Clinical Scholars Program Welcomes Large Class

Clinical Scholar Stephen Shiao, MD, PhD (left), receives his graduation certificate from Leslie Raffel, MD, the program's curriculum director. Denis A. Magoffin, PhD (center), grant and research development director, also participated in the ceremonies.

The Cedars-Sinai Clinical Scholars Program, under the directorship of C. Noel Bairey Merz, MD, which transforms clinicians into clinical scientists, welcomed its largest incoming class in three years, bid farewell to a pioneering leader and announced a new course of study at its annual graduation ceremony Sept. 16 in Harvey Morse Auditorium. Eight students graduated.

"There is nothing more exciting that seeing people starting academic careers," said Leslie Raffel. MD, the program's departing curriculum director, who is retiring. "These are people who are going to make a difference."

Raffel, who also is Cedars-Sinai site director for the UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) and professor of Pediatrics, was a key founder of the eight-year-old educational effort. "She put the program on the map," said Bairey Merz, MD, professor of medicine and director of the Barbra Streisand Women's Heart Center at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute. 

Graduating Clinical Scholar Janet Wei, MD, presents an abstract of her research on cardiovascular disease.

Clinical Scholars, who include residents, fellows and young faculty members, receive two years of training to help them transition to academic medicine. The program includes funding, career guidance, skills acquisition and a curriculum in translational medicine and clinical research. Each participant also prepares a grant application and pursues a research project supervised by a mentor.

For the Sept. 16 event, five students were chosen to present abstracts of their projects — all devoted to helping patients. Their studies variously sought to make radiation more effective against cancer, prevent organ rejection in transplants, improve care of children with inflammatory bowel disease, measure risk for cardiovascular disease and treat angina.

Four of the presenters were graduating students; Irene Kim, MD; Stephen Shiao, MD, PhD; Namita Singh, MD; and Janet Wei, MD. The other graduates were Matthew Bloom, MD; Chidinma Chima-Okereke, MD; Viorica Ionut, PhD; and Heidi Reich, MD. The other presenter was Kade Birkeland, PharmD, from the Class of 2014.

The event also honored Clinical Scholars who received grants and awards. Extramural funding recipients included Ionut, Reich and Shiao, plus Bernice Coleman, PhD, RN; Heather Jones, MD; Jianling Ji, MD; Joshua Pevnick, MD; and Heidi Reich, MD. Internal funding recipients included David Lange, MD, who won the Eigler-Whiting-Mann Award, and Chima-Okereke and Pooja Nawathe, MD, who each won Cedars-Sinai CTSI Clinical Scholar Grants.

Looking to the future, Bairey Merz announced that health services research, a scientific discipline that aims to improve the efficiency of delivering healthcare, is being added to the Clinical Scholars Program. Brennan Spiegel, MD, MSHS, director of Cedars-Sinai Center for Outcomes Research and Education, will oversee that effort. Incoming Clinical Scholar Christopher Almario, MD, said he plans to work with Spiegel on refining MyGIHealth, an app that enables patients to monitor their gastrointestinal symptoms and share the reports with their doctors.

Besides Almario, the incoming class of 11, the program's largest since 2012, includes: Takako Araki, MD; Joseph Ebinger, MD; Se-Min Kim, MD; Artak Labadzhyan, MD; Shouri Lahiri, MD; Mazen Noureddin, MD; Snehal Patel, MD, PhD; Konrad Schlick, MD; and Lili Shek, MD.

It was also announced that Roberta Gottlieb, MD, director of molecular cardiobiology at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute and professor of Medicine, will join the program's leadership as associate director.

Cedars-Sinai Clinical Scholars Program leaders and scholars at the Sept. 16 graduation. Front row (left to right): Christopher Almario, MD; Snehal Patel, MD, PhD; Brennan Spiegel, MD, MSHS; C. Noel Bairey Merz, MD; Irene Kim, MD; Denis A. Magoffin, PhD; Chidinma Chima-Okereke, MD; Leslie Raffel. MD; Roberta Gottlieb, MD; Pooja Nawathe, MD; and Emma Yates Casler. Back row (left to right): Mazen Noureddin, MD; Takako Araki, MD; Namita Singh, MD; Stephen Shiao, MD, PhD; Matthew Bloom, MD; David Lange, MD; Kade Birkeland, PharmD; Janet Wei, MD; Artak Labadzhyan, MD; and Leon Fine, MD.