Diversity in the Residency Program

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Welcome!  The Internal Medicine Residency Program at UC San Diego is committed to training and supporting physicians from all backgrounds. Please join us at an upcoming event!

Mission Statement: To promote the increased recruitment, retention and advancement of diverse medical professionals including internal medicine interns, residents and faculty from underrepresented minority groups within the Department of Medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

Director of Diversity in Medicine



March 2019

  • Dinner and Discussion with Dr Clyde Yancy


  • November 9, 2018
  • Doctors to rally for Medicare for All and Immigrant Health Care: More than one hundred doctors will gather in front of the office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to rally for a national health plan that includes all U.S. residents
  • WHAT: "Tearing Down Barriers To Care" rally for Medicare-for-All and immigrant care
  • WHO: Physicians for a National Health Program; Women's March San Diego; Planned Parenthood San Diego; Border Angels
  • WHEN: Friday, Nov. 9 from 5:00-5:30 p.m.
  • WHERE: Neighborhood Park, Corner of F St and Front St (across from the ICE Building

    San Diego -- Wearing their scrubs and white coats, more than 100 doctors and medical students will rally on Friday to demand a single-payer, Medicare for All national health system. The theme of the rally is "Tearing Down Barriers to Care," and includes calls to protect care for immigrant families and other underserved populations. 

    Contrary to claims by some elected officials that immigrants are a drain on public services, recent studies show that immigrants use far less health care than non-immigrants, and actually subsidize the care of U.S. citizens through payments into both private and public insurance plans.

    "As a primary care physician, I see patients every single day that avoid necessary care because of cost," said Dr. Julie Sierra, a PNHP leader in San Diego. "As doctors, we can no longer sit on the sidelines while our patients suffer. We must demand a single-payer national health program that includes everyone living in the U.S."

    Speakers include:
      • Dr. Julie Sierra is a primary care physician at UC San Diego Health. Dr. Sierra has supplied medical care to underserved populations around the world, including El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Cuba.
      • Dr. Nicte Mejia is Assistant Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School and Director of Neurology Community Health, Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Mejia was born in Guatemala of Mexican and Salvadoran parents. 
      • Milad Torabi is an aspiring physician and undocumented immigrant. He is a DACA recipient, and founding board member of the San Diego Border Dreamers (SDBD). 
      • Priya Patel is a leader of the Women's March San Diego.  
      • Many of the doctors are in San Diego this weekend for the annual meeting of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), nonprofit research and educational organization of more than 22,000 doctors and health professionals who support Medicare for All. The theme of this year's conference is "Tearing Down Barriers to Care."
  • November 16-18, 2018

 SNMA 2018

 APHA 2018


  • September 18, 2018
    • SNMA Kick Off Meeting at lunch (Room TBD)


  • April 7, 2018
  • UC San Diego School of Medicine Second Look Mixer
  • 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm at the UCSD Faculty Club Lounge
  • You are cordially invited to join in the celebration of the URM/LGTBQ+ students recently accepted to the UC San Diego School of Medicine. This is an incredible opportunity to welcome the newest members of our Health Sciences community and demonstrate our commitment to fostering an inclusive campus environment. Current students, residents, and faculty are welcome to join us on Saturday, April 7, from 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm at the UCSD Faculty Club Lounge. Light food and beverages will be provided. Please RSVP to Katherine Garcia at k2garcia@ucsd.edu

March - April

 SNMA's AMEC 2018

  • March 2-3, 2018
    • LMSA Conference - West Region
    • Trip to LMSA West Regional Conference at UCLA

 LMSA 2018


 Diversity Mixer

PASTE EVENTS 2017-2018


  • December 9, 2017
  • On December 9th, Dr. Rodney Hood invited medical students, residents, and faculty to his home for a diversity reception! This event intended to build community among underrepresented in medicine (URiM) undergraduate students, medical students, residents and faculty, as well as those interested in URiM efforts.  Dr. Hood is an alumnus of the UCSD School of Medicine and Internal Medicine residency program. He was the former president of the National Medical Association (the physician branch of SNMA), and is the current president of the Multicultural Health Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on eliminating health inequities among underserved communities. He has a private practice in southeastern San Diego, where he cares for African American and Latino patients.


  • November 2, 2017
    • "What Fueled me to be First?" First-Gen Forum and Mixer for UC San Diego's First-Generation Faculty, Staff & Students 
    • SSC Multipurpose Room
    • RSVP here: http://bit.ly/ucsdfirstgenNov2
    • During this session, we will hear from faculty and staff panel members who will share their first-generation college student stories. A huge component of this initiative is an interactive mixer, in which we are encouraging first-generation college students to connect with a first-generation staff or faculty member. We encourage each of you to attend so that many of our UC San Diego students have a First-Generation faculty member to speak with
  • November 8, 2017
    • How Immigration Policy Affects Health and Human Rights
    • 6:00-7:30pm. Refreshments will be served at 5:30pm
    • UC San Diego Student Services Center, Multipurpose Room, 1st Floor
    • U.S. immigration policies and their enforcement are in flux. Meanwhile, uncertainty, deportation fears and prolonged detentions take a toll on the physical and mental health of immigrants and refugees, and affect their access to healthcare.At this critical time, we invite you to a discussion of these issues and the actions organizations are taking to improve the lives and health of these vulnerable populations. Q & A session follows.
    • The panel includes:
      • David FitzGerald, PhD - Professor of Sociology, Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, UC San Diego
      • Nicole Ramos, Esq. – Director, Border Rights Project, Al Otro Lado
      • James Dell, Esq. - President, Professional Alliance for Children
      • Fernando Mendoza, MD - Associate Dean of Minority Advising and Programs and Professor of Pediatrics, Stanford University
    • Space is limited - please RSVP at https://immigrationhealthhumanrights.eventbrite.com
    • Facebook Page: http://tinyurl.com/y6wun2jv

  • November 10-12, 2017
    • SNMA 2017 Region 1 Medical Education Conference, Seattle WA
      SNMA 2017


  • UCSD Internal Medicine Diversity Days for Residency Applicants – 10/30, 10/31, 11/2, 11/27, 11/28, 11/30
    • Luis R. Castellanos, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Director of Diversity in Medicine, will be in attendance, and our underrepresented in medicine residents will present morning conference, lead tours, and be available for questions throughout the day. 
    • Dr. Luis R. Castellanos appointed Director of Diversity in Medicine


  • October 10, 2017 at 6pm-9:30pm, MET Learning Center 141
    • Advancing Diversity in Medicine with Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo
    • Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, PhD, MD, MAS is the Lee Goldman, MD Endowed Chair in Medicine and Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Medicine. She is the Vice Dean for Population Health and Health Equity in the UCSF School of Medicine, and she directs the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, a research center focused on discovery, implementation, policy, advocacy, and community engagement for communities at risk for poor health and inadequate healthcare. She is the Director of the CTSI Clinical and Translational Science Training (CTST) Programs. 

Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo
  • October 12, 2017 at 5pm-7pm, Faculty Club Seuss Library Room: 
    • UCSD Medicine Diversity Mixer for medical students (SNMA, LMSA, LGBTQ), medicine residents, fellows and faculty
  • October 18, 2017 at 4-6pm, Audrey Geisel University House
    • Faculty of Color Reception
    • “This is an opportunity to welcome new faculty of color, reconnect with colleagues, and celebrate our collective achievements. The evening will include enlightening talks from Professor Marisa Abrejano – Political Science and Professor JoAnn Trejo – Pharmacology, reflecting on what it means for faculty of color to thrive in Academia and sharing highlights from their pathway to becoming leading scholars.”
    • RSVP by October 11th to r6ayala@ucsd.edu, Rosalynn Ayala
  • October 25, 2017 
    • Advancing Diversity in Medicine with Dr. Neil Powe Dr. Neil Powe
    • Neil Powe, MD, MPH, MBA, Professor of Medicine at UCSF, Constance B. Wofsky Distinguished Professor, Vice-Chair of Medicine at UCSF, and Chief of Medical Services at San Francisco General Hospital. He is chair of the National Advisory Committee of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and recipient of the John M. Eisenberg National Award for Career Achievement in Research from the Society of General Internal Medicine and the Distinguished Educator Award from the Association for Clinical Research Training. Dr. Powe is also a member of the Executive Committee and Advisory Board for the Center for Health And Risk in Minority youth and adults (CHARM), which is an NIH/NIMHD funded comprehensive center of excellence for addressing disparities and chronic disease prevention in minority youth and young adults.


  • September 27, 2017 at 5pm-7pm, MET Learning Center 145
    • Diversity in Medicine Lecture Series, “Disparities in Coronary Heart Disease and Cardiac Rehabilitation Amongst Racial and Ethnic Groups”, Dr. Luis Castellanos
    • Dr. Castellanos will discuss his journey to medicine, and share his expertise in health disparities. RSVP HERE


  • July 20, 2017
  • Supporting Diversity in Medicine Introduction Dinner for new URIM Internal Medicine interns – with Dr. Castellanos and Carlos Lago-Hernandez, PGY2


On-going Events:

  • 2017-18 - Collaboration with UCSD Health Government and Community Affairs
  • Bi-monthly meetings with UCSD Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Advisory Council
  • Participation in regional conferences, for example, HMS Conference on Race, Ethnicity, and Social Justice, which provides the opportunity to meet with diverse students from across the country
  • Collaboration with educators and URiM students from Imperial Valley


Diversity Residents at Dinner

Meet Our Faculty

Francis Gabbai, MDDr. Francis Gabbai
Vice Chair, Department of Medicine
Chief, Medicine Service
VA San Diego
Professor, Division of Nephrology

I was raised in Mexico City where I went to Medical School, completed my residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Nephrology.  My interests in Nephrology, specifically hypertension and various models of kidney injury came about during the completion of the mandatory community service of my last year in medical school.  At the end of my Nephrology fellowship, my interests in research lead me to complete a Master's Degree and opened for me the opportunity to complete a year at UCSD as a Fogarty International Fellow.  After going back and working for a period of two year as a junior faculty in Mexico City, I had the opportunity to return to UCSD and have remained here for the last 30+years.  As a faculty member moving up through the ranks I have had the opportunity to continue to practice Medicine and Nephrology while dedicating a large amount of the time to basic and clinical research.  Having trained in Mexico and being fluent in Spanish, I have very much enjoyed understanding and treating patients with a Hispanic background as well as all other patients with various diseases of the kidney.    

Alexander Bullen, MD
Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine
Division of Nephrology

I was born and raised and completed my medical school training in Panama. During my rotation in public health I became deeply fascinated with the ability of research to promote positive health changes. During my internal medicine residency training in the US, I became interested in the role that hemodynamics played in kidney function. To further my clinical and research training in nephrology, I joined the fellowship at UC San Diego under the mentorship of Joachim Ix. I was destined to train in clinical research but opted to spend a year in an animal physiology laboratory to obtain skills in performing surgeries of animal models of acute kidney injury. In the clinical realm, I have completed and published studies in hemodialysis patients and I'm currently studying the role abnormal tubular function plays in future acute kidney injury. 

I also enrolled in a Masters in Clinical Research to learn how to properly design and conduct clinical research studies and analyze clinical data using appropriate statistical methods. I was awarded a Merit Scholarship due to my academic performance. 

Medical school: University of Panama
Internal Medicine Residency: University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio-RAHC
Fellowship (Nephrology):UC San Diego
Masters in Clinical Research:UC San Diego
Current position:Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine – Division of Nephrology

Joseph Avalos, MDDr. Joeeph Avalos
Assistant Clinical Professor
Division of Hospital Medicine

I was born and raised in New Mexico, in a small town called Las Cruces. I completed undergrad at New Mexico State University with a BS in Biology and a BA in Philosophy. I went on to attend medical school in Albuquerque at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. My interest in Allergy/Immunology and my desire to expand my cultural experience took me to New Orleans, LA, where I completed my internal medicine residency at Tulane University. There I fell in love with education and academics as well as hospital medicine. After my training, I remained in New Orleans at a community residency program as an academic hospitalist. I seized the opportunity to come to UCSD in 2016 with my wife, who is also a physician and a native San Diegan. I plan to continue working as an academic hospitalist and advancing toward professorship excelling in patient care and medical education. 

Commitment to diversity is one of the aspects of UCSD that I admire most. I am proud to be part of the Hispanic Center of Excellence (HCOE) Junior Faculty Mentorship program, aimed to identify and promote underrepresented medical staff. Under this program, I have been recognized and supported as a minority in medicine. Through HCOE I will also mentor and support the development of our diverse junior faculty as well as medical students and undergraduate students with career aspirations in medicine. Promoting diversity also includes identifying patient socioeconomic, educational, and language limitations to healthcare literacy and effectively adapting communication to ensure understanding of their complex disease state and treatment options. I am honored to be acknowledged by UCSD. 


Julie Sierra, MD

Assistant Professor of Medicine

I was in the Peace Corps in Ecuador 1993-95 as an agriculture volunteer, where I lived in a small village in the Andes mountains for 2 years. I have worked with medical teams in Mexico, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, and have studied the Cuban healthcare system extensively, spending several months working with physicians there.  I am a mentor for U.S. students at the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana.  I was previously the Clinic Medical Director at the main clinic for San Ysidro Health, and FQHC that serves primarily Latino patients. I also do a lot of volunteer work with refugees and immigrants here in San Diego. I am a strong supporter of single payer health insurance, and an active member of Physicians for a National Health Plan (PNHP).

Tony Lopez, MD
Professor of Medicine

Dr. Tony Lopez

Both my paternal and maternal grandparents immigrated to the United States as young children with their families to flee from the Mexican Revolution and ultimately settled in the barrios of northern San Diego County.  Two generations later, I was born at Camp Pendleton, while my dad, a master sergeant in the Army, was fighting for our country in the Korean War during which he survived a near fatal gunshot wound to the chest.

I attended college at the University of California, Irvine, with a B.A. in chemistry and B.S. in biology.  I completed my medical school training at UCLA and I did my internship and residency training at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Following this, I was selected for the Kennamer Fellowship Program in General Internal Medicine at the UCLA School of Medicine and became Harbor's first general internal medicine fellow. Ultimately, I double boarded in Internal Medicine and Family Practice with special qualifications in Geriatrics and became Assistant Head of the Division of General Internal Medicine at Scripps Clinic before being recruited to UCSD as a clinician-educator.

I am currently a Clinical Professor of Medicine in the UCSD Division of General Internal Medicine where I have a very busy and diverse outpatient general internal medicine practice. I am also actively engaged in the teaching and mentoring of medical students, internal medicine residents, and new faculty. My current interests include all aspects of medical education including problem based learning and clinical reasoning.

I am so thankful for the many opportunities that UCSD has afforded me including working with the homeless and Latino populations in community-based clinics such as Logan Heights and St. Vincent de Paul and many years of service on medical school admissions including the interviewing of applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds.

When siting alone in one of the MTF classrooms waiting for my medical students to arrive, I often reflect back to my roots in northern Mexico and the long journey that brought me here. I feel so overwhelmingly grateful, proud, and privileged for the core attributes of perseverance, humbleness, humility, mutual respect, hard work ethic, teamwork, and of course Familia that my parents and cultural heritage have deeply engrained within me. 

Meet Our Residents

Maggie Kozman, MDDr. Maggie Kozman
Internal Medicine/Pediatrics, PGY 4

  • I was born in the US on the East Coast to Egyptian immigrants and raised in Southern California.
  • I attended college at UCLA, where I was involved in groups geared toward assisting low-income residents of the surrounding communities and in Tijuana get access to health care/meal delivery services/tutoring, enroll in health insurance programs, and receive mentorship in pursuing higher education.
  • I attended UCSF School of Medicine, where I was part of the Underrepresented in Medicine mentorship/networking program, represented SNMA on the Admissions Advisory Committee, mentored at-risk high schoolers interested in the health professions, participated in global health research and healthcare delivery abroad, and created an elective course about the importance and impact of faith and religious/spiritual diversity on interprofessional and patient-provider interactions.
  • I wanted to be at UCSD in part because of the diverse patient population, which challenges me daily to further develop cultural competence, broaden my perspectives on health, engage patients' faith practices as I address their health issues, and improve my Spanish and Arabic language skills. 


Carlos Lago-Hernandez, MD Dr. Carlos Lago Hernandez
Internal Medicine, 2019 graduate now UCSD hospitalist


  • I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. Cuban by descent (all my family emigrated from Cuba)
  • I went to college in Puerto Rico, and there was involved with efforts to provide medical services to underserved populations in Puerto Rico.
  • I went to Harvard Medical School, there I was involved with minority advancement efforts, particularly Latino (eg helped organized national LMSA conference).
  • I came to San Diego for a number of reasons; great weather, good food, and California aligned with my progressive views. Above all, however, the proximity to the Mexico border was very appealing to me. It fills me with professional satisfaction to provide medical care to Latino patients. Being able to serve as a cultural broker during difficult times for my patients is extremely rewarding to me.

IM Residents' Blog
IM Residents' Diversity Blog Posts
Medicine Fellowships at UC San Diego


Dr Luis Castellanos Appointed Director of PRIME-HEq (March 2019)

Congratulations to Dr. Luis Castellanos, MD, MPH (UCSD IM residency alum, class of 2006) who has been appointed as Director of the Program in Medical Education-Health Equity (PRIME-HEq) Program here in the UCSD School of Medicine.

The PRIME-HEq program is one of six UC system-wide health science PRIME programs, and is a 5-year dual degree program here in the School of Medicine that affords our medical students integrated access to degrees such as a Masters in Public Health, Masters in Healthcare Leadership, Masters in Clinical Research, and Masters in Business Administration. The program's mission is to develop physician leaders to care for and advocate on behalf of communities at risk for health disparities, and it has an emphasis on multicultural, multidisciplinary approaches to patient care, research, and health care advocacy.


Dr. Castellanos currently holds appointment as the Director of Diversity in Medicine and Faculty Outreach for the UCSD Department of Medicine and their commitment to promoting the recruitment, retention and advancement of diverse medical professionals, including internal medicine residents and faculty, from underrepresented in medicine minority (URiM) groups. His new position will allow for even greater vertical alignment along the continuum of  undergraduate and graduate medical education to advance our missions of promoting diversity and health equity!

UC San Diego Internal Medicine Residency Program Diversity Efforts Featured in American Heart Association News

The residency program's Director of Diversity in Medicine Dr. Luis Castellanos has been featured in an article written by the American Heart Association highlighting our efforts to recruit diverse physicians into the program.  You can read the article here

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