Scholars Urged to 'Move Forward With Great Work

"Tonight is a celebration of bright, young people. Move forward with your great work—you are good enough to compete with the best in the country." With those words, Shlomo Melmed, MD, senior vice president of academic affairs, dean of the medical faculty and professor of medicine, opened the Sept. 18 graduation ceremony for the seventh class of the Cedars-Sinai Clinical Scholars Program.

Established in 2007, the two-year program provides funding, career guidance, education and skill acquisition for residents who wish to pursue careers in academic medicine. It includes a curriculum in translational medicine and clinical research, plus research under the supervision of a mentor.

At the ceremony in Harvey Morse Auditorium, Leon Fine, MD, Cedars-Sinai's vice dean of research and graduate research education and chair of biomedical sciences, said he was especially pleased with the program’s success over the course of its brief history.

"Every year, eight or nine clinical scholars appear out of the woodwork, which is incredible since we do not advertise the program. They join because they are passionate about launching their careers in academic medicine," said Fine, who also is a professor of medicine and biomedical sciences.

In an interview, graduate Erica T. Wang, MD, discussed how the Clinical Scholars Program had furthered her career. "The individualized attention to grant writing paved the way for me to submit my first National Institutes of Health grant application," she said. "This program is a must for those of us starting a career in academic medicine."

Fine praised the contributions of the Clinical Scholars Program leaders. They includeC. Noel Bairey Merz, MD, the program's director, professor of medicine and director of the Barbra Streisand Women's Heart Center at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute; Leslie Raffel, MD, professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Cedars-Sinai site director for the UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute and program director of the Winnick Family Clinical Research Center; and Denis A. Magoffin, PhD, Cedars-Sinai’s grant and research development director. Additional team members include Mariko L. Ishimori, MD, assistant professor of medicine; and Robin Shaw MD, PhD, of the Heart Institute.

The program acknowledged scholars receiving new extramural funding for 2014. They were: Viorica Ionut, PhD, Joshua Pevnick, MD, Bernice Coleman, PhD, and Jianling Ji, MD. Earlier this year, recipients of two competitive awards for Clinical Scholars were announced: The 2014 Cedars-Sinai CTSI Clinical Scholar Grant Award winners were Irene Kim, MD, Namita Singh, MD, and Kade Birkeland, PharmD, and the 2014 Eigler-Whiting-Mann Award went to Stephen Shiao, MD, PhD, and Janet Wei, MD.

Besides Wang, Ji and Kirkeland, the other 2014 program graduates were: Kade Birkeland, PharmD; Natalia Babkina, MD; and Natalie Gallant, MD.

The event also introduced the incoming class of Clinical Scholars, who will graduate in 2016: Robyn Balden, MD, PhD; Todd Barrett, MD; Kiran Gollapudi, MD; David Lange, MD; Pooja Nawathe, MD; Jennifer Ross, MD; Ali Sovari, MD; and Jonathan Wu, MD.

"We are very pleased with how the program has matured and contributed to the growing volume of extramural support for our young investigators on campus," said Bairey Merz. "This program, combined with the UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute, provides a solid infrastructure for young investigator growth and development."

Clinical Scholars Program participants and leaders at the graduation ceremony: (l. to r.) Namita Singh, MD; Heidi Reich, MD; Stephen Shiao, MD, PhD; David Lange, MD; Robin Shaw, MD, PhD; Todd Barrett, MD; Janet Wei, MD; Matthew Bloom, MD; Ali Rezaie, MD; Denis A. Magoffin, PhD; C. Noel Bairey Merz, MD; Irene Kim, MD; Jonathan Wu, MD; Leslie Raffel, MD; Kade Birkeland, PharmD; Kiran Gollapudi, MD; Emma Yates Casler; Pooja Nawathe, MD; and Jianling Ji, MD.