate to be cared for by such an all-star team.



My wife and I  recently celebrated 35 years of marriage. It was a blessing to do so with our daughter’s family and our grandkids! We could never have imagined…

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