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Get to Know Us

At the core of compassionate communication


The Center for Compassionate Communication is uniquely positioned to lead the charge in the development of evidence-based training in interpersonal communication, in order to ignite compassionate relationships in healthcare. Learn more about our story and team below.

About Us

Our story

The way we communicate is deeply tied to our personal story. Who are you in this moment? What is your history? Our personal perspectives, emotions, and goals influence what we recognize and what we ignore.

Our team utilizes interdisciplinary methods to help healthcare teams improve their skills in listening, awareness, attunement and connection. You will learn a great deal about the power of compassion for your patients and yourself.

If you are a clinician/researcher and struggle to explain complicated topics to the public, you might be interested in our recent article in the Journal for Clinical and Translational Science called "Finding the Story," in which we provide helpful techniques to engage your audience and communicate clearly and vividly.

Why we care

At times, we’re asked to give what we don’t have…

Every healthcare provider can relate to that statement. Particularly during COVID, the heroics of our healthcare front line defines compassion. And yet, support is needed. For example, research shows that physician burnout is a serious national problem, affecting more than 50% of U.S. physicians, leading to increased physician suicide rates, poor health outcomes, and a decreasing physician workforce. Improving interpersonal communication skills has been shown to help alleviate burnout and improve team and personal engagement, reconnecting you to your passion and the art of medicine.

Improving communication with your leader also correlates with the prevention of burnout. You may take on leadership responsibilities at one time or another during your career and may need to learn and acquire management and leadership skills to coach, develop others and effectively lead. 

Communication training seems like a tall order within systems that are not always ideal. Measures like Press Ganey scores hold physicians responsible for their communication skills, and the Center for Compassionate Communication can help you personally and professionally.

UCSD’s investment in time and resources to physician communication skills is essential to our patients and to you, our healthcare providers.

Center Communication Team

"Breakthrough principles of creativity occur at novel intersections." —Frans Johansson, The Medici Effect

Our Team


Evonne Kaplan-Liss, MD MPH 
Director, Center for Compassionate Communication
Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion
Professor of Pediatrics

Dr. Kaplan-Liss is a national leader in communication training in medicine. Before coming to UCSD, she held the first dean-level position in a medical school, TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine with the mission to train Empathetic Scholars®. Dr. Kaplan-Liss came to TCU from the nationally acclaimed Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, where she was the Founding Medical Program Director and trained thousands of physicians and medical students to communicate with empathy and clarity. Her life’s work is dedicated to training healthcare providers, medical students, and researchers to communicate with compassion with their patients, colleagues from other disciplines, the community, the media, funders, benefactors, and policymakers. 

 As a former journalist and physician, Dr. Kaplan-Liss brings journalism and medicine to an interdisciplinary curriculum called The Compassionate Practice® that includes practices in theatre, narrative medicine, journalism, and public health. Her journalism career began when she graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in 1988 and landed her first job as a researcher for Ted Koppel’s Nightline for ABC News. She left Nightline to pursue her interest in medical journalism, working as an associate producer and then segment producer on medical news for syndicated TV programs. Dr. Kaplan-Liss began her quest to combine her interests in journalism and medicine when she graduated from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Dr. Kaplan-Liss did residencies in both pediatrics and preventive medicine and has a Master’s in Public Health from Columbia University’s Mailmen School of Public Health. She is board certified in pediatrics.  

Evonne serves on the AAMC Fundamental Role in the Arts and Humanities in Medical Education Integration Committee, charged with setting the stage to incorporate the arts and humanities in medicine.




Val Lantz-Gefroh, MFA
Director of Communication Education
Center for Compassionate Communication
Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion

Val is a professional actor, director, and teacher. She came to UCSD after serving as the Artistic Director of the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine. For the last decade she has created unique curricula based on theater practice and other disciplines to help healthcare providers, students and researchers connect and engage more effectively with their audiences.

As Artistic Director, she led the development of an innovative communication curriculum called The Compassionate Practice® to fulfill the mission of the school to train physicians to become Empathetic Scholars®. From 2009 to 2018, Val was the founding Improvisation Program Director at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science where her curriculum has been taught to over 15,000 undergrads, grad students, post-docs, faculty, senior researchers, business professionals, medical students, doctors, nurses, and Nobel Prize winners around the world.  

Val’s background as an actor began with training from the prestigious University of North Carolina School of the Arts. She has worked in professional theater for 30 years, and in her spare time, Val tours Standing in my Shoes, a one-woman story about her brother’s death, to medical schools and hospitals to create conversations around empathy and resilience. 

Val has worked as a consultant and mentor with business leaders, educators, and theater artists. Above all, she thinks of herself as a teacher. She loves working with students from all walks of life and helping them discover and hone their talents and their connections with themselves and their audiences.




Gary Buckholz, MD, HMDC, FAAHPM
Fellowship Co-Director / Clinical Professor Doris A. Howell Palliative Care Consultation Service

Center for Compassionate Communication
Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion

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. Gary 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. Gary 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.



Tim Goldman, MA
Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Compassionate Communication
Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion

Tim is Senior Instructional Designer at the Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion. Prior to joining UC San Diego, he spent 15 years in consumer electronics and tech designing training programs for Sony Electronics and Viasat, where he educated internal and external teams in support of nationwide product launches. Tim has partnered with staff development leaders at Google, Microsoft, Dolby Labs, Adobe, Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart and others, bringing big-picture visions into tangible form via thoughtful messaging and practical execution strategies.

Tim has produced a variety of educational and training programs, including live streaming broadcasts that enable executives to influence and inform in real time. He also develops document and design standards that are applicable across organizations, authors E-learning modules and produces video content. Tim’s training philosophy is rooted in an appreciation for the end-user’s context, always seeing it as the proper starting point for effective adult instructional design.

A California native, Tim earned an M.A. in Rhetoric and Professional Writing from San Diego State University and a B.A. in History from UCLA. His myriad vocational experiences include stints as a recording engineer in Hollywood, bartender in San Francisco, magazine writer in Orange County and golf instructor in northern California. A natural teacher, Tim’s curiosity about the world drives him through a life of learning. He spends his leisure time cooking, swimming, recording music and playing golf in America's Finest City.




Erin Kinoshita
Administrative Assistant
Center for Compassionate Communication
Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion

Erin Kinoshita is the Administrative Assistant for the Center for Compassionate Communication.

Before joining the Center for Compassionate Communication, Erin was the Executive Assistant to the Division Chief of Gastroenterology, Vice Chair for Clinical Operations Department of Medicine, and Director of the UCSD IBD Center, for eight years.

Before joining UCSD Erin was in the wellness industry for 10 years, as an owner and manager of a day spa, an instructor at several massage therapy schools and a licensed Holistic Healthcare Professional. Prior to that she was a Senior Engineer in Logistics as a civilian contractor for the Naval Air Technical Data and Engineering Service Command (NATEC). Erin was also a top sales performer and manager in the high tech and pharmaceutical industries.

Erin enjoys spending her free time with her family and volunteering at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego and various children’s art programs.

Affiliate Faculty

Meet Our Affiliate Faculty Fellows



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.



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. 



Dr. 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.



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.



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.



Dr. 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.



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.


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.


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.



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.



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. 



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.



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. 



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. 



Dr. Rabia Atayee

Dr. Rabia Atayee is the Associate Dean for Admissions and Outreach and Professor of Clinical Pharmacy at University of California (UC) San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (SSPPS).  Dr. Atayee is a board-certified pharmacotherapy specialist and advanced practice pharmacist with expertise in palliative care. She has developed her role and the presence of a pharmacist on the palliative care team at UC San Diego Health System under a Collaborative Practice Protocol that has been approved and credentialed to practice under expanded scope of practice within the health system.  She was the first pharmacist in southern California to obtain a DEA license in 2006 and has the authority to initiate controlled substances for the treatment of her palliative care patients.  Her clinical expertise and excellence in patient care is exemplified by the growth of her clinical practice.  Dr. Atayee’s major research focus is in the area of palliative care with a minor research focus in the area of pharmacy education.  Dr. Atayee has published 71 pub-med indexed to date and has had several podium and poster presentations at regional and national levels.  At UC San Diego, she has consistently achieved teaching excellence as documented in her evaluations in the classroom and on clinical rotations.  In 2013 she was nominated by the Deans of UC San Diego SSPPS and presented with the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) Teacher of the Year Award, in 2014 she was awarded UC San Diego SSPPS Teacher of the Year Award by the class of 2017 and in 2018 she was awarded the UC San Diego campus-wide distinguished teaching award.  She was a founding member of the Society of Pain and Palliative Care Pharmacists and has served as president-elect, president, and immediate past-president from 2016-2018. Dr. Atayee is currently serving her term as Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS) Oncology Pharmacy Specialty Council (2018-2021).  She was appointed as the first non-physician to the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine Awards Committee in 2020.  In 2022, Dr. Atayee was awarded the UC San Diego Inaugural Palliative Care Values in Action Award and selected as a Fellow of the Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (FAAHPM). Additionally, Dr. Atayee serves as an expert witness for the Department of Justice and San Diego County District Attorney’s office. 



Dr. Joel Baumgartner

I am currently an Associate Professor of Surgery, in the Division of Surgical Oncology, at the University of California, San Diego. I joined the faculty at UCSD in 2012 and my clinical practice focuses on surgical management of peritoneal metastases and cutaneous malignancies. I completed a Master’s degree in clinical research at UCSD in 2014. My research has primarily focused on clinical investigations in the diagnosis, treatment and surveillance of patients with peritoneal metastases from a variety of primary tumors. This has included establishment of an institutional peritoneal surface malignancy database, collaboration with other institutions with similar databases, and investigator-initiated clinical trials in the postoperative management and treatment in this population. I have also been involved in sponsored clinical trials in melanoma and other cutaneous malignancies, as well as oversee the tissue collection protocol for my institution’s tumor infiltrating lymphocyte program. I have mentored several pre-medical and medical students as well as surgical residents in various clinical research projects.

I am the surgery clerkship director at UCSD and I serve as an instructor on several other medical student courses, including the residency training course, first and second year medical student shadowing course, and the third year medical student surgical apprenticeship course. I also am associate director of the Master Clinician Program for students on the surgery clerkship, which aims to improve medical student clinical skills, empathy, and communication. I also instruct residents in the UCSD general surgery residency as a faculty member, participating in teaching in clinic and in the operating room and participating in didactic conferences.



Dr. Daniel Callies

Daniel Edward Callies, PhD, is the Ethics Program Manager and Clinical Ethicist for the UC San Diego Health System. Prior to joining UCSD, he was the Senior Clinical Ethics Fellow for the UCLA Health System, a Postdoctoral Scholar at UCSD’s Institute for Practical Ethics, the Bernheim Postdoctoral Fellow in Social Responsibility at the Université Catholique de Louvain, and a Predoctoral Research Fellow at Harvard University. He earned his PhD from Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany.

Dr. Callies’ research falls under the broad umbrella of practical ethics, with a current focus on issues related to medical decision-making capacity, just health care resource allocation, and physician obligations with respect to futile medical treatment. He is also widely published in the sub-discipline of environmental bioethics. His first book (Climate Engineering: A Normative Perspective) came out in 2019 with Lexington Books, and his articles have been published in well-regarded academic journals such as: Bioethics; Journal of Applied Philosophy; American Journal of Bioethics; Politics, Philosophy, & Economics; and Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics.

With an enthusiasm for teaching, Dr. Callies has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics, politics, and critical thinking, and has lectured on clinical ethics at both UCLA and UCSD’s School of Medicine. In his role as UCSD’s Clinical Ethicist, he works with patients, families and treating teams to provide equitable, just, and compassionate healthcare.

When not engaged in scholarship, teaching, or clinical duties, Dr. Callies can be found golfing, backpacking, and surfing throughout Southern California.



Dr. Caitlin Costello

As a member of the Division of Blood and Marrow Transplantation, Dr. Costello is dedicated to providing excellent care for patients with a variety of hematologic malignancies, with a specific focus in plasma cell dyscrasias disorders, bone marrow transplantation, and cellular therapy. Dr. Caitlin Costello’s research interests focus particularly on the refinement of the management and treatment of multiple myeloma. She is dedicated to conducting clinical trials with novel agents and treatment strategies to expand the therapeutic options for patients with multiple myeloma.

Dr. Costello completed a fellowship in hematology-oncology with a focus in bone marrow transplantation at UC San Diego School of Medicine. She completed a residency in internal medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Dr. Costello earned her medical degree at Tufts University School of Medicine and undergraduate degree at Harvard University.


Diana Davalos

My name is Diana M. Davalos. I am a nurse manager of a 36-bed progressive care unit at UCSD Medical Center in Hillcrest. I am a lifelong learner, and I am passionate about nursing. I decided to become a nursing leader in 2021. This role has been the most challenging and rewarding role I have ever done. My ultimate goal is to be a better leader every day and continue to climb the mountain of challenges that face the nursing profession and the patients in and out of hospitals. Serving in the United States Army with two deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq has given me some foundations in leadership that I found helpful. Being a single mother of two children has taught me life lessons and helped me to strive for a better future for everyone. I am currently in an MSN program for Executive Nurse Leadership and find that school complimented well with my role as a nurse manager because I learn how to be a better nurse leader every day. I am constantly searching for tools to be a more effective leader.



Heather Davis

Heather Davis, MSN, RN, PCCN, SCRN began her nursing career in 2011 and started at UCSD in 2015. She has worked in various roles throughout her career including long term care, hospice, outpatient surgery, med surg/Tele and Progressive Care. She advanced into her role as an Advance Practice Specialist in 2021. She is passionate about mentoring new graduate RN's and supporting evidence-based practice projects on her unit. In her free time, she enjoys reading, hiking and live music.



Dr. Lisa Eyler

Lisa Eyler, PhD (she/her) is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California San Diego and a Clinical Research Psychologist in the Desert-Pacific Mental Illness Research Education and Clinical Center (MIRECC) at the VA San Diego Healthcare System where she serves as Director of the MIRECC Mental Health in Aging Unit. In addition, she is the Director of the Center for Empathy and Compassion Training in Medical Education, which is part of the T. Denny Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion at UC San Diego. Dr. Eyler is chair of the Psychiatry Department’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Action Council, and involved in many equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives at UCSD. In addition to her leadership and administrative roles, Dr. Eyler has a federally- and foundation-funded program of clinical research focused on the biopsychology of healthy aging, aging in the context of serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and autism. She also has designed and studied educational programs to enhance empathy and compassion among medical learners. She is a dedicated mentor to trainees at all levels of experience -- from high school to faculty. She has developed several well- received workshops to foster inclusive environments, which she has facilitated at UCSD, other universities, and at national and international society meetings. In 2019, Dr. Eyler was selected as the Campus-Wide Faculty Honoree for the UCSD Inclusive Excellence Awards.


Dr. Juan Javier-DesLoges

Juan Javier-DesLoges, MD, is a urologic oncologist who focuses on the management of prostate, bladder, kidney, and ureteral cancer.   Dr. Javier-DesLoges has a background in health services research and translational research with a particular interest in genetic markers, patient-centered outcomes, health policy and health disparities.  As an assistant professor of urology at UC San Diego School of Medicine, he is involved in training medical students, residents and fellows. His research has been published in a variety of books and journals, including the Cancer, Journal of Urology, Urology, JAMA, and Urologic Oncology. He currently serves on the editorial board for the Journal of Urology. He is also a co-investigator on clinical trials and holds a certificate in clinical trial design and development.  Dr. Javier-DesLoges completed a fellowship in urologic oncology at UC San Diego School of Medicine and his residency in urology at Yale University. He obtained his medical degree from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. He also holds a master's degree from New York Medical College and completed his bachelor's degree in biology from Boston College.  Outside of work, he spends time with his wife who is an emergency medicine physician, their two daughters, and their dog. He speaks Spanish fluently.



Dr. Krishelle Marc-Aurele

Dr. Krishelle Marc-Aurele works as a neonatologist at the University of California, San Diego Jacobs Medical Center and a palliative medicine specialist at Rady Children’s Hospital. She is a Professor of Pediatrics and the Program Director for the Neonatal-Perinatal Fellowship.

She is board certified in pediatrics, internal medicine, neonatology, and palliative medicine. Dr. Marc-Aurele completed her neonatal fellowship at UC San Diego/Rady Children's Hospitals, followed by a hospice and palliative medicine fellowship at San Diego Hospice and the Institute for Palliative Medicine. Her clinical and research interests include perinatal palliative care and bereavement as well as end-of-life care.



Dr. William Mitchell

I am a 48-year-old husband and father of four.  I am originally from Idaho, was raised in Utah and have lived in San Diego for 17 years since my family and I moved her for the final chapters of my medical training.  I enjoy most anything in the mountains including hiking, skiing, running, and cycling.  I am trying to learn Spanish, ethnic cooking and gardening.  A few close friends and my faith also make my life more complete.  In my professional life, I am fellowship trained in both palliative care and medical oncology and practiced both at UC San Diego Health starting in 2009.  I served as the medical director of the Doris Howell Palliative Care Service at UCSD for nearly ten years from 2010 to 2020.  That service experienced over four-fold growth during that period which was exciting and exhausting.  I’m very proud of what we accomplished as a palliative care team.  I recently decided to scale back my overly-broad clinical work and focus on medical oncology, specifically thoracic malignancies.  I love my work, particularly my patients.  They are why I come to work every day.  Each person is unique and the opportunity to engage with them when they need help is a privilege.  I love celebrating successes with them and feel humbled to help make the most of the difficult circumstances we too often encounter together.



Dr. Geoffroy Noel

Geoffroy Noel, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Surgery at University of California, San Diego, and Chief of the Division of Anatomy. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Anatomy and an Affiliate Member of the Institute of Health Sciences Education, at McGill University, Canada. He completed his undergraduate and graduate work at École Normale Supérieure de Paris, France, and the University of British Columbia, Canada. Dr. Noel’s research has focused on the adoption of humanistic practices in medical education to provide venues for students to feel attached to the body donors during cadaveric-based sessions and help them foster empathetic and compassionate responses towards the donors. As the body donors will likely serve as mental templates in which students can recognize that body donors are individuals with unique perspectives and personal histories, providing students with tools to oscillate between clinical detachment and emotional attachment will serve them in their future patient interactions. Recently, Dr. Noel implemented meditation activities to improve positive pro-social emotions and behaviors and help student develop self-management skills that are so important in maintaining wellbeing while facing challenging situations/emotions during clinical practice.

Dr. Noel had dedicated his work in leading mulicenter studies looking at students’ reflections on life’s passing in the anatomy course and compassion cultivating intervention, locally and internationally accross a wide spectrum of health professional training programs.

Over the last 10 years, Dr. Noel also led many investigations to use medical imaging in the anatomy laboratory, as a way to humanize the body donors.



Dr. Rachna Subramony

Dr. Rachna Subramony is currently an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at UCSD. She is passionate about clinical medicine, Emergency Ultrasound, medical student education, and physician well-being. She serves as the Wellness Co-Director for the Emergency Department. Her goal is to promote the professional fulfillment, resilience, and well-being of the faculty by utilizing discussion groups and creating a culture of respect and open bidirectional communication. She hopes to conduct further research in physician well-being to help identify root causes of burnout and pursue change. To prioritize safe patient care and help all our physicians perform optimally, she also serves on the Medical Staff Physician Well-Being Committee with the goal of early interventions and providing appropriate resources for treatment, rehabilitation, and monitoring for physicians struggling with medical, cognitive, mental health or substance abuse that could be a threat to providing quality patient care. To promote patient safety and attainment of the highest quality of clinical care, she also serves as a Physician Enhancement Program (PEP) mentor and has received training in peer support and have been recognized as a Tier 2 Peer Supporter to help serve and maintain the health and wellness of our UCSD family.



Dr. Kanani Titchen

Dr. Titchen specializes in caring for preteens, teens, and young adults both inpatient at Rady Children's Hospital Medical Behavioral Unit (MBU) and outpatient in the UCSD/Rady Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine clinic, where she is Director of the Adolescent Reproductive Medicine Clinic. She serves as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at UC San Diego School of Medicine. Dr. Titchen earned her bachelor's degree in psychology and music from Tufts University before earning her premedical certificate from Columbia University and her medical degree from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, where she also completed her pediatrics residency. She completed an adolescent medicine fellowship at the Children's Hospital at Montefiore in the Bronx, N.Y. and is double board certified in general pediatrics and adolescent medicine. Dr. Titchen's research and advocacy interests include trauma-sensitive care and human trafficking, resilience in at-risk and marginalized youth, as well as female athlete triad and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Dr. Titchen serves on committees for the Society of Adolescent Health and Medicine, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology. She is a Nexplanon hormonal implant trainer with Merck/Organon. As a nationally recognized speaker on the topic of human trafficking, Dr. Titchen is a consultant to HEAL Trafficking and the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Center for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and she is Co-Founder of the Physicians Against the Trafficking of Humans, a program of the American Medical Women's Association.



Dr. Elizabeth W. Twamley

Dr. Twamley earned a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Arizona State University and completed her clinical psychology internship and postdoctoral fellowship at UC San Diego (UCSD) and the VA San Diego Healthcare System (VASDHS). She joined the faculty of the UCSD Department of Psychiatry in 2003, where she does research, teaching, and clinical work. She is a Professor of Psychiatry at UCSD, Director of the NIMH T32 Research Fellowship in Geriatric Mental Health at UCSD, and serves as the Conflict Resolution Advocate for the Department of Psychiatry. At the VA San Diego Healthcare System, Dr. Twamley is the Director of the Clinical Research Unit of the Center of Excellence for Stress and Mental Health and a VA Rehabilitation Research and Development Research Career Scientist.

Dr. Twamley’s research focuses on bridging neuropsychology and interventions for individuals with psychiatric illness, history of traumatic brain injury, or other cognitive impairments. Her current intervention studies focus on compensatory cognitive training (see and Dr. Twamley’s other research interests include cognitive impairment and disability in homeless individuals, cognitive impairment in PTSD, and the use of technology to improve cognition. Dr. Twamley’s research has been funded by NIMH, VA, Department of Defense, NSF, and the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation (NARSAD). Dr. Twamley is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in neuropsychological assessment and cognitive rehabilitation. She supervises postdoctoral fellows and doctoral students at UCSD and the VA San Diego Healthcare System. She also conducts a neuropsychological assessment clinic at the Village Family Health Center. 


Meet Our Artist Fellows



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.



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. 



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. 



Ursula Meyer

Head of UCSD Graduate Acting

Ursula is coming is completing her 27th year teaching in the Department of Theatre and Dance at UCSD. Ursula received her Advanced Diploma in Voice Studies and graduated with distinction from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London under David Carey and is a dedicated designated Linklater teacher. As a professional actress and voice and accent coach, her credits include South Coast Repertory, the Guthrie Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Seattle Repertory, the Old Globe, The Shakespeare Theatre Company in DC,  Milwaukee Rep, San Diego Repertory Theatre , American Player’s Theatre, and 16 seasons with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. She is a recipient of UCSD Senate Faculty’s “Distinguished Teacher of the Year” award , is Chair of the Mentorship Committee for the Voice and Speech Trainer’s Association, and was recently awarded a Changemaker Fellow for her work on Anti-Racist/Inclusive Shakespeare.



Vanessa Stalling

Vanessa Stalling is a director and the Area Head of Directing at UC San Diego. She is the adapter and award winning director of United Flight 232, a Goodman Theatre Michael Maggio Fellow, has been recognized as one of the Fifty People Who Really Perform for Chicago, and was an honored finalist of the Women in the Arts & Media Coalition Collaboration Award. Recent productions include Fen at The Court Theatre, The Great Leap, at Asolo Rep, Titanic, and Roe, at The Goodman Theatre. For ten years, Vanessa was a core artist at Redmoon Theater, an internationally recognized maker of large-scale outdoor spectacles. While at Redmoon, she developed all original works of theater as an actor, director, and ultimately as Associate Artistic Director. Memorable experiences at Redmoon include directing Mickle Maher’s The Cabinet, which toured Brazil as part of the FILO Festival, and directing ephemeral performances for President Obama’s initial Halloween Celebration at the White House.


2024 Fellows

 Meet Our Spring 2024 Clinician Fellows



Paula Aragon, MSN, RN

Paula Aragon, MSN, RN, CNL, OCN, PCCN, CHPN is the Clinical Nurse Leader on Jacobs Medical Center 5FG, Medical Oncology-Palliative Care PCU. Paula's nursing career began in 2005 and she has been working at UC San Diego Health since 2018. In her role as CNL, Paula provides clinical support to the nursing team and collaborates with the interdisciplinary team to improve patient outcomes. She promotes patient and nursing education, coordinates multidisciplinary team rounds, and supports the implementation of evidence-based practices on the unit.



Dr. Amy Bellinghausen

Amy Bellinghausen, MD is a board-certified pulmonologist specializing in treating people with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other breathing disorders. In addition to caring for patients in the intensive care unit, she helps patients with health challenges common among those recently discharged from intensive care in the post-ICU recovery clinic, which she co-established with Dr. Robert Owens. Dr. Bellinghausen completed a fellowship in pulmonary and critical care medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine, where she was recognized as house staff of the year. She completed her internal medicine residency at Loma Linda University School of Medicine where she also earned her medical degree. She is board certified in internal medicine and pulmonary disease. Dr. Bellinghausen holds memberships in many professional organizations including the American Delirium Society, the American Thoracic Society, the American College of Physicians and the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society. In her free time she enjoys cooking and traveling.



Dr. Edward Cachay

Edward Cachay MD, MAS ─ Professor of Clinical Medicine. I arrived at UC San Diego in 2001, driven by the pursuit of training that was unavailable to me in my home country of Peru. My dream was to forge a career in Infectious Diseases/HIV medicine, with a deep-seated desire to serve as a voice for those on the fringes of society. Upon completing my internal medicine residency, an Infectious Diseases fellowship, and a Master's in Advanced Studies, I joined UC San Diego's Health Science faculty in 2007, where I began my journey at the Owen Clinic. Fast forward over 22 years and I find myself reflecting on the challenges inherent in academic medicine—challenges I've embraced, and in which I've found success. While being a clinician is an incredible privilege, my passion for addressing broader public health issues through systematic research has been equally important to me. In particular, I initiated two pivotal programs designed to combat significant causes of morbidity in patients with HIV who were otherwise well-controlled on antiretroviral therapy. These programs shared a common thread: they addressed issues surrounded by stigma and a lack of meaningful medical strategies at the time. The first was the Hep C Co-Infection Clinic, which evolved into the first HIV Primary Care model of Hep C care in the USA back in 2008. The second was the Anal Cancer screening program, where we have trained national and international colleagues to provide training and support the community they served. Recognizing the significance of fostering global collaborations, I took the lead in 2017 and currently oversee a clinical, teaching, and research collaboration with academic institutions in Spain, Portugal, and Italy. I am now in a position to mentor and guide others along their own paths.

As I reflect on my academic journey in the United States, I realize that I often find myself in the role of a 'first,' not only due to my origin but also because of my cultural and linguistic competency in every environment I've encountered. This unique perspective has deeply influenced my understanding of the unspoken and untaught challenges in the workplace. It has enhanced my interactions with patients and nurtured my identity, fostering a deeper appreciation for my roots and core values. I firmly believe in the power of empathy and compassion in every interaction, regardless of the assumptions we make about those we encounter, not just within minority groups. I wholeheartedly embrace the concept of mitigating implicit bias, welcoming diversity of all kinds, and consistently reinforcing the idea that compassion can be the most incredible tool to sustain us in times of profound uncertainty. My ultimate goal is to lead by example and inspire others to embrace a culture of change. By participating in training at the Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion, I aspire to become a graduate who embodies the mission of service and inclusion. I hope that my presence, availability, and outreach will serve as a source of inspiration for junior colleagues from underrepresented communities, encouraging them to follow a similar path in higher education, research, and medicine.



Dr. Michael Choi

Michael Choi is an Associate Clinical Professor in the division of Hematology/Oncology and practices at the Moores Cancer Center, where he treats patients with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, Myeloproliferative Neoplasms, or other blood concerns. His main research focus has been the development of agents that inhibit the Wnt signaling pathway, including Zilovertamab, a drug invented in the research laboratories of UCSD. He led the first-in-human and phase 1/2 combination clinical trials of this drug. He has also participated in the trials that led to the registration of many novel targeted CLL therapies. His involvement in trials for patients with MPNs has been more recent, inspired by the high unmet medical need in this area. As part of the UCSD Department of Medicine, he also serves on committees for gender equity and physician wellness.



Laura Dibsie, MSN, RN

Laura Dibsie, MSN, RN, CNS, NE-BC is currently the Assistant Director at UC San Diego Health in the Department of Education, Development and Research (EDR). She is a Southern California native and earned a BSN at University of Southern California and MSN at University of San Diego. She came to San Diego to begin her nursing career at a local hospital after receiving her undergraduate degree, and ultimately joined UC San Diego Health over 20 years ago. Her lengthy nursing and Clinical Nurse Specialist career occurred in the surgical critical care and trauma arena prior to assuming a management role at UC San Diego Health in 2017. Ms. Dibsie also has six years' experience as a clinical ethics consultant. Throughout her career, connections with staff, patients and families have been extremely rewarding and provided motivation for continued learning, support of organization and team member growth. She continues to get the greatest joy from supporting nurses, especially her team members, in their growth and success. Laura and her husband of over 28 years have raised three beautiful daughters that bring them much happiness and pride.



Heather Fojas, MSN

Heather Fojas MSN, APRN, ACNS-BC joined UCSD in 2022 and brought with her over 20 years of experience working in critical care and progressive care. She currently works as a Clinical Nurse Specialist sharing clinical expertise and support to nurses caring for patients and driving practice changes through evidence-based practice for the organization. Ms. Fojas has two young boys, and in their free time they enjoy playing with their chickens and exploring the outdoors.



Dr. Daniel Hershey

Dr. Daniel Hershey specializes in Pediatric Hospital Medicine at Rady Children’s Hospital, San Diego.  As a Clinical Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at UC San Diego, he works with multiple levels of trainees including medical students, residents, and fellows.  He is board certified in General Pediatrics and Pediatric Hospital Medicine and recognized as a Senior Fellow of Hospital Medicine by the Society of Hospital Medicine.  He has leadership roles in SIDS prevention (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), resident education, medication safety, and pharmacy.  He is Vice Chief of Pediatric Hospital Medicine at RCHSD.  His Quality Improvement and research projects generally focus on improving clinical care, trainee education, and patient safety.



Dr. Carla Marienfeld

Carla Marienfeld, MD, DFAPA, FASAM is board-certified in psychiatry, addiction psychiatry, and addiction medicine, and she is a Clinical Professor at the University of California San Diego where she is the Medical Director of the Substance Treatment and Recovery (STAR) Program and the Program Director for the UCSD Addiction Psychiatry Fellowship. She was named a San Diego Top Doctor in 2021. She has authored or co-authored over three dozen peer reviewed articles, book chapters, practice guidelines, and invited commentaries, and she edited two books: Motivational Interviewing for Clinical Practice and Absolute Addiction Psychiatry Review: An essential board exam study guide. Dr. Marienfeld completed a fellowship in addiction psychiatry and residency training in psychiatry at Yale. She earned a medical degree with honors from Baylor College of Medicine.



Isaac Meyer, NP

Isaac Meyer is a Nurse Practitioner within the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. His area of expertise includes practice in gender-affirming care and aesthetic medicine. Throughout his service within the department, Isaac spearheaded policies and procedures implemented both at UC San Diego and across the entire UC System for laser safety and therapy, along with tissue expansion. Additionally, Isaac provides weekend clinical care to asylum seekers on the border of San Diego and Tijuana. He brings forth his expertise to ensure the delivery of culturally and socially compassionate care for the migrant community. As a subject matter expert, he was one of the key speakers at a UCSD webinar, educating others on effective strategies and techniques for caring for trans and non-binary patients, especially for sensitive examinations. This year, Isaac was named 2023 UCSD Ambulatory Clinical Nurse of the Year. Isaac was born in California and raised in Utah. He served a two-year humanitarian mission in Vina del Mar, Chile, learning and fluently speaking Spanish. He is an Eagle Scout and comes from a family of six sisters. In his free time, he enjoys Utah Skiing, being on his sailboat in Mission Bay, and spending time with his family.



Dr. Michele Ritter

Dr. Michele Ritter is a Clinical Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of California, San Diego. She graduated from medical school at Georgetown University and then remained at Georgetown University Medical Center for her internal medicine residency. She then completed her Infectious Diseases Fellowship at Albert Einstein University/Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx in New York. Dr. Ritter became faculty at UCSD in 2010 and serves as the Director of the Outpatient Parenteral Antibiotic Therapy Program, COVID-19 Telemedicine Clinic, and is the Infectious Diseases Clinic Medical Director.



Dr. Elaine M. Sapiro

I am an Assistant Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine at UC San Diego. Closely involved with training emergency medicine residents, I am especially interested in physician wellness at both the Resident and Attending levels. I also play an active role in our Department's Quality Assurance and Women in EM (WEM) activities. I graduated from Brown Medical School and completed my EM residency at UCSD, serving as Chief Resident in my fourth year of training. Since that time I have worked in both of UCSD's emergency departments (La Jolla and Hillcrest). I also have a background in public health and international affairs, possessing a dual masters (MPH/MIA) from Columbia University. Fun fact - I served with the Peace Corps in the Central African Republic.



Dr. Susanna (Annie) Shaw

Dr. Susanna (Annie) Shaw is a board-certified physician with a background in pediatric critical care and pediatric anesthesia. She holds certifications from the American Board of Anesthesiology and the American Board of Pediatrics. Dr. Shaw received a Doctor of Medicine degree from George Washington School of Medicine and specialized training in pediatric critical care at Children’s National Medical Center. She furthered her training through an anesthesia residency at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Dedicated to the wellbeing of young patients, Dr. Shaw completed a Pediatric Anesthesia Fellowship at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Anesthesia at the University of San Diego Health, where she specializes in pediatric anesthesia as well pediatric critical care and pediatric burn management at UCSD's nationally recognized burn center.



Dr. Mamata Sivagnanam

Dr. Sivagnanam is the Program Director of the Pediatric Residency at UCSD/RCHSD and Professor of Clinical Pediatrics. She is dedicated to partnering with trainees, faculty, leadership and staff to enhance the educational environment in thoughtful and innovative ways. The pediatric residency recruits top candidates and provides them with opportunities for growth and development within patient care, research, advocacy and teaching. Dr. Sivagnanam attended medical school at the University of Miami and did her pediatric residency training at Orlando Regional Healthcare, where she stayed on as Chief Resident before transitioning to UC San Diego and completing a fellowship of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition in 2007. As a physician-scientist-educator, Dr. Sivagnanam has a keen interest in research, training and program development and sees a range of pediatric and adolescent patients clinically. Her translational research focuses on understanding the pathophysiology of pediatric diarrheal diseases. She also serves as Master Clinician for medical students in pediatrics. In each of these environments she aims to work with faculty to support next generation of students and physicians through mentorship and career development opportunities.



Meet Our Spring 2024 Artist Fellows



Joseph "Dyno" Corrales, Lecturer Theater & Dance Dept.

My name is Dyno, I am a cultural worker and Breaking artist. I am currently a lecturer for UC San Diego's Theatre and Dance department where I teach Breaking (a Hip Hop Cultural Artform). I have been practicing the art for over 22 years and I'm continuously learning as well as contributing to the local SD Hip Hop community through events, classes, and creative projects with my crew, CYPHERST8. As an artist, I've accumulated a range experiences from battling, rocking cyphers, performing, and sharpening up my pedagogy as a teacher. My mission is to: "Create social change through transformational leadership and community collaboration. I do this by innovating spaces and experiences for generations, cultures and artists to build relationships through community events & partnerships."



Kim Walsh, BS, MFA

Kim Walsh earned her BS from Emerson College and MFA from UC San Diego. She has been acting, directing and teaching theatre throughout the country and abroad for over twenty years. She has taught from Lugano, Switzerland to South East Los Angeles, as well as at the Old Globe, La Jolla Playhouse and at Kaiser Permanente, where she was director for Theatre Workshop. Some of her recent directing credits include the UCSD undergraduate production of Our Town in the Potiker Theatre, The Marriage of Bette and Boo, and Other People and Sin Eaters for the Wagner New Play Festival. As a performer she has appeared in film, television and regional theatres including the Signature Theatre in New York and locally at La Jolla Playhouse, where she was in the original productions of Fortinbras, by Lee Blessing (awarded Time Magazine’s Best 10 Plays of the Year), and the musical Elmer Gantry, directed by Des McAnuff. She was a founding member of the Elysium Theater Company in New York City, where she performed in many classic and existential German plays including Hinkemann, Fun and Games at the Barbershop and Offending the Audience. On film and in television she has been seen in Secret Santa, Cannon Fields and Rapunzel (WGBH-Boston), as well as numerous commercials. Research Areas Acting.

Our Allies in Compassionate Medical Communication

Association of American Medical Colleges
AAMC leads and serves academic medicine to improve the health of people everywhere. AAMC's vision is to create a healthier future through learning, discovery, health care and community collaborations. Their program "Fundamental Role of Arts and Humanities in Medical Education" (FRAHME) finds common ground with our Center's use of arts and humanities-based curriculum in compassionate medical communication.


Gold Foundation
The Gold Foundation champions humanism in healthcare, which they define as compassionate, collaborative and scientifically excellent care. This Gold standard of care embraces all and targets barriers to such care. The Gold Foundation empowers experts, learners and leaders to together create systems and cultures that support humanistic care for all.

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