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Q & A

Ronda Henry-Tillman, MD

Photo ©UAMS/Bryan Clifton

Q&A: Ronda Henry-Tillman, MD

The UC San Diego Department of Surgery was delighted this summer to host Ronda Henry-Tillman, MD, a recipient of the 2021 American Surgical Association/Society of Black Academic Surgeons Surgical Leader Fellowship Award. This Fellowship grant is a mechanism to support external leadership shadowing experiences for mid-level or senior academic SBAS surgeons who desire future leadership roles. 

Dr. Henry-Tillman is an accomplished academic breast surgical oncologist at the University of Arkansas. She is an alumnus of UCSD School of Medicine and has San Diego roots, graduating with her undergraduate degree at San Diego State University. Her research interests are largely focused on disparities in care and clinical breast oncology and surgery topics. Over the course of her one-week visit, she met with faculty in the Department as well as Institutional leaders to get a feel for how UC San Diego Health accomplishes its mission. In addition, she observed in our clinics and operating rooms.   

For our monthly newsletter Q&A, we asked Dr. Henry-Tillman about her background, her approach to leadership and how her perspective on healthcare has evolved since she first roamed the halls of UC San Diego as a medical student.

Q&A: Drs. Jay Doucet and Amy Liepert – Calling on California to ‘Stop the Bleed’

Each year, about 2 million people around the world die from hemorrhaging, or blood loss, and as many as 1.5 million of these deaths are the result of physical trauma, including gunshot wounds. In the United States, 60,000 people per year die from bleeds. 

UC San Diego’s Amy Liepert, MD, FACS, of our Division of Trauma Surgery, and Trauma Chief Jay Doucet, MD, FRCSC, FACS, have been instrumental in championing California Assembly Bill 2260, which would mandate that STOP THE BLEED® bleeding control kits be added to all public buildings with capacity over 200.

Professor Tania Morimoto Professor Tania Morimoto

Tania K. Morimoto is an Assistant Professor with dual appointments in the UC San Diego Departments of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Surgery. Her work focuses on the design and control of flexible continuum robots for increased dexterity and accessibility in uncertain environments -- particularly for minimally invasive surgeries. Prof. Morimoto, who obtained an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from MIT and a masters and PhD at Stanford University, recently received a Science Foundation CAREER grant as part of its Foundational Research in Robotics program. In our Q&A this month, Prof. Morimoto discusses her research into the challenges of designing human-in-the-loop interfaces for controlling flexible and soft robots, including the integration of haptic feedback to improve surgical outcomes.

Garth R. Jacobsen MD FACS Garth Jacobsen, MD: A General Surgery Residency That's "Second-to-None

As Director of our General Surgery Residency, Garth Jacobsen, MD, is committed to educating surgeons of the future. The UC San Diego General Surgery Residency Program provides a comprehensive training program encompassing the spectrum of core general surgery and general surgery subspecialties, including cardiothoracic, transplant, oncology, vascular, colorectal, trauma, and pediatric surgery. Here Dr. Jacobsen describes the program in more detail.

Rick Friedman, MD, PhD New (and Uncommon) R25 Resident Training Grant to Drive Further Scientific Discovery

The UC San Diego Department of Surgery’s Division of Otolaryngology and Head & Neck Surgery has received a new R25 Training Grant for resident research training from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The overarching goal of this R25 program, as described by NIH, “is to support educational activities that encourage individuals from diverse backgrounds, including those from groups underrepresented in the biomedical and behavioral sciences, to pursue further studies or careers in research.” In this month’s Q&A, Co-Principal Investigators Rick Friedman, MD, PhD and Allen Ryan, PhD, expand on the need for research training among residents and why the grant is of particular importance to the Department of Surgery.

Nicole Goldhaber, MD Nicole Goldhaber, MD

Congratulations to UC San Diego Surgery’s Nicole Goldhaber, MD, a General Surgery Resident who has received a Lean/Six Sigma Best in Class distinction for her Green Belt cohort. Dr. Goldhaber – a graduate of Harvard Medical School – spent the first of two research years at UC San Diego Surgery focused on Perioperative Quality, Informatics and Education. As part of her project for Lean/Six Sigma, Dr. Goldhaber created a new communication approach for the surgical timeout process by which the surgical team takes a pause to make ensure that the right patient is receiving the correct procedure, that all necessary resources are on hand and all safety protocols are being followed.

Winta Mehtsun, MD, MPH Winta Mehtsun, MD, MPH

The Division of Surgical Oncology is delighted to welcome Dr. Winta Mehtsun to the faculty. Dr. Mehstun is originally from Eritrea but grew up across several countries in Africa and South East Asian before emigrating to the U.S. Dr. Mehtsun joins us after completing medical school at the University of Virginia and a Master’s Degree from The Johns Hopkins- Bloomberg School of Public Health. She completed residency training at Massachusetts General Hospital and completed her fellowship training in surgical oncology at the Mass General Brigham/Dana-Farber Complex General Surgical Oncology Fellowship at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Mehtsun will practice both in La Jolla and Hillcrest, focusing on sarcoma and endocrine surgery. Her research focuses on the intersection of health policy, financial incentives, and regulation, and their impact on surgical utilization, cost, and outcomes. We are proud that Dr. Mehstun will be the first Department member to hold a dual appointment in the Departments of Surgery and the Wertheim School of Public Health and look forward to welcoming her here in the fall.


Jennifer Berumen, MD

Dr. Jennifer Berumen

Formed in spring of 2020, the UC San Diego Surgery Wellness Team features representatives from each surgical division, who collectively aim to improve the daily lives of members of the department, from attending physicians and residents to advanced practitioners. Specific goals of the committee include facilitating a Peer Support/Surgical Crisis Team and a Residency Wellness Program. For this month’s Q&A, we take a deeper dive into these wellness efforts with Jennifer Berumen, MD, Wellness Champion for the Department of Surgery as well as a specialist in abdominal transplantation and hepatobiliary surgery.


Quyen Nguyen, MD, PhD Quyen Nguyen, MD, PhD

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted Fast Track designation for ALM-488, an investigational fluorescently labelled nerve targeting pharmaceutical being developed as an adjunct for the visualization of nerves at risk for injury during head and neck surgery. The compound was developed by Alume Biosciences, Inc., a clinical stage biotechnology company led by CEO Quyen Nguyen, MD/PhD, Professor of Surgery at UC San Diego. Here we speak with Dr. Nguyen about this exciting breakthrough and the process of getting the compound fast-tracked.


Dr. Luis Cajas Dr. Luis Cajas: Shifting Mentalities and Serving Patients in El Centro

One could say that the career of Luis Cajas, MD, has come full circle. A native of Guatemala, Dr. Cajas completed his general surgery resident training with UC San Diego Surgery in 2017, where he spent time on special assignment at El Centro Regional Medical Center (ECRMC), 100 miles to the east of UC San Diego in Imperial Valley. This one-year assignment was part of a partnership between the City of El Centro and UC San Diego Health to enhance the delivery of high-quality health care to patients in the Imperial Valley -- a medically underserved area. After completing his term with ECRMC, followed by a vascular surgery fellowship at the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Cajas jumped at the chance to return to ECRMC this year as a vascular surgeon, splitting his time there and at UC San Diego Health. 


Daniela Carvalho Dr. Daniela Carvahlo–President Elect of SENTAC

We are pleased to announce that Daniela Carvalho, MD, MMM, has been elected to the role of President-Elect of SENTAC (Society for Ear, Nose and Throat Advancement in Children). SENTAC is the oldest pediatric ENT Society in the world (founded in 1973). Its members were and continue to be otolaryngologists, pediatricians, surgeons, pediatric otolaryngologists, speech pathologists, audiologists, nurses, and basic scientists – in fact all of those who are interested in enhancing the care of children with acquired or congenital disorders of the ear, nose, and throat. SENTAC continues to be an interdisciplinary forum for new ideas; it is one of the few medical societies in which membership is determined solely by interest, not by professional association, facilitating the successful interchange of information between many different professional and lay groups.


Dr. Rebekah White

We are most pleased to share the news that Rebekah White, MD, FACS, of our Division of Surgical Oncology was recently elected to the role of President-Elect of the Society for University Surgeons (SUS). Dr. White is part of the gastrointestinal cancer unit at UC San Diego Health's Moores Cancer Center, where she works alongside a multidisciplinary team to provide cancer patients with advanced surgical options that are best suited to their individual needs. In addition to the SUS, she is a member of the American Association for Cancer Research and the American Society for Clinical Oncology. Read on to discover the mission of the SUS, what Dr. White hopes to achieve during her term and why participating in the SUS makes her a better surgeon. 


Dr. Romeo Ignacio

Dr. Romeo Ignacio of our Division of Pediatric Surgery is one of the more recent additions to our department. He brings a wealth of experience from serving for more than two decades in the U.S. Military, including overseeing the General Surgery Residency at the Balboa Naval Medical Center and serving as the Advance Echelon Surgeon on the USS Mercy. Here Dr. Ignacio discusses what he learned, what he misses about the Navy and what he has experienced transitioning from military to civilian life.


Dr. Geoffroy Noel

As incoming Chief of Anatomy at UC San Diego, Geoffroy Noel, PhD, is inheriting a unique division. Typically, anatomy instruction is embedded within the basic sciences, but at UC San Diego the division is part of our clinically focused Department of Surgery – a key factor in recruiting Dr. Noel from McGill University. Here we speak to Dr. Noel about his approach to leadership transition, his research interests  and his plans for the future of Anatomy at UCSD. 


Dr. Jeff Reeves

The best surgical training programs share in common an emphasis on educating resident physicians about the most advanced surgical techniques. But what many programs leave out is an education on the business  aspects of how to run a successful surgical practice, from navigating the ‘alphabet soup’ inherent to the healthcare financial reimbursement system to putting in place quality improvement systems that will help surgeons practice more efficiently and cost-effectively.


Hervé Tiriac

Precision Medicine hinges on the ability to treat not only specific areas of the body, but the precise biological underpinnings that differentiate one person’s disease from another. This month, we speak with our Division of Surgical Oncology’s Hervé Tiriac, PhD, about his work with organoids — 3D models made from patient-derived tissue that serve as a “patient avatars in a dish.”


Dr. Joseph Califano III

Although UC San Diego's surgeons often take on leadership roles within the Department of Surgery, many are also recruited to become key leaders at other university institutions. Joseph Califano III, MD, is a prime example. Dr. Califano, a professor of Surgery and Director of UC San Diego's Head & Neck Cancer Center, became Physician in Chief for Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego in January of 2019. Since then, his leadership has been instrumental in ushering in a number of complex, value-added changes to cancer care for patients in San Diego County and beyond. Here we speak with him about his role as Physician in Chief, the challenges he and his team are working to overcome, and the advice he has for physicians hoping to take on leadership roles at academic institutions.


Dr. Sharona Ben-Haim

Although the topic of pregnancy and family leave has recently become more widely discussed in departments of surgery nationwide, little research has been done to ascertain the experiences and attitudes of female surgeons on the subject of and perceived barriers to pregnancy and child-rearing. In an effort to shed some light on the subject, UC San Diego Neurosurgeon Sharona Ben-Haim, MD, conducted a voluntary 28-question survey on behalf of the ANS/CNS Section of Women in Neurosurgery Women and Pregnancy Task Force, the results of which were published in a Journal of Neurosurgery paper titled “Pregnancy and parental leave among neurosurgeons and neurosurgical trainees.” Here Dr. Ben-Haim discusses the results of that survey and the steps departments of surgery can take to ensure that working parents are supported.


Dr. Divya Sood

This month, we're saying goodbye many residents and fellows that have been with UC San Diego Surgery. We talked to graduated resident Dr. Divya Sood, who told us about why she came here, what she loved, her next steps and how she's come full circle.


Andrew Baird, PhDDr. Andrew Baird

UC San Diego's Andrew Baird, PhD, has spent most of his academic life pursuing research. Currently the Vice Chair for Research for the Department of Surgery, Baird's interest in research has led him to a position as chair of the University Committee on Research Policy (UCORP), which is a component of the University of California's Academic Senate. Here we talk with Prof. Baird about his life, how he got interested in UCORP and what he's gotten out of the board as both a member of the Department of Surgery, and as an individual.


Dr. Allison BerndstonDr. Allison Berndston

UC San Diego's Dr. Allison Berndtson has devoted much of her career to training and collaborating with surgeons and surgical care facilities around the world. Having a particular interest in global health, Dr. Berndtson – an assistant clinical professor in the Division of Trauma, Surgical Critical Care, Burns and Acute Care Surgery – has provided education and clinical care in Ghana, Colombia, Haiti, India, Mexico and Mozambique, and was a founding member of the annual Abuja National Trauma Conference in Abuja, Nigeria.


Dr. Santiago HorganDr. Santiago Horgan

With the new expansion of the Center for the Future of Surgery (CFS), we're taking a moment for a retrospective and prospective look at the facility by way of a Q&A with CFS Director Santiago Horgan, MD. Learn how CFS has evolved since its creation in 2011, what sets it apart from other surgical training facilities and Dr. Horgan's goals for CFS over the next decade and beyond.


Dr. Victor PretoriusDr. Victor Pretorius

Here we interview Victor Pretorius, MBchB, surgical director of cardiac transplant and mechanical circulatory support at UC San Diego Health, to talk about how he and his team achieved these outcomes and how they plan to maintain their success moving forward.


Dr. Frederic Kolb Dr. Frederic Kolb

Here we interview Dr. Kolb about his interest in working with both plastics and wood, the future of plastic surgery and his first (or, it turns out, second) impressions of San Diego.


Dr. Andrew Lowy Andrew Lowy

In this interview with Dr. Lowy, he elaborates on his new role and vision for cancer surgery at UC San Diego.


Alexander Khalessi, MD Jay Doucet

In this interview we chat with Dr. Doucet about the division's current strengths, his vision for the future and the challenges of meeting San Diego's needs as the only Level I Trauma Center in the region.


Alexander Khalessi, MD Alexander Khalessi

In this month's Q&A, Neurosurgery Division Chief Alexander Khalessi, MD, explains the implications of SAH, the type of treatment Clarke received and the importance of receiving treatment at a Comprehensive Stroke Center.


Amanda Gosman Amanda Gosman

Dr. Amanda Gosman—the recently named Chief of the Division of Plastic Surgery at UC San Diego—wears many hats. She serves as Director of Craniofacial and Pediatric Plastic Surgery; as the Chief of Plastic Surgery at Rady Children's Hospital; and also directs the Fresh Start Surgical Gifts Program, which provides disadvantaged children free reconstructive surgery. In this interview she discusses her hopes for the Division of Plastic Surgery in patient care, training and research; and shares the unlikely road that led her to medicine.


Bryan Clary Bryan Clary

In this interview, Dr. Bryan M. Clary, now in his 4th year as Chair of the Department of Surgery at UC San Diego, answers questions from faculty, trainees, and alumni of the Department. Among them: what's the best (and worst) part of being a chair; what is he most excited about clinically, in training, and in research; how can alumni help the Department (and how can the Department help them); and should UC San Diego Surgery have a Department band?


Tatiana Kisseleva Tatiana Kisseleva

Dr. Tatiana Kisseleva, a research scientist and expert in liver fibrosis, planned to be a liver surgeon before launching a career dedicated to full-time research. Since joining UC San Diego in 2007, her lab has focused on the characterization of the origin of fibrogenic myofibroblasts and identification of novel targets for anti-fibrotic therapy. In this interview, Dr. Kisseleva shares the journey that took her from Moscow to Germany, New York, and finally San Diego; discusses how her work on liver fibrosis extends to other surgical fields; and offers a taste of how scientific insights gleaned from her lab are translating into clinical practice.


Santiago Horgan Santiago Horgan

Santiago Horgan directs the Center for the Future of Surgery (CFS) and is Chief of the Division of Minimally Invasive Surgery. Before joining the Department of Surgery at UC San Diego School of Medicine in 2006, Dr. Horgan was director of the Minimally Invasive Surgery and Robotic Surgery Department and co-director of the Swallowing Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He was also director of the Minimally Invasive Bariatric Center in Chicago. In this interview he talks about what led him to surgery, the ongoing expansion of the CFS, and why it's important to be business-savvy when you're a surgeon.


Mahmoud Malas Mahmoud Malas

Dr. Mahmoud Malas will begin as Chief of the Division of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery in September 2018. One of the most active clinical trialists in the country in the field of vascular surgery—a field where the development and implementation of new technology is rapidly occurring—Dr. Malas will bring to UC San Diego 13 years of experience from the Johns Hopkins Medical School, where he directs the Center for Research Excellence and Surgical Trials. In this Q&A, Dr. Malas shares his hopes for the Division, as well as his thoughts on destiny and the path that led him to a career in vascular surgery.


Erik Owens Erik Owens

The Veterans Health Administration is the largest integrated health care system in the United States, with an annual budget of some $68 billion, and responsibility for overseeing delivery of care to more than 9 million veterans. But the VA has been under intense scrutiny in recent months: its leadership is in flux and it is still recovering from a 2014 scandal involving wait times at some facilities. In this Q&A, we talk with Dr. Erik Owens, Chief of Surgical Service at the San Diego VA Medical Center, and Professor of Vascular Surgery at UC San Diego, to understand the issues, get to know him personally, and hear his hopes for the future of the institution.


David Lazar David Lazar

Dr. David Lazar is a pediatric surgeon and assistant professor of surgery at UC San Diego. A graduate of UCSD's general surgery residency program, he specializes in prenatal counseling and intervention; caring for children with thoracic and abdominal congenital anomalies; and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. In this interview, he talks about what it's like to work with kids—and parents; shares new goings-on in the Division of Pediatric Surgery; and recounts the time he played black jack with former Department chair, Dr. A.R. Moossa.


Lisa Parry Lisa Parry

Lisa Parry is Assistant Professor of Surgery in the Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery. In this interview, she discusses why she loves working with residents; innovations in robotic surgery; and dealing with fertility issues as a young female surgeon.


Kristin Mekeel Kristin Mekeel

Dr. Kristin Mekeel is Interim Chief of the Division of Hepatobiliary & Transplant Surgery, and Surgical Director of Kidney Transplantation. Her team performed 85 kidney transplants in 2017—the most since 2010. In this interview, she discusses organ allocation reforms; strategies for increasing the pool of available organs and what it's like to be a woman in surgery.


Gert Pretorius Gert Pretorius

Millions of people suffer from acute and chronic heart failure. In this interview, Dr. Gert Pretorius, Surgical Director of Heart Transplant and Mechanical Circulatory Support Program, discusses heart failure surgery innovations at UC San Diego, including expanding the donor pool by using the hearts of Hepatitis C-positive donors, thanks to highly effective Hepatitis C antivirals.


Bryan Clary Bryan Clary

Bryan Clary, MD, FACS, is Chair of the Department of Surgery at UC San Diego. A nationally recognized specialist in diseases of the liver, pancreas and bile ducts, he was recruited in 2015, from Duke University where he served on faculty for 15 years. In this interview, he discusses challenges and opportunities ahead for the Department and the surgical field; and looks back on what shaped him as a surgeon, and what it was like to grow up in San Diego's neighbor to the east, Imperial Valley.


Jeffrey Harris Jeffrey Harris

Jeffrey Harris, MD, PhD, is Chief of the Division of Otolaryngology / Head & Neck Surgery, the largest division in the Department of Surgery at UC San Diego. In this interview, he reflects on his 38 years at UC San Diego, new happenings in the division—including a new center for acoustic neuroma; ethical dilemmas inherent in the surgical profession; and why he's optimistic about the future.


Raul Coimbra Raul Coimbra

Raul Coimbra, MD, PhD, is an internationally recognized trauma surgeon who specializes in trauma, surgical critical care and acute care surgery. He is the surgeon-in-chief of UC San Diego Medical Center in Hillcrest and the director of the UCSD Level 1 Trauma Center. In this interview he discusses global trauma care; the controversy surrounding the shooting and subsequent care of Rep. Steve Scalise, and how he and others built the UCSD Trauma Center.


Mark Whitehead Mark Whitehead

Mark Whitehead, PhD, is the chief of the Anatomy Division in UC San Diego's Department of Surgery. In this interview with Communications Director Lindsay Morgan, he discusses his research on neuroplasticity, and specifically how taste information is processed by the central nervous system; UC San Diego's dissection-based approach to anatomy education; and whether anatomy is being squeezed from the medical school curriculum?


Raul Coimbra Todd Costantini

Todd Costantini, MD FACS, is assistant director of UC San Diego Health's Level 1 Trauma Center, an assistant professor in the Division of Trauma, Surgical Critical Care, Burns and Acute Care Surgery, and an alum of the UC San Diego general surgery residency program and trauma/surgical critical care fellowship. In this interview, he discusses his ground-breaking research into ways to counteract organ-damaging inflammation; UCSD's Trauma Center and San Diego's unparalleled Trauma System; and how he balances teaching, clinical care, and teaching.


Sonia Ramamoorthy Sonia Ramamoorthy

Dr. Sonia Ramamoorthy is a nationally recognized colorectal surgeon who serves as the Chief of the Division of Colorectal Surgery and as Vice-Chair of the Department for Quality and Safety. In this interview, she talks about what brought her to surgery; the innovations coming out of the UC San Diego's Department of Surgery in quality of care, robotics, and minimally invasive surgery, and shares what she'd do if she weren't a surgeon.