Research Awards

HeklerDr. Eric Hekler is working on a research project called, "Heart Steps: Adaptive mHealth Intervention for Physical-Activity Maintenance." As described in the grant Abstract, “In this project, we will design and evaluate a personalized, adaptive mHealth intervention that leverages frequent interactions that people have with their mobile phones to enable individuals with heart disease to stay focused on their health goals, engage in opportunistic physical activity throughout the day, and build robust and sustainable physical- activity habits that can help reduce-and keep down-their cardiac risks.”

Photo courtesy of the UC San Diego Design Lab

SchwartzmanDr. Armin Schwartzman received an award from the National Science Foundation, for a project entitled, "Collaborative Research: Critical Points and Excursion Probability of Random Fields: Theory and Statistical Applications." As explained in the NSF Abstract, “Random fields are playing increasingly important roles in statistics, due to their use as spatial models in many scientific areas such as neuroimaging, astronomy, geosciences, oceanography and microscopy, where many problems involve dependent data at spatial locations. In these applications, researchers are interested in detecting signals hidden in a noisy background which can usually be modeled as a random field. This project aims to derive theoretical properties of random fields and use these results to create efficient statistical tools to extract important and useful information from spatial data…” Read More

Photo courtesy of Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study

Tai-SealeDr. Ming Tai-Seale, award from the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), on "Creating a Patient-Centered Tool to Help Medicare Beneficiaries Choose Prescription Drug Plans." This is a wonderful complement to her other research on patient-provider communication, and improving client-centered care and outcomes. More info Dr. Ming Tai-Seale’s research.

Brian Kwan, a second year Biostatistics PhD student, has been awarded a prestigious 5-year National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) for 2018. This competitive program in STEM fields has about a 10% award rate. Look for an upcoming article in AMSTAT News (American Statistical Association; describing the NSF GRFP program.

Dr. Armin Schwartzman, PhD received the 2017 UCSD Frontiers of Innovation Scholars Program  (FISP) Award for his project to apply statistical image analysis methodology to automatically segment and assess liver tumors from CT scans, in coordination with the Liver Imaging Reporting and Data System.  The Project goal is to reproduce and to improve the LI-RADS protocol of liver cancer assessment. 

The current LI-RADS algorithm is based on identifying imaging abnormality, tumor diameter and other features to assess different risk levels of patients with Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC). Dr. Schwartzman and colleagues hope to find an efficient method to automate and improve the current LI-RADS algorithm, resulting in better risk assessment and improved liver cancer imaging research and clinical care. 

Suraj A. Achar, MD Dr. Suraj A. Achar received the 2015 Academy of Clinician Scholars Faculty Development Award for the project proposal entitled "Positive Effects of Team Sports on Neurodevelopment, Social Skills, Communication Skills, Quality of Life, Coordination, Agility, and Speed for Children with ASD” (Pilot Study).The objective of Dr. Achar’s study is to determine if team sports participation with extra practice sessions improves the developmental outcomes of children with ASD as well as typically developing children.

Research about the effects of team sports on children with autism has never been done before.  Only 10% of children with ASD participate in team sports.  We hypothesize that our studies utilizing various sports including basketball, hockey, and soccer will demonstrate improvements in social skills, flexibility, social responsiveness, and peer interaction in all children. We hope these findings will encourage more parents of typically developing children and children with ASD to enroll them in team-based sports. Read the full article

Maria Elena Martinez, MPH, PhDThe Obama administration has named a public health expert from UC San Diego to a blue ribbon panel that will advise the government on the newly-created National Cancer 'Moonshot' Initiative.Dr. Maria Elena Martinez was one of 28 prominent scientists, physicians and patient advocates appointed to the panel, which is meant to find ways to sharpen and speed up the search for treatments and cures.
The word "moonshot" is a reference to Project Apollo, the program that placed the first humans on the moon in less than a decade. Earlier this year, Vice President Joe Biden was chosen to guide the cancer initiative, which will be run by the National Cancer Institute. Read the full article

Alan Shahtaji, DOAlan Shahtaji, DO CAQSM, received the 2015 Academy of Clinician Scholars Kaiser Permanente Professional Development Award for the project proposal entitled "UC San Diego Sports Concussion Clinic: Developing a Regional Center of Excellence." Dr. Shahtaji is a practicing osteopathic physician and HS Assistant Adjunct Professor in the FMPH Division of Family Medicine. This award was given in acknowledgment of his extensive experience in the area of Sports Medicine, particularly for his focus on concussion injury and rehabilitation, at the UCSD Sports Concussion Clinic, where he has been a co-director for one year. 

The clinic began seeing patients in 2014 at the La Jolla Family and Sports Medicine Clinic and has since moved to the new Chancellor Park location. The clinic features a multidisciplinary model with physicians and healthcare professionals from physical medicine and rehabilitation, emergency medicine, neurosurgery, neurology, neuro-otology, neuropsychiatry, collaborative care, occupational therapy and physical therapy. The clinic is held weekly but acute sports concussions can be seen nearly every day of the week by a primary care sports medicine doctor in conjunction with an athletic trainer at Chancellor Park. The clinic has had referrals from the United States Olympic Committee, UCSD and USD for complex concussion evaluations.

Dr. Shahtaji has co-authored a sports medicine fellow’s research project and poster presentation on concussion diagnosis in the Emergency Department, specifically looking at patient instructions and primary-care follow up. He has recently met with resident and attending representatives from the Emergency Department to formulate an algorithm for concussion evaluation in the ED as well as appropriate follow-up/referrals.

Meetings are held every other month to update the multidisciplinary team on the clinic as well as discuss research, community outreach and potential collaboration within and outside of UCSD. The primary mission is to provide comprehensive care for sports concussions with an emphasis on return to learn (RTL) and return to play (RTP) for our athletes. The clinic offers baseline testing for the patients and also offers mass testing for local high schools.

With the new California state law restricting contact in football practice and also addressing RTP in concussions, there has been a heightened media interest over the last several months. Dr. Shahtaji appeared several times on television and radio to discuss the new law, the concussion clinic and best practices for concussion prevention and management. In addition, Dr. Khalessi (neurosurgery), Dr. Alexander (neurology) and Dr. Shahtaji hosted a panel-based presentation for the UCSD “Focus on Health Seminar” series. In September Dr. Shahtaji was invited to speak at the high school Athletic Directors’ meeting prior to the football season to address RTL protocols. 

Dr. Shahtaji practices both family and sports medicine in addition to teaching fellows, residents and medical students. He has served as a team doctor for the US Soccer Federation, and most recently with the US Women’s National Team during their World Cup Championship. He also practices as a team physician with UCSD, USD and Hoover High School.   With this award, Dr. Shahtaji will channel his experience into clinical research as it relates to sports concussions, and also to promote community outreach for concussion awareness, diagnosis, and management.

Cheryl A. M. Anderson, PhD Cheryl A. M. Anderson, PhD, an Associate Professor in the FMPH Division of Preventive Medicine, who also sat on the Scientific Advisory Committee for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, and Sonia Tucker, quality improvement director for La Maestra Community Health Centers discussed the new guidelines on KPBS Midday Edition. Follow this link for the entire interview. Based on the guidelines, what should be on the average San Diegan's plate at breakfast, lunch and dinner? How will following the USDA guidelines impact health? You can also see more detailed information about the Dietary Guidelines and Dr. Anderson’s role in the initial review by clicking here. 

Camille Nebeker, MS Camille Nebeker, EdD, MS, UC San Diego Launches CORE Project to Foster Ethical Research Using Personal Health Data. Learn more

Kevin Patrick, MD, MS Kevin Patrick, MD, MS, Professor of FMPH, and Job Godino, PhD a Post-doc in Dr. Patrick's group will be part of a new $150 million, 5-year initiative funded by the NIH, and led by other UCSD researchers to explore both favorable and deleterious influences on adolescent brain development. Dr. Patrick will chair a national committee of experts in social, behavioral and environmental health who will deploy existing and new mobile and social-media based measurement tools. Dr. Godino will work with this committee on state-of-the-art validation methods for these tools.