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Center for Compassionate Communication Affiliate Faculty (CCCAF)

Center for Compassion Communication Affiliate Faculty (CCCAF) are graduates of the UC San Diego Health: Sanford Compassionate Communication Academy Fellowship. This unique program creates a space in which past Fellows can connect and support each other as they continue to investigate ways to apply and amplify the skills learned in Fellowship, build physician community connectedness, and watch the ripple effect of outreach. The ultimate goal: empower affiliate faculty and others in their networks to continue to communicate with compassion.

Our Mission

To continue supporting compassionate communication in clinical care, education, and research, address barriers to integrating this work, and provide meaningful interactions to cultivate a community for all UC San Diego Health: Sanford Compassionate Communication Academy Fellowship graduates.

CCCAF Overview


CCCAF brings physicians and artists together to provide a common space for interaction and sharing. Join monthly office hours, book club discussions, cultural outings, and more to build community with our esteemed group of compassionate communicators.


Sanford Institute experts compiled a list of relevant resources to support CCCAF in continuing its critical work in boosting compassionate communication in UC San Diego health departments. It includes upcoming conferences, articles, and much more.

About Us

Meet affiliate faculty members from various UC San Diego health departments who are committed to supporting compassionate communication. 

2023 Affiliate Faculty Members

Meet our 2023 Affiliate Faculty Members

Department of Comprehensive Breast and Health Center


Cecilia Kasperick

Cecilia Kasperick is the Nurse Navigator at UC San Diego Comprehensive Breast Health Center. She received her master’s degree in nursing from the University of San Diego, and has been a nurse at UCSD since 2007.

Cecilia has spent the majority of her career working with oncology patients, and for the past 11 years has exclusively served persons diagnosed with breast cancer. She’s a strong advocate for preventive care, early detection and balanced, holistic living. In her role as Nurse Navigator, Cecilia strives to provide compassionate care and education to patients newly diagnosed with breast cancer. She leads a monthly young survivor’s support group, for women under age 45; and she is actively involved with interdisciplinary process improvement projects, to insure UCSD maintains national accreditation as a Breast Oncology Center of Excellence.

Cecilia holds certifications as a Clinical Nurse Leader, Patient Navigator, Board Certified Holistic Nurse, and Healing Touch Practitioner/Instructor. She has been recognized for her contributions to nursing at UCSD and the wider San Diego community. Cecilia is actively involved with community outreach projects and serves as Breast Team leader for multiple philanthropic events each year. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and anything that involves nature or creativity.


Department of Family Medicine


Julie Celebi

Dr. Çelebi is an Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at UCSD, with a secondary appointment in the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health. She completed her residency in Family Medicine at O’Connor Hospital in San Jose, received a Master of Science in Basic Medical Science from Wayne State University, and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Latin American Studies from the University of Chicago.

As a proud “full-spectrum” family physician, Dr. Çelebi practices the full breadth of primary care for patients of all ages, including children and adults. She cares for a diverse patient population with a special interest in women’s health, obstetrics, in- office procedures, LGBTQ+ healthcare, and medicine for the medically underserved. Dr. Çelebi enjoys fostering long-term relationships with patients, caring for families, and empowering patients with a greater awareness of their health conditions.

Dr. Çelebi serves as Wellness Director for the Department of Family Medicine, systematically addressing complex issues related to physician well-being while creating a culture of wellness and connectivity amongst her coworkers. She is also a part of the core faculty for the UCSD Family Medicine residency and is involved in teaching at UCSD’s School of Medicine in a number of courses and rotations.

Dr. Çelebi enjoys hikes with her partner and two children, practicing yoga, crafting poetry and reflective writing, and finding clarity and peace through meditation. She is fluent in Spanish and looks forward to a future when she can re-engage in global health work.


Department of Medicine


Dr. Maile Young Karris

Dr. Karris is a double boarded infectious diseases physician passionate about improving the healthcare and lives of people living with HIV (PLWH). She is also a “bedside to bench” clinician researcher who pursues research questions that arise from the needs of the people she cares for and that often fills gaps in healthcare. Because the community of PLWH is aging, her primary clinical and research efforts focus on the unmet needs of older adults living with HIV (i.e. loneliness, pain). This is why she is in both the Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health and the Division of Geriatrics, Gerontology and Palliative Care. Dr. Karris currently participates in local, national and leadership roles including as Co-Director of the San Diego Center for AIDS Research (SD CFAR) Clinical Investigations Core, HIV expert of the SD CFAR Implementation Science Hub, board member for Being Alive San Diego, member of the Getting to Zero committee at San Diego County, Co-chair of the Tideswell scientific interest group of the American Geriatrics Society, Vice Chair of the AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG) Underrepresented Populations committee and Co-chair of the ACTG HIV and Aging working group.


Dr. Sandeep Segar

Sandeep Segar is an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Division of Hospital Medicine at UC San Diego. He serves a wellness champion for the Division of Hospital Medicine. Dr. Segar grew up in Hershey, Pennsylvania. He earned his bachelors in Biology, Vertebrate Physiology and a minor in Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies at Penn State University. He received his M.D. from Drexel University and has an appreciation for the city of Philadelphia and their sports teams. He completed his internal medicine residency at University of Michigan. In his free time, Sandeep enjoys surfing, sailing, free diving, yoga, and traveling. 

Department of Neurosciences


Thomas Hemmen

Thomas Hemmen leads the UCSD Stroke Center and functions as collaborative leader bringing together teams from across the medical center to provide comprehensive, compassionate and state-of- the art care for all with stroke and related conditions. Thomas grew up in Germany, received his medical degree from the Freie Universität Berlin, completed internship and residency at NYU Downtown and New York Hospital (Cornell); stroke fellowship at UCSD and Neurological ICU Fellowship at the Philipps Universität Marburg, Germany. He lives with his wife and son in La Jolla (close enough to the Medical Center and still able to go to the beach), enjoys swimming, traveling and reading. Thomas has been a part of the UC San Diego Health community for many years and served on the Board of Governors and Medical Staff Executive Committee. His academic focus is the successful delivery of scientific achievements to patients via excellence in clinical research and emphasis on quality in health care delivery. This has led to over 50 scientific publications, many in the area of performance improvement, membership on regional and international boards with focus on quality in health care and participation and leadership in over 30 clinical trials. In recent years, Thomas completed training in Business Administration (MBA) and engages in healthcare management and business development.

Department of Nursing

Dawn Carroll 

Dawn Carroll joined UCSD in 2014 as 10 ICU Nurse Manager. Currently, Nurse manager of 3F/5H at JMC since opening 2016. She was involved in hiring all staff and crucial in the opening of JMC.  Received her BS/MS from SUNY at Stony Brook and worked as Senior Nurse Practitioner in Perinatal Women's Health. Currently, Carroll has over 15 years of nursing leadership roles in Neuro-Surgical Intensive Care, Cardiovascular and Cardiothoracic Services. Prior to UCSD, she served as Director of Neuro/Surgical Intensive Care unit and Director of Trauma/Step Down at Regional Medical Center in Hudson Florida from 2008 to 2013.  I was crucial in the development of HCA's first Trauma Center. Her nursing team was recognized, based on her nomination, in Advance for Nurses for adaptability. The winning letter was featured in the May 2013 issue of Advance for Nurses. Carroll also served as Nurse Manager of the ICUs and Rapid Response teams at Palomar. She am active in the nursing community and belong to several professional organizations such as ACNL, ANA, AONE and as a committee member of the Philanthropy for ACNL.  In December of 2021, Graduated from University of San Francisco with DNP in Executive Leadership.


Department of Quality and Patient Safety

Cynthia Edgelow

Cynthia Edgelow, MSN is the Director of Regulatory Affairs here at UC San Diego Health (UCSDH). Prior
to UCSDH she has held a number of leadership roles throughout her varied nursing career. Cynthia
spent many years at Mayo Clinic where she developed Endoscopy RN and Endoscopy Technician
programs through Mayo School of Health Sciences. She was recipient of the Innovation Award in 2011
by the Association of California Nurse Leaders for the development of the NEST Model of Care. Cynthia
most recently returned from being part of a team that opened up Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi (CCAD); a
quaternary care facility in the United Arab Emirates. During her time at CCAD she received a number of
leadership awards including Scholar of the month and 4 th Quarter Caregiver of the Year. She is a national speaker on a variety of subjects including such topics as team building, hands on technical work, infection control, documentation, and providing structure in a dynamic work setting. Cynthia is Past Chair of Education for the National Society of Gastroenterology Nurse and Associates. She is a Nursing scholar/mentor, research reviewer for Sigma Theta Tau National Honor Society and McMaster
University, and Past Adjunct Faculty at Arizona State University.

Meet our 2023 Artist Fellows

School of Art + Design


Merri Biechler

Merri Biechler is the Director of the School of Theater, and Associate Professor of Instruction at Ohio University. She's a playwright, actor, and eduactor, and the recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award and Boomerang Fund for Artists award.

Her plays include Tammy Faye's Final Audition (Tantrum Theater, Dublin, OH; Centenary Stage Company; Cincinnati Fringe 2015 - Best of Fringe; Washington DC Capital Fringe 2015 - Best of Fringe); An Appalachian Christmas Carol (Brick Monkey Theater Ensemble world premiere; Woodford Theatre, KY); Confessions of a Reluctant Caregiver  (Northern Light Theatre in Edmonton, Alberta, world premiere; Princess Grace Award finalist; Jane Chambers Student Playwriting Award winner; Kendeda Graduate Playwriting Competition finalist; WordBRIDGE Playwrights Laboratory participant, and the recipient of grants totalling $40,000 to use the play as a teaching tool for medical students); and Dooley Madison and the Secret History Club (Kennedy Center/White House Historical Association commission). Merri received her MFA in playwriting from Ohio University.

As an actor, Merri attended North Carolina School of the Arts and studied with Sanford Meitner at the Neighborhood Playhouse and at his home on the island of Bequia, West Indies. She spent 18 months with the original Off-Broadway cast of Tony 'n Tina's Wedding, appeared in the films He Said, She Said; The Thing Called Love; Claire in Motion; Trailerpark; and Pieces of April; and guest-starred on episodes of Judging Amy, E.R., an Murphy Brown. She appeared in Tantrum Theater's production of The Cake

Her latest project, with co-creator Samuel Dodd, is The Healthy Village: Immersive Healthcare Theater. It uses fine arts techniques and methods to teach healthcare students to work in partnership with their patients.

School of Theater


Angela Sprunger

Angela Sprunger is a Assistant Professor of Instruction in the School of Art + Design at Ohio University. She is also the Assistant Director of the Ohio Valley Center for Collaborative Arts at Ohio University. She holds an MFA in Printmaking and a Graduate Certificate of Gerontology from Ohio University and a BA in Studio Art and English from Saint Olaf College. Angela has worked for more than fifteen years in arts and higher education administration, including positions at the University of Minnesota and Wormfarm Institute. In her studio art practice, Angela’s work centers on themes of care, institutions and aging. She produces work through an expanded printmaking practice of iteration, multiples, hand-made paper, objects, and performance. 

2022 Affiliate Faculty Members

Meet our 2022 Affiliate Faculty Members


Department of Community Care

Dr. Michele Kowalski-McGraw

Dr. Michele Kowalski-McGraw has extensive experience in Occupational Medicine in multiple health systems and is dually certified in Family Medicine and Occupational Medicine.  She leads the Occupational Medicine program in the Community Care Dept. and is working to bridge Occupational Medicine and Primary Care. Her most recent project is development of CDC’s Occupational Date for Health which will facilitate communication about work between patients and their providers to be used for improved individual patient care and population health. She is active member of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine where she is on the executive board of the Health Informatics Section, working on projects such as development of best practices for telemedicine.  Before coming to UCSD, she served as Medical director of Occupational Health at Geisinger health, and also held a position as Adjunct Professor, Dept. of Clinical Sciences at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine, where her focus was on teaching primary care communication skills to students.

Her career began in Family Medicine and afforded the opportunity to work at an Occupational Medicine Clinic and in Urgent Care. She was drawn to the preventive medicine aspects of Occupational Medicine and sought a second board certification to develop her knowledge and expertise in this field. She pursues her passion for prevention through research, program development and education to patients, students, coworkers and friends.


Department of Family Medicine and Public Health


Dr. Dustin Lillie

Dr. Dustin Lillie is a Clinical Professor in the Department of Family Medicine. His clinical practice has spanned two decades where he provides continuity care for patients of all ages. Dr. Lillie has served in multiple leadership roles throughout the UC San Diego Health System including Chief of Medical Staff and his current focus is on improving quality and throughout UC San Diego Health. In addition, Dr. Lillie has served as the Program Director for the Family Medicine Residency Training Program since 2010 where he has mentored over a hundred Family Physicians in their training. In both of these domains, Dr. Lillie has seen how healthcare communication impacts quality of care, safety, and the wellbeing of patients and providers. I am proud to be selected as a fellow in this inaugural class with the Center for Compassionate Communication.


Department of Medicine


Dr. Gary Buckholz

Dr. Gary Buckholz is a Hospice and Palliative Care physician and Clinical Professor at UCSD. He received his MD from the University of Kansas and completed his Family Medicine residency at Brown University. He completed fellowship training in Hospice and Palliative Care at the Institute for Palliative Medicine in San Diego. Dr. Buckholz currently serves as Fellowship Director for UCSD’s Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship. He provides palliative care consultation utilizing a team approach emphasizing effective communication for hospitalized patients. He values showing compassion and communicating in ways that improves patients’ (and their families’) experiences. Early in his career, he never thought of himself as a teacher, but has grown to love teaching communication skills after witnessing the ripple effects it can create. He has assisted in training over 120 Palliative Care physicians and routinely teaches other primary and subspecialty clinicians. He is active in several national professional organizations with a focus on communication and education. He enjoys spending time with his family and mountain biking through Los Peñasquitos Canyon trails. Dr. Buckholz is a past recipient of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine’s Gerald H. Holman Distinguished Service Award as well as the Cal State San Marcos Doris Howell Award for Advancing Palliative Care.



Dr. Kadee Winters

Dr. Kathryn (“Kadee”) Winters is a palliative care physician and an assistant professor at UC San Diego Health. Her clinical work is centered on serving hospitalized patients suffering out-of-control symptoms as well as the emotional pain that often accompanies a medical crisis and/or the end of life.  

Outside the clinical, Kadee teaches and advises physician trainees across the spectrum. In January 2020, she was appointed as an Academic Community Director at the UCSD School of Medicine. In this role, much of her effort goes toward mentoring medical students and creating connection within and across class years.  

Kadee has a passion for experiencing and celebrating the big mess of this life. She thinks a lot about the things that make us human—our empathy, our flaws and failures, our joys, anxieties, and our capacity to make meaning as we journey along in the world. She is the mother of a lovely young sunflower—Cecelia, who will soon be two years old—and partner to Karim, whom, by mad luck, she met in a pottery class in Balboa Park some years ago. 

Kadee earned her medical degree from UC San Diego School of Medicine in 2013, then completed her internal medicine residency at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore in 2016. Following residency, Kadee returned home to San Diego to complete a one-year hospice and palliative medicine fellowship at UC San Diego/Scripps. With excitement and gratitude, she joined the faculty here at UCSD in the fall of 2017. 


Department of Pediatrics


Dr. Ami Doshi

Dr. Ami Doshi is a pediatric hospitalist and palliative medicine physician at Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego and the medical director of palliative care. Diego. She is also the Galinson Family Endowed Chair in Palliative Care. She is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UC San Diego School of Medicine in the Division of Pediatric Hospital Medicine. She serves as Vice Chair for Faculty Development and the Well-Being Director for the department of Pediatrics.

Dr. Doshi is actively involved with the education and mentorship of pediatric fellows and residents from UC San Diego and the Navy Medical Center San Diego as well UC San Diego medical students. Her academic interests are in palliative medicine, communication, and physician well-being. Her research focuses on palliative care education, and she has created and disseminated curricula for trainees and attending physicians to foster primary palliative care and communication skills, and to promote compassion in medical students.

After earning her undergraduate degree in psychobiology at the University of Southern California, Dr. Doshi completed her medical training at University of California, Irvine and continued her pediatric residency at UC San Diego, where she completed her pediatric hospital medicine fellowship. She completed her palliative medicine training through Harvard School of Medicine’s Program in Palliative Care Education and Practice.

She is motivated by supporting patients, colleagues and trainees in growing, thriving, and fulfilling their potential.



Dr. Vanessa Scott

Vanessa P. Scott, MD, MS is a board-certified pediatrician who provides primary care for infants, children and young adults up to age 21. She has a special interest in nutrition, preventive care, breastfeeding support and parenting techniques.

As an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at UC San Diego School of Medicine, Dr. Scott educates medical students and residents. Her research interests include developing technology-based interventions to improve patient/parent-physician communication, inspire behavior change, and decrease health disparities for topics such as nutrition, breastfeeding and immunization delivery. She has a passion for global health and is the Director of the elective, “Think Globally, Act Locally” during which pediatric residents serve cross-border populations, immigrants and refugees in San Diego and Tijuana.

Dr. Scott completed a general academic fellowship in community health research at Columbia University Medical Center and obtained a master’s degree in epidemiology from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. She did residency training in pediatrics at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York and at UC San Diego School of Medicine. She earned her medical degree from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. Dr. Scott is board certified in pediatrics. 

She is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics (FAAP), and member of the Society for Pediatric Research and the Academic Pediatric Association. 

In her free time, Dr. Scott stays active through tennis, running and surfing. She also enjoys drawing, photography, cooking with her husband, and gardening with her kids.


Department of Radiology


Dr. Isabel Newton

Isabel is an Interventional Radiology physician-scientist at the VA San Diego Medical Center and UCSD. She is Chief of Interventional Radiology at the VASDMC. She served as co-Director of the UCSD T32-funded Clinician-Scientist Radiology Research Program and was the Program Director for UCSD Interventional Radiology Residency. She served as the Wellness Director for Radiology at UCSD and now serves that role at the VASDMC. Isabel received a scholarship to participate in the 2021 Stanford University Wellness Director course, and she also participated in UCSD’s Compassion Cultivation Training. She is an active member of the UCSD Radiology Committee on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Her translational research focuses on reducing recurrence after locoregional therapies for liver cancer.  Specifically, her laboratory studies the effects of thermal ablation for liver cancer on liver cancer stem cells and the immune response. Isabel is also Co-Founder and Chair of the Interventional Initiative (the II), a 501c3 organization dedicated to increasing public awareness and understanding of of minimally invasive, image-guided procedures. Currently she co-leads the II's Patient Decision support Aid Initiative. This grant-funded initiative is aimed at making the informed consent process in IR clearer, standardized, and more equitable. They are producing high quality, engaging multimedia materials in English and Spanish plain language for IRs and patients to use during the consent process. Isabel has also co-Directed and co-Produced the 4-episode documentary series, Without a Scalpel, which is available on numerous on-demand platforms, including Amazon. 

Meet Our Artist Fellows



John-Michael Maury

John-Michael Maury has been acting and improvising since a young age. In 2002 he moved to Los Angeles where he appeared in numerous national commercials, TV shows and films. Some past credits include “That 70’s Show”, “Passions”, and “Heroes” where he  played the recurring role of Deputy Lloyd. This performer’s journey gave him tremendous  experiences including working in medical education as a simulated patient.  

He formally began his improvisational training at Mission Improvable’s WestSide Comedy Theatre in Santa Monica, CA in 2008. In 2011 he moved to San Diego and began deepening his improvisational skills at the National Comedy Theatre (NCT) where he  joined their main-stage cast as a professional in 2012. As a performer and facilitator at  NCT, he put his Ithaca College music degree to use by creating and facilitating their Musical Improv program. 

John-Michael is currently the Manager of the Standardized Patient Program at UC San Diego’s School of Medicine, where he works mainly in Undergraduate Medical Education supporting students as they better their ‘bed-side manner’ while  becoming more clinically competent. He successfully co-created and continues to teach the  Medical-Improv electives course helping 1st and 2nd year medical students sharpen their communications skills through the art form of improvisation. He believes in the power of human connection and utilizes the skills and principles learned from improv to help guide others toward working together as one.



Kim Rubinstein

Professor Emeritus Kim Rubinstein has taught acting and directing to undergraduate and graduate students for the Department of Theatre and Dance at UC San Diego since 2007. She has also taught at Northwestern University (10 years), Brown/Trinity Consortium, Wesleyan University, Yale University, University of Chicago, Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center, Teatro degli Stracci, and an ongoing summer gig with the School at Steppenwolf and Steppenwolf West, working with actors/directors in an immersive, intensive month of ensemble training.

Kim is an award -winning theatre director and served as Associate Artistic Director for the Long Wharf Theatre. She has also directed at prestigious theatres such as The Odyssey, The Old Globe. Chicago ShakespeareSan Diego Rep, La Jolla Playhouse, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, Portland Center Stage, Court Theatre, and others. Kim was the Associate Director (with Michael Mayer) of the national tour of Angels in America.     

Her current passion is the development and implementation of an embodied system of training the brain toward optimal creative thinking and innovation. Called Ten Facets of the Creative Mind, the embodied training synthesizing neuroscience with theatre theory and practice. She has taught courses called “Cultivating the Creative Mind”, and “Coping and Creating” Zoom workshops during the pandemic.

Ms. Rubinstein has been developing and leading Communicating Research workshops for both the Graduate Division for the past 8 years, as well as training Biology and Physical Sciences faculty in the art of communicating science to the general public, funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. 


Open and free to all affiliate faculty members, events are a special way to enjoy all that CCCAF has to offer.

Monthly Office Hours

CCCAF offers monthly office hours on the second Monday of each month. During these sessions, you can:
  • Share your experience post-Fellowship;
  • Get feedback from the group on a presentation or project you are working on;
  • And more! 

Upcoming Events

Stay tuned for the CCCAF's upcoming events in 2023-24:

  • Book club discussions
  • Research meetings
  • In-person gatherings (e.g., dinners and cultural/art-based outings)


Explore relevant resources that offer CCCAF members support in their endeavor to amplify compassionate communication. 

Internal Resources

Upcoming Conferences

Affiliate Faculty Member Resources Course in Canvas

Click here to visit the Affiliate Faculty Member Resources Course in Canvas to access materials aimed at helping you facilitate your own compassionate communication sessions.

On this page, you will find:

  • Facilitation Guides;
  • Exercises;
  • PowerPoint materials;
  • Discussion;
  • Exercises; and,
  • Other relevant assets.
Please Note: You will be asked to sign on with your UCSD SSO credentials.

Public Resources

Understanding & Addressing Microaggressions & Unconscious Bias

The Arts & Humanities in Medicine

Empathy & Compassion in Medicine

Practicing Communication

Mental Health

Get Involved

Interested in engaging with the Center for Compassionate Communication? Contact us today and a team member will be in touch with you as soon as possible.