Year 3. May 20. Its Feeling Like Award Season.

This week, I want to celebrate recent accomplishments by trainees and junior faculty.

Shannon Wongvibulsin, MD, PhD Publishes "Current State of Dermatology Mobile Applications With Artificial Intelligence Features” in JAMA Dermatology

Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to transform how we practice medicine, but integrating this technology safely into patient care remains a significant challenge. As such it is timely that Shannon Wongvibulsin, MD, PhD, dermatology resident and Specialty Training and Advanced Research (STAR) Program fellow, recently published a report in JAMA Dermatology that performed an in-depth cross-sectional analysis of the Apple and Google Play app stores to evaluate the current state of dermatology mobile applications (apps) enabled by AI.

Dr. Wongvibulsin’s publication addresses both the excitement and concerns as we see more dermatology apps come online. She notes “while it is exciting, it is also concerning, since direct-to-consumer mobile apps are readily available for patients to download without regulation of the content of these apps. Given the large number of unknowns, regarding these mobile health apps in dermatology and their rising popularity, we were interested in characterizing the landscape of these tools.”

Shannon Wongvibulsin, MD, PhD

In this groundbreaking study, Dr. Wongvibulsin and DGSOM medical student Matthew Yan found several concerning and unsafe aspects about the apps. These concerns include a lack of supporting evidence, insufficient clinician/dermatologist input, opacity in algorithm development, questionable data usage practices, and inadequate user privacy protection.

Her findings shed light on the current landscape of AI dermatology mobile apps with AI features. It highlights the potential risks and shortcomings of these apps, despite their increasing popularity among patients. The research uncovered several safety concerns and privacy issues that need further attention.

Dr. Wongvibulsin concludes that additional work is necessary in this field to ensure both patients and dermatologists are supported with accurate and reliable information while minimizing associated risks. Looking ahead, she shares, “our next steps involve advocating for standardized evaluation criteria for AI dermatology apps. We aim to work towards enhancing the safety and transparency of these apps to maximize their benefits while minimizing risks to patients.”

Well done, Shannon!

Dan Ly, MD, PhD Achieves the 2024 GLA Research Week Impact Award

Last spring, Dr. Dan Ly, assistant professor in residence in the UCLA Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research and faculty at the VA Greater Los Angeles (GLA) Health Care System, published the paper “Inequities in Surgical Outcomes by Race and Sex in the United States: Retrospective Cohort Study,” in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), which garnered international media attention for its analysis of racial and gender disparities in mortality for eight common surgical procedures. Now, we flash forward to last Wednesday, May 15th to celebrate Dr. Ly as this study earned him the 2024 GLA Research Week Impact Award!

Dan Ly, MD, PhD

Each May, the Department of Veterans Affairs celebrates Research Week to raise awareness of veteran focused medical research, and celebrate the contributions of over 3,700 investigators. The GLA Research Week Impact Award honors Dr. Ly’s innovative research which not only advances the VA’s mission in support of the health of our nation’s Veterans but also the broader mission of the research service at VA GLA. In this study, the participant pool consisted of Black and White Medicare beneficiaries undergoing one of eight surgeries. After analyzing data on 1.8 million Medicare beneficiaries and adjusting for potential confounders, Dr. Ly found that Black men had higher overall mortality rates within 30 days of an elective surgery, when compared to White men. Researchers also found that Black men had higher rates for elective surgeries compared to White men, White women, and Black women. This research highlights the critical need to understand and address the factors leading to poorer outcomes and the challenges that Black men face when in need of surgery.

Historically, VA researchers have made a tremendous impact in the development of novel treatments, scientific innovation, and have played a critical role in advancing health policy. I extend our congratulations to Dan and to all the physicians and physician scientists honored during VA GLA Research Week which includes Chief of Hematology- Oncology at the VA Dr. Matthew Rettig, honored with the John B. Barnwell Award for Outstanding Achievements in Clinical Science!

Russell Buhr, MD, PhD Awarded 2024 Solovy Award for Advancement in COPD Research and Care

Each year, the Respiratory Health Association awards an outstanding investigator with the Solovy Award in recognition of their research contributions impacting the field of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This year, I am pleased to share that Dr. Russell Buhr, assistant professor of medicine (division of Pulmonary) & Health Policy and Management and Core Investigator of the VA HSR Center for the Study of Healthcare Innovation, Implementation, & Policy, has been awarded this prestigious honor for his exceptional leadership in the prevention, treatment, and cure for COPD.

Dr. Buhr expresses his gratitude, saying, “I am humbled and grateful to have been recognized for the work my team does to improve care for COPD. It is not only our patients, but also their families who are affected by this terrible disease. We must continue to strive for a better future for both patients with COPD and their loved ones alike, and this means ensuring that all are empowered with the knowledge and the means to benefit from the great scientific advances being made in this area.”

Russell Buhr, MD, PhD

The  $25,000 Solovy Award will support Dr. Buhr’s ongoing research, which focuses on enhancing the care provided to individuals living with airway diseases, including asthma and COPD. His current research focuses on understanding how clinicians and patients make decisions about what treatments to use for these conditions. Furthermore, Dr. Buhr plans to expand his work to explore how people’s home and social environments may affect the trajectory of their illness and access to high quality care.

Dr. Buhr’s recognition with the Solovy Award is the latest testament to his leadership in the field of respiratory health. Alongside his colleagues at UCLA and nationwide, he is an active member of a consortium participating in a study of risk factors for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in the SPIROMICS (Subpopulations and Intermediate Outcome Measures in COPD Study) Cohort. Since 2010, this ongoing study has monitored the lung function and development of COPD in adults. Dr. Buhr is also a prolific published author with publications in leading journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA, Critical Care Medicine, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine, Chest, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Sleep, and even the Journal of Cannabis Research.

Congratulations Russell!

Utibe R. Essien, MD, MPH Named 2024 SGIM Outstanding Junior Investigator of the Year Award

Utibe R. Essien, MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine (division of General Internal Medicine) at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and associate vice chair for equity, diversity, and inclusion in the UCLA Department of Medicine (DoM), has been honored with the prestigious 2024 Outstanding Junior Investigator of the Year Award by the Society of General Internal Medicine (SGIM). Each year, SGIM recognizes an early career investigator who has a record of significant, innovative research contributions with a demonstrable impact on generalist medicine and presents them the award at their annual meeting.

headshot of doctor utile essien in a grey suit and red bowtie
Utibe Essien, MD, MPH

Dr. Essien’s paradigm-shifting research aimed at eliminating racial disparities in the use of novel, evidence-based medications and technologies, particularly in the management of cardiovascular diseases, has earned him this distinction. In 2021, Dr. Essien introduced the concept of “pharmacoequity,” which describes a healthcare system where all patients, regardless of race, ethnicity, social class, or availability of resources, have affordable access to life-saving medicines.

He is an emerging leader in the field, as recognized by over 100 peer-reviewed publications, research grants from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the American Heart Association, and numerous national awards. His research extends beyond academic boundaries by influencing policy, public health, and improving health equity and outcomes. It has also been featured in several national news outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, and NPR.

Reflecting on his work, Dr. Essien remarked, “Every year the US spends over $375 billion on medicines. Yet, despite all this spending, medicine access is not equitable. The hope for my work in pharmacoequity advocacy, research, and leadership is that we can get closer to where everyone can lead the healthiest lives possible in our country.”

Congratulations Utibe!

UCLA Division of General Internal Medicine & Health Services Research Takes Over Boston at #SGIM24

Utibe was in good company at this year’s SGIM Annual Meeting 2024 (SGIM24) as the UCLA Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research joined him to continue demonstrating the caliber of research that takes place in the DoM. This year’s SGIM24 theme “Strengthening Relationships and Valuing Diversity” called upon faculty and trainees to reflect on how we can bring together people with diverse perspectives and strengths to take on the challenges of today. Our faculty did just so with over 55 Westwood and VA faculty and trainees attending to share with our peers the latest from their labs, and to celebrate their collective accomplishments. 

Katarina Wang (Medical Student) and Dr. Alejandra Casillas
Drs. Kenrik Duru and Rintu Saju, DGSOM Student
Dr. John Mafi
From left: Dr. Arleen Brown, Jessica McLaughlin, Krista Nguyen (Medical Student), and Dr. Alejandra Casillas

Dr. Neil Wenger led a plenary talk about the PCORI cluster randomized trial he led on advance directive and physician orders for life sustaining treatment (POLST) completions. Dr. Essien spoke about how diversifying the workforce gets us closer to health equity. Drs. Jessica McLaughlin and Krista Nguyen presented a podium talk on research led by DoM’s Dr. Utpal Sandesara. The presentation offered a new conceptual model for understanding burnout and other work-related emotional experiences among residents. DGSOM student Jeffrey Li won the National Young Scholar Award and presented “MIRM & Adenovirus Coinfection: Rare Case in a Young Adult,” research that was conducted alongside Drs. Natalie Bouri and Inderpreet Saini. Fifty-nine posters were presented by our faculty and trainees, with 25 of those posters coming from staff, students, residents, or fellows, and 17 from junior faculty. Their topics ranged from addressing hospital readmission rates, assessing the effectiveness of care coordination, social determinants of health, physician wellness, chronic disease prevention and treatment, health disparities research, and much more. I invite you to view the poster presentations by clicking below.

Dr. Rachael Abraham Sharma
Dr. Utibe Essien
Dr. Li-Jung Liang
Jeffrey Li, DGSOM student

The energy and excitement from SGIM24 has been palpable in the division’s social media coverage as well! I invite you to catch up on additional highlights from the event by visiting their X account! Well done to all who participated in the annual meeting and for exemplifying who we are as LEADERS in the DoM.

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.

UCLA’s skin of color clinic aims to combat inequitable dermatology care

Healthcare Brew

The goal of the UCLA Skin of Color clinic, which opened in fall 2022, is to “make sure that patients with medium to deeper skin tones feel that the unique needs and nuances of their skin are being addressed, and their concerns are being heard,” Dr. Caroline Opene, dermatologist and director of UCLA’s Skin of Color clinic, said. 

Caroline Opene, MD

How UCLA Health’s Pride Network empowers LGBTQ+ employees

UCLA Health

“This is an important resource for many UCLA Health employees and faculty because it might be the only avenue where they are comfortable being who they are,” states Dr. Emery Chang.

Emery Chang, MD

Combination of breast cancer and chemotherapy may speed up physical decline in older adults

UCLA Health

One in three older patients who received chemotherapy for breast cancer experienced a significant decline in physical function

Deadly overdoses fell in U.S. for first time in five years, new estimates show

Los Angeles Times

People who use fentanyl may turn to stimulants to get through daily activities, said Chelsea Shover, an assistant professor at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine. For those facing the dangers of living outside, “you know what helps you stay up at night and stay vigilant? Meth.”

Chelsea Shover, PhD



I received a nice letter from the Alliance for Academic Internal Medicine acknowledging our support of our faculty’s participation in AAIM week. Thought you should see it.

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