Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

medical staff pulse newsletter

Text size: A A A Print this issue
A BI-WEEKLY PUBLICATION FROM THE CEDARS-SINAI CHIEF OF STAFF June 16, 2017 | Archived Issues

Study Finds Lower Mortality at Teaching Hospitals

A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that major teaching hospitals, such as Cedars-Sinai, have lower mortality rates than nonteaching, community hospitals. Led by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the study examined Medicare data from more than 21 million hospitalizations at more than 4,000 hospitals nationwide to determine the percentage of patients who died within 30 days of admission — a common way to gauge quality.

» Read more

Rutishauser Wins PRISM Prize

Ueli Rutishauser co

Ueli Rutishauser, PhD, associate professor of Neurosurgery, Neurology and Biomedical Sciences, has received the 2017 Cedars-Sinai Prize for Research in Scientific Medicine. The annual prize honors a Cedars-Sinai scientist who has made an exemplary scientific breakthrough or produced a critical medical insight within the past five years.

» Read more

Gu and Yang Receive 2017 Rubenstein Prize

Paul Rubenstein Resident Award co

Phillip Gu, MD, and Yang Yang, MD, have received the 2017 Paul Rubenstein, MD Prize for Excellence in Resident Research. Each received $3,000 during an abstract and awards presentation. Twenty residents applied for the prize, which is designed to foster basic and clinical research, enrich knowledge of health science and encourage the development of investigative curiosity in residents.

» Read more

Can VR Help Lower Blood Pressure?

SoHelp Project co

Cedars-Sinai recently launched the Sodium Healthy Living Project, a feasibility study at Holman United Methodist Church in the West Adams district of Los Angeles. The study tests whether education and digitally enhanced programming using virtual reality can help lower blood pressure. This is Cedars-Sinai’s first community-based, interprofessional study for high blood pressure and the first to use virtual reality in the African-American community.

» Read more

Rosen Named to New Executive Role

bradley rosen co

Bradley T. Rosen, MD, has been named vice president of Physician Alignment and Care Transitions at Cedars-Sinai, a new expanded role that will provide leadership to the medical center and Medical Network.

» Read more

Graduates Urged to Help World's Less Privileged

Tadataka Tachi Yamada co

Cedars-Sinai marked the fifth annual commencement of its Graduate Programs in Biomedical Science and Translational Medicine on June 7 with an urgent appeal for medical scientists to pursue “revolutionary innovation” that can save millions of imperiled lives around the globe. Keynote speaker Tadataka "Tachi" Yamada, MD, urged graduates in the Class of 2017 to use their knowledge and science to serve those who are less privileged.

» Read more

Clinical Oncology Society Honors Sandler

The American Society of Clinical Oncology has named Howard Sandler, MD, chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at the Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute, a fellow of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

» Read more

Get to Know the Class of 2017

These are profiles of members of the Class of 2017 of the Cedars-Sinai Graduate Programs in Biomedical Science and Translational Medicine.

» Read more

National Ebola Team Assesses CS Responders

ebola co

Representatives from the National Ebola Training and Education Center, who have firsthand experience treating the deadly disease, recently made their first visit to Cedars-Sinai to review and help strengthen the medical center’s practices in the event of an outbreak.

» Read more

Core Lab Updates Parathyroid Hormone Codes

The Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine has updated its test codes and panels for parathyroid hormone. These do not involve a change in test methodology, but a simple update to naming in order to clarify when certain PTH tests should be ordered, what they include, and what type of tube to draw. The change took effect Monday, June 12.

» Read more

Bakondi Awarded Grant for Eye Research

Benjamin Bakondi, PhD

Benjamin Bakondi, PhD, received a Career-Starter Research Grant in pediatric ophthalmology from the Knights Templar Eye Foundation Inc.


» Read more

Summer Is Coming, and So Are Fireworks

Celebrate Independence Day at the Hollywood Bowl with fireworks and music by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and a special musical guest, Grammy-winning a cappella group Pentatonix. The event on Monday, July 3, is open to Cedars-Sinai physicians and their immediate family members. Cost is $140 per adult and $70 per child 3-11 years of age.

» Read more

CS-Link Tip: Adding Attachments

cs-link logo

CS-Link™ enables users to send and view messages with attached images or videos, which can provide valuable additional information for clinicians.

» Read more

Study Finds Lower Mortality at Teaching Hospitals

A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that major teaching hospitals, such as Cedars-Sinai, have lower mortality rates than nonteaching, community hospitals.

Led by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the study examined Medicare data from more than 21 million hospitalizations at more than 4,000 hospitals nationwide to determine the percentage of patients who died within 30 days of admission — a common way to gauge quality.

They found that 30-day, unadjusted mortality was 9.6 percent at community hospitals, but only 8.1 percent at major teaching hospitals. The difference equates to saving one life for every 67 Medicare patients admitted.

In addition, teaching hospitals had lower unadjusted seven-day and 90-day mortality rates nonteaching hospitals.

The Harvard researchers said that further studies are needed to determine the cause of the quality difference, but speculated it was likely due to the experience and expertise of the physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals at teaching hospitals, as well as advanced technologies available at these facilities.

The work was completed with a grant from the Association of American Medical Colleges, New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Cedars-Sinai. None of the organizations had a role in the study, its outcomes or the peer-review process for publication.

Rutishauser Wins PRISM Prize

Ueli Rutishauser, PhD, (right) is congratulated by Thomas M. Priselac, president and CEO, on being awarded the 2017 Prize for Research in Scientific Medicine (PRISM Prize).

Ueli Rutishauser, PhD, associate professor of Neurosurgery, Neurology and Biomedical Sciences, has received the 2017 Cedars-Sinai Prize for Research in Scientific Medicine (PRISM Prize). The annual prize honors a Cedars-Sinai scientist who has made an exemplary scientific breakthrough or produced a critical medical insight within the past five years.

The award was announced June 7 at the commencement ceremony of the Cedars-Sinai Graduate Programs in Biomedical Science and Translational Medicine. The prize committee cited Rutishauser's "seminal and paradigm-shifting observations regarding the circuit mechanisms underlying human memory formation. This award underscores the importance of a basic discovery as a bridge to improved clinical outcomes."

Rutishauser has uncovered new information on how the brain stores and maintains memories — the ability to remember ideas, thoughts, images and objects. His research has revealed a memory circuit within the human brain that supports aspects of both short- and long-term memory. Short-term, or working, memory is crucial to making decisions and mental calculations. Long-term memory allows people to recall the names of colleagues or remember where they parked their cars.

Working with neurosurgeons at Cedars-Sinai, Rutishauser’s laboratory identified specific types of neurons involved in creating and retrieving memories and in using such memories to inform decisions. These neurons were found in the medial frontal lobe and medial temporal lobe of the brain. The team's latest findings were published in two articles in 2015 and earlier this year in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

The studies were performed on epilepsy patients who volunteered to participate. Modified electrodes were implanted in the patients' brains to monitor the electrical activity of individual neurons. The team then studied the activity of these neurons while patients formed and retrieved memories during a series of memory games. Rutishauser helped pioneer this monitoring technique, called human single-neuron recording, in close collaboration with Adam N. Mamelak, MD, professor of Neurosurgery and director of Functional Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai.

In announcing the PRISM Prize, Mamelak said: "Rutishauser’s data now permits construction of a more complete and full-scale understanding of how memory integrates with other aspects of cognitive function. Such complete network models provide invaluable insight into how the human brain functions, and also provide new avenues for therapeutic intervention for memory disorders, autism, learning disabilities and even schizophrenia."

Rutishauser continues to advance his research, aided by several grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience and the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation. He said his next goal is to understand how various areas of the brain work together to support memory.

The recipient of numerous honors, including the Troland Award from the National Academy of Sciences in 2014, Rutishauser holds a doctorate in Computation and Neural Systems from the California Institute of Technology. He joined Cedars-Sinai in 2012 as an assistant professor.

"I am very pleased and honored to receive the 2017 PRISM Prize," Rutishauser said. "The work it recognizes is the result of a long-term collaboration among a diverse group of scientists and clinicians, and it is a great honor for us to be recognized.”

The PRISM Prize, established in 2015, confers $10,000 and a medal on the winners. The investigators are nominated by Cedars-Sinai faculty members and chosen by an external committee of prominent scientists.

The past honorees are Robert H. Baloh, MD, PhD, associate professor and director of Neuromuscular Medicine in the Cedars-Sinai Department of Neurology; and Stanley C. Jordan, MD, professor of Medicine and director of Kidney Transplantation and Transplant Immunology.

Related stories:

Gu and Yang Receive 2017 Rubenstein Prize

Rubenstein Prize winners Yang Yang, MD (left) and Phillip Gu, MD, flank Brennan Spiegel, MD, MSHS, chair of the 2017 award committee.

Phillip Gu, MD, and Yang Yang, MD, have received the 2017 Paul Rubenstein, MD Prize for Excellence in Resident Research. Each received $3,000 during an abstract and awards presentation May 16 in Harvey Morse Auditorium.

Brennan Spiegel, MD, MSHS, chair of the Rubenstein Award Committee and a Rubenstein prize recipient in 2001, introduced the five finalists who presented abstracts. "This is one of my favorite days at Cedars-Sinai," Spiegel said. "It’s a full circle to have participated in this as a resident and to be back to see outstanding science continuing here." Spiegel, a professor of Medicine, directs Cedars-Sinai Health Services Research.

Twenty residents applied for the prize, which was created more than 30 years ago to foster basic and clinical research, enrich knowledge of health science and encourage the development of investigative curiosity in residents. A panel of judges selected the finalists and winners based on their projects' designs, significance to real-world problems and originality.

In his winning study, Gu and his team analyzed various types of bowel-cleansing preparations used by more than 1,600 patients undergoing colonoscopies. They found that mixing the off-the-shelf laxative MiraLAX into the sports drink Gatorade produced the most effective preparation. MiraLAX outperformed GoLYTELY, a commonly prescribed colon cleanser, in the study. Gu and his team were mentored by Spiegel and Christopher Almario, MD, assistant professor of Medicine and a research scientist in the Cedars-Sinai Center for Outcomes Research and Education.

"This study has major public health implications," Gu said. "Better bowel cleansing may lead to better adenoma (benign tumor) detection rates. And previous studies have clearly demonstrated an association between adenoma detection rates and reduced risk of interval development of colon cancer."

Yang investigated whether abnormal responses of the sinus node — a tissue mass that originates the impulses stimulating the heartbeat — could identify diabetics at increased risk for sudden cardiac death. People with diabetes may be more likely than nondiabetics to have damage to the nerves innervating the sinus node. This situation may make diabetics more vulnerable to certain types of irregular heartbeat and sudden cardiac death.

Yang’s study demonstrated that subtle changes in a patient’s heart rate variability and baseline heart rate may be early harbingers of such damage and may serve as predictors of sudden cardiac arrest in this population, Yang said. He and his team were mentored by Sumeet Chugh, MD, professor of Medicine and medical director of the Heart Rhythm Center in the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute.

Finalists Neil Bhamb, MD, Jane Lim, MD, and Vartan Tashjian, MD, also presented their teams’ studies for panel consideration.

The Rubenstein Prize is sponsored by the Burns and Allen Research Institute and the Cedars-Sinai Clinical and Translational Research Center. It honors Paul Rubenstein, MD, for his contributions to Cedars-Sinai during its rise as a nationally recognized medical and research organization. Rubenstein, who retired in 1985, was the first director of the research institute and vice president of professional services.

The award in his honor is one of three granted to Cedars-Sinai trainees each year: the Malaniak Award for Excellence in Postdoctoral Research in January and the Clinical Fellows Award for Excellence in Research in May.

Can VR Help Lower Blood Pressure?

Cedars-Sinai conducted a feasibility study at Holman United Methodist Church in the West Adams district of Los Angeles. The study is testing whether education and digitally enhanced programming using virtual reality can be a treatment for lowering high blood pressure.

Cedars-Sinai recently launched the Sodium Healthy Living Project (So-Help), a feasibility study at Holman United Methodist Church in the West Adams district of Los Angeles, a mostly African-American neighborhood.

In collaboration with the California Black Nurses Association (CBN), the study is testing whether education and digitally enhanced programming using virtual reality devices can help lower blood pressure.

The program is Cedars-Sinai’s first community-based, interprofessional study for high blood pressure and the first study using virtual reality in the African-American community.

The So-Help program focuses on reducing people’s intake of sodium, a contributor to high blood pressure — the silent killer in the African-American community — said co-principal investigator Bernice Coleman, PhD, RN, ACNP-BC, a scientist in the Department of Nursing Research.

"High blood pressure doesn’t hurt until it’s too late and you are faced with kidney and heart problems," Coleman said. "The goal of the program is to teach people to understand nutrition labels, understand the role of salt in their diets, understand their numbers such as blood pressure and cholesterol, and learn to make healthier choices."

More than 40 percent of African-Americans have high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association.

As part of the program, the 60 participants worked in group sessions and received Fitbits, digital blood pressure cuffs, the MyFitnessPal app and virtual reality goggles.

Program participants met once a week for 12 weeks at the church for an evening that included dinner, health education and data collection from their medical devices. The health education took a holistic approach, combining spiritual needs, nutritional best practices, exercise information and the latest in digital health.

In addition to the weekly meetings, the participants received twice-weekly calls at home from CBN nurses.

Rev. Kevin Sauls, the pastor of Holman United Methodist Church, is committed to a program that highlights the connection between health and faith.

"It is inconsistent to serve souls in the sanctuary and then kill their bodies in the fellowship hall," Sauls said. "To that end, they are changing what is served at the church social on Sundays to healthier fare."

The virtual reality content was created after a Cedars-Sinai team met with members of the church to determine which foods the members liked best. The team came up with 10 popular foods and included some specific to the African-American community, such as collard greens.

Principal investigator Brennan M. Spiegel, MD, director of Health Services Research, oversaw development of the virtual reality content, along with AppliedVR, one of the Cedars-Sinai Techstars accelerator companies.

"In the virtual reality program, parishioners can fly through their heart, brain, kidney and blood vessels in immersive 3-D to experience the damaging effects of salt on their body," Spiegel said. "They can also enter a kitchen where they view the salt content of culturally appropriate foods. Plus, they see healthier low-salt alternatives.

"After all that, the parishioners experience a mindful meditation while lying on a virtual beach, narrated by Sauls," he added. "They listen to his words of wisdom and internalize the lessons of So-Help."

The goal of the So-Help project is to expand to other Los Angeles churches, first in the African-American community and then to other groups with culturally tailored programs.

The Cedars-Sinai team included Bibiana Martinez, MPH; Jennifer Pamu, RD; Lianna Ansryan, MSN, CNS; Deborah Clegg, PhD; Aaron Frank, MD; and Spiegel.

Rosen Named to New Executive Role

Bradley T. Rosen, MD

Bradley T. Rosen, MD, has been named vice president of Physician Alignment and Care Transitions at Cedars-Sinai, a new expanded role that will provide leadership to the medical center and Medical Network.

In this new executive role, Rosen will be working closely with John Jenrette, MD, executive vice president of the Medical Network, and Mark Gavens, executive vice president of Hospital Operations and chief operating officer, on initiatives designed to enhance value, clinical efficiency and integration across Cedars-Sinai.

"We are delighted to promote Dr. Rosen and are excited to see him taking a greater role in the medical center and the Medical Network," said Jenrette.

Added Gavens: "Dr. Rosen has proven to be an innovative, energetic and effective leader. We are fortunate to have him on our team."

The broader role will include concentrated efforts and leadership within the Medical Network to advance physician integration in the Medical Group, affiliates and academic faculty. Additional emphasis on intranetwork referrals across the Medical Network’s growing geographic footprint also will be a focus of this new role.

Rosen will continue to oversee his current portfolio of programs, working with his colleagues and other clinical leadership across Cedars-Sinai. He has been part of Cedars-Sinai for 16 years, joining the full-time faculty as an academic hospitalist and proceduralist in 2004 after the completion of his residency in internal medicine.

Rosen spearheaded the creation and growth of the Inpatient Specialty Program hospitalist service in 2006, the Enhanced Care Program in 2012, and Cedars-Sinai’s Supportive Care Medicine program in 2014. He also has helped launch a number of additional value-added clinical programs over the years, including OPAT, CS-360 Health, ED Assist, the Medical Observation Unit, Inpatient Hospice, Schwartz Center Rounds and pharmacy TOC.

Rosen has developed a robust academic portfolio through his teaching activities and peer-reviewed publications, earning him associate professor of medicine titles at Cedars-Sinai and UCLA.

Graduates Urged to Help World's Less Privileged

PhD graduate Mecca Madany receives her academic hood.

Cedars-Sinai marked the fifth annual commencement of its Graduate Programs in Biomedical Science and Translational Medicine on June 7 with an urgent appeal for medical scientists to pursue “revolutionary innovation” that can save millions of imperiled lives around the globe.

Keynote speaker Tadataka "Tachi" Yamada, MD, urged graduates in the Class of 2017 to use their knowledge and science to serve those who are less privileged.

Yamada's passionate call to arms was a highlight of the ceremony, attended by Cedars-Sinai faculty, leaders, alumni, students, friends and family in Harvey Morse Auditorium. The 90-minute program opened with a colorful academic procession of 100 faculty members and concluded with the event's first-ever awards for lifetime achievement and graduate education leadership.

Seven PhDs and two master's degrees — the first in the master's program — were awarded, along with the 2017 Cedars-Sinai Prize for Research in Scientific Medicine (PRISM Prize).

In his keynote address, Yamada, a partner with the Frazier Healthcare Partners investment firm, traced his evolution from physician to scientist to pharmaceutical executive to president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program (from 2006-11). He said his combined experiences awakened him to the desperate medical plight of people in less developed regions of the world.

"Here's the problem: Six million children die each year — imagine that — from diseases that can be prevented or treated," Yamada said. "Absolute moral tragedy."

Takako "Traci" Mizuno receives her PhD diploma from Shlomo Melmed, MD, dean of the medical faculty, executive vice president of Academic Affairs and professor of Medicine. At left is Thomas M. Priselac, president and CEO.

To stem this tide, the scientific community should promote translation of research discoveries into healthcare that addresses the pressing needs of all sectors of the world's population, he said. Scientists must be willing to fail and take risks to make progress. While perfection is not required, quick work is needed. "Imperfect tools, applied with urgency, can have an impact," Yamada said.

Such efforts already have logged successes in combating malaria, tuberculosis and other worldwide scourges, but more needs to be done, he told the graduates.

"Whatever you do," Yamada concluded, "I hope at some point you will understand there are billions of people who have no access to the progress you're contributing to, and that you'll take the time in your career to address that problem."

The PhD graduates were Isaac Asare Bediako, Melissa Jones, Mecca Madany, Takako "Traci" Mizuno, Rebecca Paszkiewicz, Samuel Sances and Tom Thomas. The master of science graduates were Oana Dumitrascu and Yesol Sapozhnikov. Among the diseases the students tackled in their theses were diabetes, retinal degeneration, brain cancer, pulmonary fibrosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Several made novel discoveries in their fields.

Tadataka "Tachi" Yamada, MD, partner with the Frazier Healthcare Partners investment firm, delivers the commencement's keynote address.

In his address, Sances, the Class of 2017 speaker, thanked Cedars-Sinai's leaders and "incredible mentors, family and friends" for supporting the students. "We have a responsibility to engage in our efforts as if there are more lives at stake than our own, as our training in translational medicine has shown us," he said.

Relatives and friends from around the country applauded the graduates. One of the biggest entourages, totaling 25, belonged to Madany, the first in her family to earn a doctorate. Born in Los Angeles, she has lived in several countries, including Gambia, where she fell in love with science as a high school student. "The first time I looked under a microscope, it was actually in Africa," Madany said." I'll never forget. I was like: 'Oh, cells! OK, this is awesome.'"

Four award winners were announced at the commencement:

Cedars-Sinai Prize for Research in Scientific Medicine (PRISM Prize): Ueli Rutishauser, PhD, associate professor of Neurosurgery, Neurology and Biomedical Sciences, was honored for "seminal and paradigm-shifting observations regarding the circuit mechanisms underlying human memory formation." The annual prize honors a Cedars-Sinai scientist who has made an exemplary scientific breakthrough or produced a critical medical insight within the past five years.

Cedars-Sinai Lifetime Achievement Award: George Berci, MD, described as "a beloved faculty member, friend to all of us and, quite simply, an inspiration." Berci, 96, who joined the Department of Surgery in 1970, pioneered the modern laparoscopic surgical platform. "Every achievement that may be credited to me was the work of a team," Berci said. "And just to set the record straight, while I am grateful and honored by this award, I'm not retiring yet," he added, drawing applause. This was the inaugural award.

David L. Rimoin Teaching Excellence Award: Michelle Jones, PhD, project scientist at the Center for Bioinformatics and Functional Genomics, was selected by the graduates for this annual recognition. Jones was awarded her doctorate in 2013 at the PhD program's inaugural commencement. "I'm very honored," she said in an interview. Her advice to teachers: "I think it’s very important that we listen to our students and try to deliver to them what it is they need from us, rather than what we think they need to receive from us."

Janet Markman, PhD, (left) who graduated last year from the Graduate Programs, with 2017 PhD graduate Rebecca Paszkiewicz

Distinguished Leadership in Graduation Education Research Award: David Underhill, PhD, professor of Biomedical Sciences and Medicine, associate director of the Division of Immunology Research and the Janis and William Wetsman Family Chair in Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Underhill led the graduate programs from their inception until last year, when William Parks, PhD, professor of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, executive chair for Research and scientific director of the Women's Guild Lung Institute, assumed the role.

"It's awesome to be recognized by your peers and the students," Underhill said in an interview. Asked his reaction to seeing the graduates receive their diplomas, he said: "That’s why we do this work. That’s what being faculty is all about: watching students grow and helping them achieve ambitious goals."

The Cedars-Sinai Graduate Programs in Biomedical Science and Translational Medicine began in 2008 as a PhD program. In 2015, a master of science degree in biomedical science and translational medicine was added. This fall, two more master of science degree programs, in magnetic resonance in medicine and in health delivery science, are scheduled to start. Thirty-five students are enrolled in the current programs.

Related stories

Clinical Oncology Society Honors Sandler

Howard Sandler, MD

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has named Howard Sandler, MD, chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at the Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute, a fellow of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (FASCO). ASCO awarded Sandler with this prestigious distinction because of his long-standing commitment to the society and his contributions to its success through his leadership as a volunteer.

During the 2017 ASCO Annual Meeting in Chicago on June 3, the society conferred the FASCO status on Sandler for his extraordinary dedication to volunteer efforts that benefit ASCO and its philanthropic affiliate (the Conquer Cancer Foundation), oncology and the patients ASCO serves. Formerly called the ASCO Statesman Award, which launched in 2007, the distinction honors ASCO's most active volunteer members and encourages more members to become involved in volunteer activities.

"It's an honor to be recognized as a fellow of the American Society of Clinical Oncology," Sandler said. The cancer institute is multidisciplinary, "and having a radiation oncologist achieve fellowship in what is mostly a medical oncology organization highlights the multidisciplinary approach at Cedars-Sinai and at ASCO."

ASCO members are eligible to become a fellow if they have accumulated 20 or more points for volunteer service to ASCO. Eligibility is limited to active members of the society.

"I've worked with ASCO for a number of years and have found the staff to be dedicated to cancer research, cancer patients and extraordinarily competent," Sandler said. "I'm particularly honored to be joining a very small group of highly accomplished radiation oncology colleagues who are ASCO fellows."

To learn more about the award designation, visit the ASCO website.

Get to Know the Class of 2017

These are profiles of members of the Class of 2017 of the Cedars-Sinai Graduate Programs in Biomedical Science and Translational Medicine.

Samuel Sances, Class Speaker

PhD Graduate

Samuel Sances began his research career as a high school student working in agricultural research in San Luis Obispo, California. He studied biochemistry at San Diego State University, where he won a fellowship from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to employ cells to study Parkinson’s disease at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla, California. For his dissertation research, Samuel joined the lab of Clive Svendsen, PhD, where he used stem cells to model neurodegenerative disease, focusing on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). His research led him to develop a new method to study ALS that combined human vasculature and spinal cord tissue from patient-specific stem cells in an "organ-on-chip" system. Samuel will continue this research at Cedars-Sinai through a two-year grant funded by the ALS Association.

Isaac Asare Bediako

PhD Graduate

Isaac Asare Bediako obtained his bachelor of science degree in biological sciences from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana, West Africa, in 2001. He received a master of science degree in biotechnology from Johns Hopkins University. His training at Cedars-Sinai gave him the opportunity to work with a large animal model of insulin resistance under the guidance of Stella Kim, PhD, Marilyn Ader, PhD, and Richard Bergman, PhD. The training afforded him diverse exposure to basic and clinical sciences, particularly the different components of diabetes care and treatment — from nutritional and health counseling to metabolic surgery. These experiences influenced his decision to embark on diabetes clinical trial management. His research is focused on the feasibility of a novel way to treat diabetes by inhibiting the liver from extracting precipitous amounts of insulin, thereby preserving insulin-secreting cells and preventing or derailing the onset of diabetes.

Melissa Jones

PhD Graduate

Melissa K. Jones obtained the following degrees from California State University, Long Beach: a bachelor of science degree in cellular and molecular biology, a certificate in biotechnology with an emphasis in stem cell biology and a master of science degree in biology. At Cedars-Sinai, her studies in the Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute have been focused on stem cell-based treatments for retinal degenerative diseases. She identified therapeutic mechanisms used by human neural progenitor cells for treating retinal degeneration and developed a model mimicking these processes in culture. After graduation, she will pursue a postdoctoral fellowship studying retinal development at the University of California, San Diego.

Mecca Madany

PhD Graduate

Mecca Madany graduated with a bachelor of science in biology from California State University, Los Angeles. Following this, she received a National Institutes of Health cancer collaborative fellowship and pursued her master of science degree in chemistry and biochemistry. After joining the graduate program at Cedars-Sinai, she completed her thesis work in the laboratory of John S. Yu, MD, in the Department of Neurosurgery. Her research has focused on delineating mechanisms for therapeutic resistance of glioma cancer stem cells, and she identified a novel function of the transcription factor ZEB1 in the chemotherapy and radioresistance of these cells. Mecca intends to continue her work in cancer research and therapeutic resistance with a focus on brain metastatic breast cancer.

Takako (Traci) Mizuno

PhD Graduate

Takako Mizuno, known to most as Traci Mizuno, obtained her bachelor of science degree in public health sciences from the University of California, Irvine. She then held a productive and rewarding research associate position at Cedars-Sinai examining cancer cell sensitivity to small molecule inhibitors developed by the lab. Soon after, she began her graduate studies and joined the laboratory of Barry Stripp, PhD. Under his mentorship and expertise in understanding mechanisms of lung stem/progenitor cell maintenance and repair, she and her collaborators identified disease-associated changes in epithelial cells of patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis using single-cell RNA-sequencing analysis. After graduation, Traci intends to leverage her work in science communications.

Rebecca Paszkiewicz

PhD Graduate

Rebecca Paszkiewicz graduated from the University of Iowa with a bachelor of arts in chemistry. As an undergraduate, she completed an honors thesis determining whether skin color could affect blood sugar level measured using a laser rather than a drop of blood. Rebecca then worked in a cancer and obesity laboratory at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles before joining the PhD program at Cedars-Sinai. Under the mentorship of Richard Bergman, PhD, she returned to the world of diabetes and has studied effects of weight-loss surgery on glucose metabolism in hopes of better understanding why these surgeries reverse Type 2 diabetes, independent of weight loss. Rebecca plans to continue studying diabetes in the lab and helping patients with diabetes in the clinic.

Tom Thomas

PhD Graduate

Tom Thomas obtained his bachelor of science in physiological sciences from UCLA, where he worked with Jake Lusis, PhD, studying genetic networks in complex metabolic syndromes. He came to Cedars-Sinai and focused on brain tumor metabolism in the laboratory of John S. Yu, MD, at the Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute. During his doctoral work, Tom uncovered metabolic alterations in high-grade gliomas that allow brain tumors to adapt to changing environmental conditions and resist most therapeutic interventions in the clinic. He described mechanisms of metabolic plasticity in cancer stem cells within brain tumors as part of the developmental process of primary gliomas. Tom plans to continue this research with a focus on modeling tumor evolution and progression from a metabolic perspective during his postdoctoral fellowship in the Toker Laboratory at Harvard Medical School starting this fall.

Oana Dumitrascu

MS Graduate

Before joining the Cedars-Sinai Graduate Programs, Oana Dumitrascu completed medical school and resident training in ophthalmology in Romania, followed by a neuro-ophthalmology fellowship at Jules Stein Eye Institute, UCLA. Oana subsequently completed a neurology residency at Cedars-Sinai, and a fellowship in vascular neurology and cerebrovascular disorders at Mayo Clinic. She conducted her research training in a murine model of multiple sclerosis in the laboratory of Homayon Ghiasi, PhD, and performed clinical research in vascular neurology with Patrick Lyden, MD. Oana plans to continue her career as a clinical scientist in vascular neurology and neuro-ophthalmology.

Yesol Sapozhnikov

MS Graduate

Yesol Sapozhnikov obtained her bachelor of science degree in biochemistry and a master of science degree in nursing from UCLA. She joined Cedars-Sinai as a staff nurse in the bone marrow transplant unit and is currently working as a medical-surgical nursing education program coordinator. Under the mentorship of Mark Goodarzi, MD, PhD, she is completing her master of science degree project studying a genomewide association with lipid traits.

National Ebola Team Assesses CS Responders

A mock patient uses a new video chat robot during a drill.

Representatives from the National Ebola Training and Education Center, who have firsthand experience treating the deadly disease, recently made their first visit to Cedars-Sinai to review and help strengthen the medical center’s practices in the event of an outbreak.

The visiting team of doctors and nurses shadowed the Cedars-Sinai Special Pathogen Response Team in a drill designed to enhance preparedness for treating patients with highly infectious diseases. Doctors and nurses from Emory University, the University of Nebraska Medical Center/Nebraska Medicine and Bellevue Hospital shared their experience combating the disease.

"The level of detail we got from their feedback was extremely valuable," said Jonathan Grein, MD, medical director of the Department of Hospital Epidemiology and infection control officer. "It was a true test in assessing where our plans have taken us and was very validating in many ways."

The assessments, which are to be performed annually, will help Cedars-Sinai function more effectively as one of 10 regional treatment centers for Ebola and other highly communicable diseases. Members of the visiting team praised Cedars-Sinai’s performance and said they would take some of the medical center’s practices back to their institutions.

Last summer, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services tapped the hospital to become part of the national network, serving patients from California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii and U.S. territories in the Pacific. As a treatment center, Cedars-Sinai plays a critical role in bolstering the nation's front-line defense against highly infectious diseases.

After the three-hour drill on May 22, the visitors offered advice on how to minimize the risk of spreading highly infectious diseases and to make the volunteer team more efficient. For example, they suggested the team use hand sanitizer more often and limit the use of sanitizing wipes in patients’ rooms to reduce trash and to prevent further contamination.

The drill provided the Cedars-Sinai team the opportunity to improve its communication techniques with patients, who are isolated because of their contagious infections from their loved ones. Meghan Madhusudhan, lead data analyst in Epidemiology, played a mock patient’s wife and tested a new video chat robot. The device enabled her to see and talk to the patient from a laptop.

"I had a 360-degree view from his perspective of what he was seeing," Madhusudhan said. "It was reassuring to talk to him versus getting a message from a stranger."

The robot device also made it possible for Grein to conduct a remote examination, using a Bluetooth-enabled stethoscope to listen to a patient’s lungs and heartbeat.

The visitors complimented the team of volunteer lab technicians, doctors, nurses and waste transporters on their collaboration and improvisation. In one instance, the group successfully managed a fake urine spill — a maneuver crucial to keeping a deadly virus from spreading — even though some members were confronted with the scenario for the first time.

"We were not only making sure the patient was safe, but making sure each other was safe," said critical care nurse Phaedra Harris, who was working at the bedside. "The teamwork was amazing."

Core Lab Updates Parathyroid Hormone Codes

The Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine has updated its test codes and panels for parathyroid hormone. These do not involve a change in test methodology, but a simple update to naming in order to clarify when certain PTH tests should be ordered, what they include, and what type of tube to draw. The change took effect Monday, June 12.

Order Code CS Link Code Test Name Components/Comments Specimen Requirement Status
IPTH LAB108 Intact PTH This is intended for routine measurement/monitoring of intact parathyroid hormone. One EDTA Tube
(Purple top)
Current
IOPTH LAB7282 Intraoperative PTH This is a STAT test meant to be ordered only during parathyroidectomy procedures. One EDTA Tube
(Purple top)
New
PTHCA LAB813 Intact PTH with calcium This is a test panel that consists of IPTH and total calcium run together from the same sample tube. This panel is intended for routine monitoring of parathyroid hormone and calcium. One PST Tube
(Green top)
Replacing "PTH" test code

If you have questions, please contact Kimia Sobhani, PhD, at kimia.sobhani@cshs.org.

Bakondi Awarded Grant for Eye Research

Benjamin Bakondi, PhD, fifth from left, receives a grant from the Knights Templar Eye Foundation Inc. Others, from left: research scientist Shaomei Wang, MD, PhD, and director Clive Svendsen, PhD, of the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute; Knights Templar members Michael Sekera and Roger Ross; U.S. Knights Templar Grand Captain David Kussman; and Thomas Thomas, Knights Templar grand commander for California.

Benjamin Bakondi, PhD, postdoctoral scientist in the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute, has received a Career-Starter Research Grant in pediatric ophthalmology from the Knights Templar Eye Foundation Inc.

The $65,000 award will support his research on retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited disease of the retina in which the progressive loss of light-sensing cells leads to vision deficits and blindness. The study will evaluate the safety and efficacy of a CRISPR/Cas9-based gene editing strategy to rescue vision in animals with the disease. It builds on earlier collaborative work at the institute published by the laboratory of research scientist Shaomei Wang, MD, PhD, in the journal Molecular Therapy.

"We’re proud to see this award to go to one our postdocs," said Clive Svendsen, director of the Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute. "This research is a great example of the new approaches in regenerative medicine we’re taking at our institute to tackle diseases that have been considered untreatable."

The mission of the Knights Templar Eye Foundation Inc., a charity sponsored by the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar, is "to improve vision through research, education and supporting access to care."

The IACUC number for animal subjects in research referenced in this article is 3801.

Summer Is Coming, and So Are Fireworks

The Hollywood Bowl

Celebrate Independence Day at the Hollywood Bowl with fireworks and music by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and a special musical guest, Grammy-winning a cappella group Pentatonix.

The event on Monday, July 3, is open to Cedars-Sinai physicians and their immediate family members. Cost is $140 per adult and $70 per child 3-11 years of age.

Parking passes also are available. Valet is $50, lower terrace is $21.

To reserve a place, contact Cheryl Verne at 310-423-2681 or cheryl.verne@cshs.org.

CS-Link Tip: Adding Attachments

CS-Link™ enables users to send and view messages with attached images or videos, which can provide valuable additional information for clinicians.

To do so, find the In-Basket message, click the Attachments link to view the image/video. You can also view the image/video in the Media or Encounters tabs in Chart Review.