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Public Health News

Dr. Jim Sallis and Dr. Cheryl Anderson, inducted to the National Academy of Medicine, October 2017 (featured with Dr Victor Dzau, President of the National Academy of Medicine)

Jose Ricardo Suarez, MPH, MD, PhD, has been appointed by Governor Brown to serve as a member of the Biomonitoring California's Scientific Guidance Panel /CAL-EPA.,   He will be formally sworn in at the upcoming SGP meeting November 9, 2017 in Richmond, CA and serve for the term of 2017 through 2021. Dr. Suárez's research involves understanding the impacts of pesticides and persistent organic pollutants on brain development, metabolic alterations, and other health markers in children and adults, with a focus on disadvantaged communities. He also investigates ways to reduce chemical exposures, including testing methods to increase excretion of persistent pollutants.

The California Environmental Contaminant Biomonitoring Program (also known as Biomonitoring California) is a collaborative effort of three departments in two State agencies:

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) in the Health and Human Services Agency. CDPH is the lead department for Biomonitoring California.

California Environmental Protection Agency's (Cal/EPA's) Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) and Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC).

Drs.Cinnamon Bloss and Kimberly Brouwer have recently published results of a research assessment ' Public Response to a "Proposed Field Trial of Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes in the United States" in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Despite an increase in vector-borne diseases in the United States, there has been public opposition to novel vector control methods, particularly those that leverage advances in genetic engineering. In 2016, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) invited public comments on a draft environmental assessment for a proposed field trial of a genetically engineered mosquito (OX513A) designed to suppress wild-type Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which can transmit diseases such as Zika, dengue, and chikungunya. Trials of OX513A in other countries have demonstrated reductions in numbers of A aegypti.

Publication in JAMA
Press Release

Dr. Maria Rosario (Happy) Araneta had the honor of being invited as the Inaugural Lecturer at the Lawrence and Evelyn Wing Family Endowed Lectureship on Diabetes, established by Harvard's Joslin Diabetes Center.  This endowed lectureship series will allow Joslin's faculty, staff and students to meet and learn from distinguished visiting scholars, lecturers, and other experts in diabetes research.  Dr. Araneta spoke to an audience of 200+ endocrinologists, clinical and research faculty and staff, and medical residents/students on March 1, 2017, and was celebrated during a dinner reception.  She was warmly welcomed by their leadership including Dr. George King (Director of Research and Head of Vascular Biology), Dr. William Hsu (Vice President of International Programs) and Dr. Peter Amenta (President and CEO). Dr. Araneta states that it was a touching privilege to be honored at Harvard's Joslin Diabetes Center.

Dr. Armin Schwartzman, PhD has received the UCSD Frontiers of Innovation Scholars Program Award (FISP) 2017 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 goal of this project is to reproduce the LI-RADS protocol of liver cancer assessment and improve it.  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 are hoping to find an efficient method to automatize and improve the current LI-RADS algorithm for better risk assessment and to improve liver cancer imaging research and clinical practice.

The Women’s Health Initiative, which enrolled more than 160,000 women (over 4000 in San Diego) aged 50-79 in 1993-1998, now has information on more than 46,000 women who survived to age 85 and over 15,000 who survived to age 90. With up to 23 years of follow-up currently available, large studies of aging are now possible including studies of healthy aging, exceptional longevity, physical and cognitive function and the many chronic conditions that are common as we age. Postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Aladdin Shadyab with guidance from his mentor Dr. Andrea LaCroix, just published the results of a large prospective study of reproductive factors in relation to survival to age 90.
Learn More...

Matthew A. Allison, MD, MPH, FAHA, has accepted an invitation from the NIH Center for Scientific Review, Department of Health and Human Services, to serve as a member of the Clinical and Integrative Cardiovascular Sciences Study Section, beginning July 1, 2016. Members are selected on the basis of their demonstrated competence and achievement in their scientific discipline as evidenced by the quality of research accomplishments, publications in scientific journals, and other significant scientific activities, achievements and honors. Membership on a study section represents a major commitment of professional time and energy as well as a unique opportunity to contribute to the national biomedical research effort. The functions of the study sections are of great value to medical and allied research in this country. With this appointment, Dr. Allison will participate in assuring the quality of the NIH peer review process.
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Richard Kronick, PhD, FMPH Professor and Health Policy Expert with the Obama Administration, shared his experience at the recent FMPH Public Health Grand Rounds on May 20, 2016 "Progress and Pathology in U.S. Health Policy" Watch Video

Wael Al-Delaimy, MD, PhD Wael Al-Delaimy, MD, PhD, Elected to Chair an International Epidemiology Organization
Dr. Al-Delaimy, Professor and Division Chief of Global Health in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health took on the leadership of the International Joint Policy Committee of Societies of Epidemiology (IJPCSE. He was nominated and elected last year as Chair-Elect and his two-year term started April 27, 2016. IJPCSE is a Non-profit organization of a consortium of 20 Societies and Associations of Epidemiology from around the world across six continents. Since its establishment in 2006, IJPCSE has focused on addressing policy issues that relate to the practice of epidemiologic research, find appropriate venues for the translation of current epidemiologic findings into policy, promote the professional interests of the discipline of epidemiology in governmental organizations, and identify the strategies and processes for shared decision-making among member organizations to develop rational, effective, and cost-conscious policies that serve the public interest.

Suraj A. Achar, MD Camille Nebeker, EdD, MS, is the recipient of the 2016 UC San Diego Research Integrity Faculty Award and received her acclaim at the 6th Annual Integrity Awards Ceremony held April 13, 2016.  Dr. Nebeker is an assistant professor in the UC San Diego Department of Family Medicine and Public Health in the Divisions of Behavioral Medicine and Global Health.

Award winners are selected to recognize contributions to integrity that are above and beyond what is normally expected of all members of the UC San Diego community.  This award is presented to a faculty member who has contributed significantly to research integrity through research, teaching and/or service.  Dr. Nebeker was one of five nominees and has met the goals of this award in all three areas, with strong lines of research in the domain of research integrity, garnering wide attention nationally and internationally.  She has recently developed a line of research focusing on the use of new technologies to monitor personal health data. Additionally, she contributes to the teaching of courses and seminars on research integrity for the UCSD community, and also serves on the UCSD Institutional Review Board.

 Dr. Nebeker is the founding director of the Collaborative for Professional and Research Integrity (CAPRI), which serves as a clearinghouse for research ethics educational materials and resources to our academic and community partners.
Dr. Nebeker has been a research ethics scholar and investigator for the past 15 years during which time she has actively contributed her expertise in research, teaching and community service to UC San Diego, the greater San Diego community, as well as national and international venues.

Her research portfolio focuses on both research ethics educational initiatives and examining the ethical dimensions of emerging technologies used in health research studies.

Her solid body of innovative interdisciplinary teaching and research in bioethics and biomedical policy are ideally suited to this award.  Congratulations to Dr. Camille Nebeker!

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, PhD The 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.

Jose Ricardo Suárez, MPH, MD, PhD Jose Ricardo Suárez, MPH, MD, PhD, received the First Annual Carmel Prize for Research Excellence awarded by the Western Societies of Medicine on January 29, 2016, in Carmel by the Sea, CA during the Western Regional Meeting. Dr. Suárez was awarded this prize for his work in Environmental Health which include the NIOSH and NIH-funded ESPINA study of child development in relation to pesticide exposures, community-based participatory research in agricultural communities regarding socio-economic and cultural determinants of health (including mental health) and healthcare barriers, the CARDIA study of persistent organic pollutants in relation to metabolic alterations in adults, and the on-going NO-POPs clinical trial, aimed at testing the effect of dietary interventions on enhancing the excretion of Persistent Organic Pollutants, such as PCBs, PBDE flame retardants and organochlorine pesticides among older adults in San Diego, CA.

Dr. Suarez is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Global Health, in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UC San Diego since 2013, and was named fellow of the JPB Environmental Health Program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, supported by the JPB Foundation, for the period 2014-2017.

The Western Societies of Medicine comprises the Western Association of Physicians, Western Society for Clinical Investigation, Western Society for Pediatric Research, Western Section for American Federation for Medical Research, and Western Student and Resident Medical Research Forum.

Cheryl A. M. Anderson, PhD Journal supplement focuses on aging in women Veterans - Findings based on long-term Women’s Health Initiative
Dr. Andrea LaCroix, PhD, Professor and Chief of Epidemiology and a senior Investigator at the WHI Clinical Coordinating Center, and Dr. Gayle Reiber, a senior career scientist at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System worked with 60 VA and non-VA researchers to compare health and mortality between Veterans and non-Veterans in the sample.   A supplement to The Gerontologist, online Jan. 14, 2016, contains 13 articles by Veterans Affairs (VA) researchers and colleagues looking at differences in aging and mortality between Veteran and non-Veteran women. 

The findings are from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), a long-term study funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and begun in 1991. The study included more than 3,700 women Veterans among nearly 162,000 postmenopausal women from 40 centers across the US. WHI researchers collected data on health status, disease, health behaviors, and social and psychological factors, following the women for more than two decades.  
Among the findings:

  • Women Veterans reported lower levels of self-perceived health, life satisfaction, social support, physical function, and quality of life.
  • Women Veterans and non-Veterans were similar at baseline in mental function tests, but declines in cognitive function over time were greater in the Veteran group.
  • Women Veterans experienced higher hip-fracture rates than non-Veterans, but this was not the case for other types of fractures.
  • Women Veterans smoked more and were exposed to more passive smoke, which resulted in a greater risk for lung cancer.
  • All-cause mortality rates were higher for Veterans, but only for those serving before the Vietnam era.  
  • Women Veterans serving before the Vietnam era experienced more cancer, relative to non-Veterans, whereas those serving during or after Vietnam had more traumas from motor vehicle accidents or other causes.

“Prior military service identifies a group of women who face special challenges as they grow older”, notes LaCroix.  “It is essential to learn about their healthcare needs after leaving service now and in the future.”  Many women Veterans could benefit from programs promoting physical activity, social connections, healthy weight, and smoking cessation, and evaluation for depression.

VA’s Office of Women’s Health leads efforts within the agency to identify women Veterans’ health-related needs and improve their health care.  Reiber says there are several reasons why health outcomes may differ between Veteran and non-Veteran women as they age.  “Women Veterans were considered ‘healthy soldiers,’ since joining the military meant passing a variety of tests—education, aptitude, physical ability, mental function. It also meant maintaining physical fitness, and receiving health care,” notes Reiber. “Yet women Veterans may have been more likely to engage in health behaviors such as smoking, alcohol use, and poor diet, and this, combined with exposure to hazardous environments and mental and physical stress, may have limited their ability to adapt to repeated stresses over the lifetime.”

For more information, visit the GSA Blog Post for Women Veterans Supplement

Alan Shahtaji, DO Alan 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.

Alan Shahtaji, DO CAQSMDr. 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

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.

Tyson Ikeda, MD, MPH Public Health Tyson Ikeda, MD, was selected as UC San Diego Health Physician of the Year. Each year, the UC San Diego Health selects a Physician of the Year to recognize physicians for their superb contributions. Dr. Ikeda began his career at UC San Diego as a medical student in 1987. During his tenure at UC San Diego Health, he has served in multiple roles including residency director and Division Chief for the Division of Family Medicine.

Happy Araneta, PhD, Public Health Maria Rosario (Happy) Araneta, PhD, was appointed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services to a 4 year term to serve on the NIH Advisory Council of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. The Advisory Council is developing a transformational health disparities research agenda for the next decade, provides advice regarding the Institute's research and training activities, and conducts the second level of review and recommends approval of grant applications and cooperative agreements.

Linda L. Hill, MD, MPH Public Health Ronghui (Lily) Xu, PhD has been honored by the ASA honored by the American Statistical Association (ASA) as a 2013 Fellow. Individuals are nominated by their peers, and honorees are recognized for outstanding professional contributions to and leadership in the field of statistical science.

Linda L. Hill, MD, MPH Public Health Kevin Patrick, MD, MS has been selected as co-chair of one of four main subcommittees for the President’s Precision Medicine Initiative, a bold new research effort to build a cohort of 1 million individuals that will support discovery of new gene-drug-behavior-environment interactions. Read More...

Linda L. Hill, MD, MPH Public Health Linda L. Hill, MD, MPH , has been selected as the Individual Award Recipient of the 2014 Live Well San Diego Public Health Champion Award. These awards were created as a component of the County of San Diego's Live Well San Diego initiative to recognize extraordinary achievements of individuals, organizations, and regions in areas of Public Health services that protect and promote the health and wellness of San Diego County residents. This year’s theme award recognized achievements related to National Public Health Week‘s (NPHW) 2014's theme: Public Health: Start Here! Today’s Public Health Professionals are Helping Individuals and Communities Navigate the Changing World of Public Health.

Linda L. Hill, MD, MPH and the UCSD Training, Research and Education for Driving Safety (TREDS) program were recently featured on PBS News Hour. Click to Watch Video

Ruth Heifetz, MD, MPH, was selected as the 2014 recipient of the Environmental Health Coalition (EHC) “Sp irit of Justice” Award. Dr. Heifetz is the founding board member of the EHC, an organization fighting toxic pollution and other environmental hazards in the San Diego/ Tijuana region. She was recognized at the 2014 Awards Celebration: Victory for Healthy Communities for her lifetime of dedication to raising awareness among students, professionals, workers and residents to the hazards of toxic pollution.


Michael H. Criqui, MD, MPH has received the 2013 Ancel Keys Memorial Lecture Award from the American Heart Association. This lecture was established in 1990 by the Council on Epidemiology (now the Council on Epidemiology and Prevention) to honor Dr. Ancel Keys, a founding member of the council, who had a long a distinguished scientific career in the study of cardiovascular diseases, their correlates, causes, and prevention in the United States and abroad. At the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions Annual Conference in Dallas on 11/19/13, Dr. Criqui presented the lecture “The Importance of Non-Coronary Atherosclerosis”, which focused on four measures of non-coronary atherosclerosis, each useful in predicting future cardiovascular disease events in apparently healthy persons, and also in predicting prognosis in patients with known cardiovascular disease.

Congratulations to Ellen Beck, MD who has been named the recipient of the 2012 Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Trust Award. The award recognizes current or former teachers, professors or instructors who have inspired their former students to create an organization or establish a concept, procedure, or movement which has demonstrably conferred a benefit on the community at large. Ellen was also recognized by Health Leaders Media as one of their “Health Leaders20: 20 People Who Make Healthcare Better - 2012”, for individuals who are changing healthcare for the better.

John P. Pierce, PhD distinguished professor of Family Medicine and Public Health and director of population sciences at the University of California, San Diego Moores Cancer Center, has been awarded the 2013 AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cancer Prevention Research. The award is presented annually to a researcher in honor of his or her seminal contributions to the field of cancer prevention. Studies must have had not only a major impact on the field, but must also have stimulated new directions in this important area. Dr. Pierce is being recognized for his work on the epidemiology of health behaviors, in particular on tobacco smoking and nutrition in cancer care.

The 2012 San Diego Business Journal “Women Who Mean Business” award, recognizing dynamic women business leaders who have contributed significantly to San Diego’s businesses. has been awarded to Dr. Bess H. Marcus, PhD.

Dr. Jim Sallis, PhD is the winner of the 2012 Bloomberg Manulife Prize for the Promotion of Active Health.


Faculty Awards and Recognition

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