Message from our Chair


 Dr Charles NagerDear Colleagues,

Happy 2019.  Welcome to our second quarterly Department Newsletter, which comes with the Lunar New Year.  The second quarter comes at a busy time, with labs and clinics are buzzing across the  department and many grants being submitted. Despite a little bit of rain, we continue to enjoy some of the best weather in the country.  The rain promises a spectacular green spring for the region. Even our collaborators in Northern California may be envious.
This past fall we lost Dr. Doris Howell, who has been a not only champion advocate of women’s health in San Diego. Dr. Howell acted in this role for decades, and the  Doris A. Howell Foundation that was started in her honor has been an important source of funding across the divisions in our department, and across San Diego.  The Foundation has been a key source of funding for our undergraduate research trainees.  Learn more about Dr. Howell as well as the Howell Foundation in our Milestones Section on page 6.  

Investigator-initiated trials are key pillars that support and bridge our research and clinical enterprises.  We congratulate Sanjay Agarwal who has just been awarded funding for a  new trial of Anakinra in endometriosis, as well as our other recent awardees.

In this edition, our Bench to Bedside section will focus on the most recent studies of the Wilkinson Lab, which provides us with a new and unprecendented understanding of male fertility.  In this case, Miles and his colleagues use single cell sequencing to understand patterns of gene expression among the different cells present in male spermatogonia.  There are some surprising findings that are likely to impact the male component of infertility in the future.

In the At the Frontier section, we again feature some of our recent research  and clinical publications.  These come from the middle of November into early February.  We also continue to  meet new faculty members in our growing department, this time talking to Gillian Mackay and Jerry Ballas.  We have a trend of rapid adaption to San Diego among our new recruited physicians. This continues to be true,  with Gillian and Jerry noting their family’s appreciation of the mild winters and amenities such as bilingual schools for their children.  

However, in addition continuing content in Fimbria Quarterly,  we look forward to introducing new elements to the next issue.  We’ll have new articles on our clinical practice and educational missions.

Hope you enjoy this and find it informative.  Please forward it on to colleagues if you do.  
We’ll see you next time.

Click HERE to open a PDF of the full newsletter or scroll down for highlights.


Charles W. Nager, MD                                                                                                                                                           Distinguished Professor and Samuel Yen Chair                                                                                                                         Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences

​Department Highlights

Congratulations - 

  • Pamela Mellon who received the inaugural Excellence in Mentoring Award for Health Sciences Faculty in November 2018.
  • Sanjay Agarwal who received SOBI funding for a PI-Initiated Clinical Trial Pilot study of the IL-1 antagonist Anakinra for endometriosis. 
  • David Schlaepfer and Dwayne Stupack who just received a Department of Defense Pilot award for their continuing research on Ovarian Cancer Immune Evasion. 
  • Varykina Thackray who received a UCSD Academic Senate Bridge Award to investigate the role of gut microbial metagenomes in PCOS, and
  • Sheila Mody who received a Doris A. Howell Foundation Community Engagement Initiative Award.

Welcome -

Recent Publications

  • Design of a randomized controlled trial on the efficacy of a reproductive health survivorship care plan in young breast cancer survivors. Stark SS, Natarajan L, Chingos D, Ehren J, Gorman JR, Krychman M, Kwan B, Mao JJ, Myers E, Walpole T, Pierce JP, Su HI.
    Contemp Clin Trials. 2019 Feb;77:27-36. doi: 10.1016/j.cct.2018.12.002. Epub 2018 Dec 12. PMID: 30553078
  • Sex, Microbes, and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Thackray, VG. Trends  Endocrinol Metab. 2019 Jan;30(1):54-65 . 
  • A microRNA cluster in the Fragile-X region expressed during spermatogenesis targets FMR1. Ramaiah M, Tan K, Plank TM, Song HW, Dumdie JN, Jones S, Shum EY, Sheridan SD, Peterson KJ, Gromoll J, Haggarty SJ, Cook-Andersen H, Wilkinson MF. EMBO Rep. 2019 Feb;20(2). pii: e46566. doi: 10.15252/embr.201846566. Epub 2018 Dec 20.  PMID: 30573526
  • Nonsense-mediated RNA decay in the brain: emerging modulator of neural development and disease. Jaffrey SR, Wilkinson MF. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2018 Dec;19(12):715-728. doi: 10.1038/s41583-018-0079-z. Review. PMID: 30410025

Bench and Bedside

How Men Continually Produce Sperm — and How that Discovery Could Help Treat Infertility

The production of sperm — otherwise known as spermatogenesis — generates more than 1,000 sperm per second in normal males. This productivity comes, in part, from a special cell type called the spermatogonial stem cell. The staying power of this stem cell  has allowed men, and most famously celebrities such as Robert DeNiro and Pablo Picasso, to father children after the age of 65.

Yet spermatogonial stem cells have not been well studied in humans, and attempts to grow them in the lab for clinical purposes have had limited success. Now, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine used a technique called single-cell RNA sequencing to develop a clearer picture of human spermatogonial stem cells and how sperm are formed. They also developed tools to better isolate these stem cells, making the technicque possible.  The study was published  February  5th in Cell Reports (1).

This advance opens the possibility that spermatogonial stem cell transplants could be developed to treat male infertility, an issue that affects more than 100 million men worldwide.  

Read the rest of the article on page 3 of the winter newsletter.


Doris Howell 1923-2018

Doris A. Howell, M.D., initially trained as a Pediatric Hematologist/Oncologist, but in time would become a pre-eminent,  internationally renowned leader in pediatrics and hospice care.  A graduate of McGill University, Dr. Howell held faculty positions at both the Harvard and Duke Schools of Medicine prior to becoming chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Medical College of Pennsylvania. In 1974, she joined the faculty at UCSD Medical School as chair of the Department of Community and Family Medicine.  

Dr. Howell immediately embraced the hospice concept as a radical departure from the established way of dealing with the dying and their families. Her reputation as a hospice pioneer followed her when she moved to UCSD. Serving on the San Diego Hospice Board of Directors since its inception, she was a driving force for San Diego Hospice, now a model recognized throughout the nation. She was elected Director Emerita in 1989, and received national awards for leadership and service.  Among others, Dr. Howell received Service awards from the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Humanism in Medicine Award from the Health Care Foundation of New Jersey. She has been further honored by the Rotary of San Diego, MacLaggen Award; the Salvation Army Woman of Distinction Award; the Elderhelp Essence of Life Award; and the Soroptimists International of La Jolla Woman of Distinction Award.

Read the rest of the article on page 6 of the winter newsletter

Upcoming Events

1st CMI International Microbiome Meeting*
 jointly held with
 1st Urobiome Meeting
February 26-28, 2019
 University of California, San Diego

On behalf of Linda Brubaker, MD, Clinical Professor in the
UC San Diego Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences, we announce the 1st annual
Urobiome Meeting.

Researchers will present on the emerging science of the Urobiome and its recently discovered implications for human health, including common conditions such as urinary tract infection, urinary incontinence, and bladder overactivity.

* Funding for this conference was made possible, in part, by 1 R13 DK120286-01 from NIDDK.

The views expressed in written conference materials or publications and by speakers and moderators do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services; nor does mention by trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.  

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