New Clinical Scholars Honored in Ceremony

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Faculty celebrate with incoming and graduating scholars at the 2018 Clinical Scholars Graduation and Welcome Ceremony.

"Once a clinical scholar, always a clinical scholar here at Cedars-Sinai." That's how Leon G. Fine, MD, professor of Biomedical Sciences and Medicine, and director of the Program in History of Medicine, summed up the ethos of the Clinical Scholars Program during its graduation and welcome ceremony in Harvey Morse Auditorium on October 10.

Launched in 2007, the Clinical Scholars Program is a two-year program that teaches the principles and practices of clinical research and translational medicine. The program also provides funding and career guidance for residents, fellows and faculty members.

Among the 12 new clinical scholars admitted for the 2018 class year were two PhDs—a first for the program, said C. Noel Bairey Merz, MD, director of the Clinical Scholars Program and director of the Barbra Streisand Women's Heart Center. Previously, all clinical scholars had been clinicians including MD, RN and PharmD degrees, she added.

One of the key components of the program is a research study completed by each scholar, under the mentorship of experienced investigators.

Ravi Thadhani, MD, vice dean of Research and Graduate Research Education, introduced the clinical scholars who presented abstracts of their studies. Thadhani included himself in the family of clinical scholars and clinical investigators who work "from the desk side to the bedside."

"What an opportunity each of us has, to be able to pursue both avenues of inquiry," said Thadhani.

The 2018 Clinical Scholar presenters were:

  • David Angert, MD, who presented "Female Preponderance And Sex Differences In Heart Failure With Preserved Ejection Fraction (HFpEF)," investigated a type of heart failure called HFpEF (heart failure with preserved ejection fraction) that is particularly common in older women. Angert analyzed heart damage in specially bred lab animals fed a high salt diet, and found that both gender and age influenced outcomes. He hopes to further study the influence of age and estrogen to testosterone ratios in HFpEF.
  • Artak Labadzhyan, MD, who presented "Immune Checkpoint Therapy And Endocrine Related Adverse Events," focused on ERAE (endocrine adverse events), a type of side effect that can occur in immunotherapy treatment for cancers. Labadzhyan reviewed prior records of patients with metastatic cancer, and studied 60 current patients with advanced cancer. He found links between levels of certain antibodies and the risk for ERAE, and said that more study is needed to assess the significance of these and other findings.
  • Nicholas Manguso, MD, who presented "Regulation of ER-Induced Gene Expression Through Top2B Double Strand Breaks in Breast Cancer Cells," noted that mutations in tumor suppressor genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2) greatly increase a woman's risk for developing breast cancer. Manguso performed primary research to observe how estrogen and other factors affected different cells. He found that under certain conditions, estrogen was associated with increased cancer-associated gene activity and with increased DNA strand breakage. Manguso hopes to advance his research in lab animals.
  • Justin Steggerda, MD, who presented "S-Adenosylmethionine And SBRT: Combination Therapy For The Management of Hepatocellular Carcinoma" looked at improving radiation therapy (RT) for patients with liver cancer who could not undergo potentially curative surgery. Steggerda found that in tissue samples in the lab, a combination treatment of radiation therapy and a substance that exists in healthy livers called SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) reduced cancer cell growth and proliferation more that RT alone. He hopes to find out exactly how SAMe works in cancer suppression in future studies.
  • A. Lenore Ackerman, MD, who presented "The Urinary Microbiota And Host Inflammation In Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms," focused on two common conditions in women: overactive bladder and painful bladder (interstitial cystitis). Ackerman obtained blood and urine specimens from a sampling of women with these conditions and compared them with samples from healthy patients. Results showed that bacterial types and diversity were associated with patient age and diagnosis. Ackerman says that results suggest that specific changes in the microbes in the urinary tract may contribute to inflammation and symptoms in patients and that this information could help patients receive timely diagnoses. Further goals include extending these findings to meaningful clinical treatments.

Following the abstract presentations, the 2018 Cedars-Sinai funded research grant winners were congratulated, including Odayme Quesada, MD who garnered the Eigler-Whiting-Mann Award, and who was at the celebration.

Next, extramural grant winners were honored, including: Stephen Shiao, MD, assistant professor of Radiation Oncology; Heather Jones, MD, assistant professor of Medicine; Michifumi Yamashita, MD, assistant professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine; Reva Basho, MD, assistant professor of Medicine; A. Lenore Ackerman, MD, assistant professor of Surgery; Christopher V. Almario, MD, assistant professor of Medicine, Tanyalak Parimon, MD; Joshua Pevnick, MD, associate director of the Division of Informatics in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Arash Asher, MD, director of Cancer Rehabilitation and Survivorship, and assistant professor of Medicine.

Graduating scholars of the two-year program participated in a graduation procession, including: A. Lenore Ackerman, MD, Nicholas Manguso, MD, Justin Steggerda, MD, David Angert, MD, Artak Labadzhyan, MD and Odayme Quesada, MD (class of 2017, for completion of the first year).

Finally, incoming scholars for 2018 were introduced: Laura Anderson, PhD; Jun Gong, MD; Kambiz Kosari, MD; Alan Kwan, MD; Margo Minissian, PhD; Santhosh Nadipuram, MD; Tanyalak Parimon, MD; Courtney Penn, MD; Pedro Sanchez, MD; Akbarshakh (Shah) Akhmerov, MD; Haider Aldiwani, MD and Asha Pathak, MD.

The theme of the evening was summarized by Fine, who said that graduation is merely the beginning for the scholars and for Cedars-Sinai as a whole: "Our clinical scholars are one of our most treasured commodities."