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Meet Our Faculty

Dr. Francis Gabbai

Francis Gabbai, MD

Vice Chair, Department of Medicine
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.    


Dr. Francis Gabbai

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. 


Dr. Joeeph Avalos

Joseph Avalos, MD

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).


Dr. Tony Lopez

Tony Lopez, MD

Professor of Medicine

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.


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