Chris Giza, MD
Talin Babikian, PhD
Meeryo Choe, MD
Joshua Goldman, MD, MBA
Mayumi Prins, PhD
Sports Neurology / Pediatric Neurology
Christopher Giza, MD Director, UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program
Dr. Giza leads the Pediatric TBI/Sports Concussion program at UCLA. Eminently qualified, he served as Vice-Chair for the California State Athletic Commission, traveled to Afghanistan in 2011 as a civilian advisor to the Department of Defense and Co-Chaired the American Academy of Neurology’s committee, which developed an evidence-based Practice Guideline for Management of Sports Concussions in 2013. Dr. Giza serves on the Center for Disease Control’s Pediatric mild TBI committee, the NCAA Concussion Task Force and the Major League Soccer Concussion Program Committee. He is currently a Professor of Pediatric Neurology and Neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine and UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital.
A graduate of Dartmouth College, Dr. Giza received his M.D. from West Virginia University and completed his internship at the University of Pennsylvania. He then trained in Adult and Pediatric Neurology at UCLA, after which he worked on the Yosemite Search and Rescue team. In 1998, he returned to UCLA and joined the Brain Injury Research Center in the Department of Neurosurgery. His research interests include neuroplasticity, recovery from injury, sports-related concussions, post-traumatic epilepsy and brain development. More »
Meeryo Christa Choe, MD Neurologist, Specialized in Sports Concussion and TBI
Associate Director, UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program
Dr. Choe grew up in the Los Angeles area, traveled east to attend Amherst College, and then returned to L.A. to attend medical school at USC. She came to UCLA in 2004 for a pediatrics residency and child neurology fellowship. After completing training, Dr. Choe combined her personal interest in sports with her professional interest in the developing brain by serving as a Neurotrauma/Sports Neurology Fellow at UCLA with Dr. Christopher Giza. Her clinical and research interests include post-traumatic headache/migraine, gender differences in outcome after concussion, and dysautonomia
An avid equestrian competing in show jumping and former swimmer, Dr. Choe coaches at a local high school as well, giving her a unique perspective on an athlete’s desire to return to his/her sport and the outside pressures they might experience. More »
Adam Darby, MD
UCLA Neurology Faculty
UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Fellow ‘17
Dr. Adam Darby spent the first 21 years of his life in the North of England, where he received his undergraduate education in both academics and sports, emerging with a degree in environmental sciences from Durham University. His introduction to the United States was as a soccer and later rugby coach, while he taught high school sciences and attended night classes at UCLA to complete his pre-med requisites. Dr. Darby trained for his medical degree in the U.K., the Caribbean, and the U.S. Drawn toward degenerative neurologic diseases; he completed his neurology residency at the University of Vermont Medical Center. He noted early in his residency the lack of appropriate neurologist involvement in sports concussion management and, in his words, “my future career direction became clear.” He views this practice as a mission to protect two of his loves: the brain and sports.
Josh Kamins, MD
Health Sciences Assistant Clinical Professor UCLA Neurology
UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Fellow ‘18
Dr. Joshua Kamins is originally from the Bay Area where he found an interest in medicine as a member of the Marin County Search and Rescue team. He then attended the University of Pennsylvania where he graduated with honors in the Biological Basis of Behavior. His undergraduate research studies led to publications on the role of the NMDA receptor in Schizophrenia. From there, he returned to California to live in San Diego, where he joined a neurodegenerative disease lab at the Burnham Institute for two years to research neuroprotective compounds.. He stayed in San Diego to attend medical school at the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Kamins completed his preliminary medicine intern year at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco before arriving at UCLA for Neurology residency. He found a way to unite his interests in Sports Medicine and Neurology, completing a Headache Medicine and Sports Neurology fellowship at UCLA. His current research interests include investigating treatments for post traumatic headaches and reclassifying concussion by degree of certainty, while his clinical interests consist of treating migraine, post traumatic headaches, and post concussion syndrome.
Robert Asarnow, PhD Professor, Clinical Psychology
Dr. Asarnow’s research is studies examining the neurobehavioral sequelae of traumatic brain injuries in children and adults. These are prospective, epidemiological studies that assess language, cognition and school and adaptive functioning in children and adults who have suffered significant traumatic brain injuries. More »
Talin Babikian, PhD, ABPP Associate Director, UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program
Talin Babikian is a board certified clinical neuropsychologist and Associate Clinical Professor in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry within the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. Dr. Babikian earned a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Neuropsychology from Loma Linda University in 2005. She completed a predoctoral internship at the then-UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute (today’s Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA), focusing on developmental disabilities and pediatric neuropsychology. Dr. Babikian is actively involved in research using novel neuroimaging techniques to understand neurocognitive outcomes and the course of repair and recovery following a brain injury in childhood and has authored multiple publications on this topic, including a comprehensive meta- analysis summarizing the state of the current literature on head injury outcomes. She also has developed expertise in outcomes and their predictors following mild brain injury or concussions in youth, and helped develop the multi-disciplinary sports related concussion clinic at UCLA to serve the neurological/medical, cognitive/academic, and psychosocial needs of children, adolescents, and adults with sports-related injuries. More »
Doug Polster, PhD
Clinical Instructor, UCLA Department of Neuroscience and Human Behavior, Neuropsychology Div.
UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Fellow ‘17
Doug Polster is sports neuropsychologist and Clinical Instructor in the Division of Neuropsychology within the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. He is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and received his doctoral degree in clinical psychology, with an emphasis in sports and health psychology, from Nova Southeastern University in 2015. He completed his predoctoral internship at Broward Health Medical Center and went on to pursue a specialization in sports neuropsychology on his postdoctoral fellowship at the UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program. While on fellowship, Dr. Polster created and implemented a novel treatment program designed at assisting athletes with prolonged post-concussion symptoms with successful return to their sport. His approach combines traditional sports psychological treatment with exercise therapy in order to help his patients regain control over their recovery. He has also been active in the development of a research protocol designed to provide home-based treatment for individuals with prolonged post-concussion symptoms. Dr. Polster has been an athlete for his entire life and brings his passion for sports into every clinical visit. As a former basketball player at Johns Hopkins University, he understands the competitive nature of sports as well as the desire to return to play after injury. He remains active within the athletic community and serves as the director of a local fitness club whose mission is to inspire health and happiness through collective fitness.
Joshua T. Goldman, MD, MBA
Associate Director, UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program
Dr. Goldman is a Health Science Assistant Clinical Professor of Family Medicine and Orthopedic Surgery. At UCLA, Dr. Goldman cares for both Family Medicine and Sports Medicine patients of all ages, while supervising medical students, residents, and Sports Medicine fellows. He is the team physician for the UCLA football, men's soccer, and women's water polo teams. He currently serves as the program director for the UCLA Sports Medicine Fellowship, the Associate Director for the Center for Sports Medicine at the Orthopedic Institute for Children, and the Associate Director for Sports Medicine within the UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program. He has previously served as team physician at the United States Olympic Training Center, the Association of Volleyball Professionals Tour, and USA Hockey. Dr. Goldman's research interests include concussion in sport, pediatric overuse injuries, and running-related injuries. He received both his medical degree and Master in Business Administration from the University of Southern California, completed residency training in Family Medicine at UCLA, and received his Sports Medicine fellowship training at UCLA. He is a member of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, American College of Sports Medicine, and American Academy of Family Physicians. More »
Natalie Gavi, MS, RD
Natalie Gavi grew up in Chicago, Illinois, where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition Science from The University of Illinois at Chicago. She went on to complete her dietetic internship and Master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition from Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon. There, she became interested in the role nutrition plays in a variety of neurological conditions and researched changes in body composition and carnitine status in children being treated with the ketogenic diet for intractable epilepsy. She combined her interest in neurology with her love for sports and athletic background as an equestrian and helped create a nutrition program within the BrainSPORT team. Here, she helps patients who have sustained concussions use nutrition as a tool to help manage symptoms, return to play, and promote long-term brain and overall health. Natalie’s research interests include the potential neuroprotective roles of creatine monohydrate and ketone bodies following traumatic brain injury. She is excited to be on the forefront of nutrition science in the sports concussion world with the BrainSPORT team.
Madison Harris, OTD
Dr. Madison Harris is a board certified occupational therapist and Los Angeles native. She earned her Bachelors of Science in Occupational Therapy in 2016, her Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy in 2017, and her Occupational Therapy Doctorate in 2018, all from the University of Southern California (USC). She has always had a passion for working with athletes, specifically those who are recovering from an injury or transitioning into retirement. During her undergraduate studies, Madison worked closely with the USC football team, serving as an intern athletic trainer for the team. She completed her doctoral residency with the UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT program developing an occupational therapy program focused on addressing symptom management with pediatric patients who have sustained a concussion. Madison continues to combine her love for pediatrics, sports and occupational therapy, helping children return to the activities they want and need to do on a daily basis after injury. She is proud to be a member of the UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Team.
Adi Nisimov, OTR/L
Occupational Therapy Doctoral Student
Adi is a board-certified occupational therapist and a current Occupational Therapy Doctoral Resident at the UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT program. She is a Los Angeles native and is completing her doctoral studies at the University of Southern California (USC). She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2017 and her Masters of Arts in Occupational Therapy from USC in 2021. Adi has always had an interest in sports, participating in dance, soccer, tennis, and volleyball throughout her life. She has experienced sports-related injuries herself and has witnessed the impact these injuries have on individuals' daily functioning. Adi is excited to combine her interest in brain injury, sports, and occupational therapy, to support individuals in reintegrating back into their daily activities and is eager to enhance her clinical skills and knowledge of brain injury through her residency at UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT.
Ms. Kor has worked for the Department of Pediatric Neurology since 2008. She has administratively supported the BrainSPORT program since its inception and is responsible for coordinating patient visits. Janet triages concussion patient inquiries in order to determine what neurocognitive services are needed. In addition, Ms. Kor helps direct various services in order to make sure all patients are seen in a timely fashion and receive the best comprehensive and individualized care with our medical team.
Administrative Support and Clinic Coordinator
Susana has worked at UCLA since 2005 as an Administrative Assistant. She has the roll of supporting the BrainSPORT program clinic schedule and she is responsible for coordinating patient visits. Susana triages concussion patient inquiries in order to determine what neurocognitive services are needed. In addition, Susana helps direct various services in order to make sure all patients are seen in a timely fashion and receive the best comprehensive and individualized care with our medical team.
Program and Clinical Research Team
Yena Kim, MSW
Senior Staff Research Coordinator
Yena Kim graduated from UCLA with her bachelors in Political Science, followed by a Master of Social Welfare in 2014. She has worked with various populations from transitional aged youths to geriatrics within research prior to her joining the BrainSPORT team. Yena’s personal interest in neuroscience and research has brought her to the lab in which she hopes to expand her knowledge in brain injuries. During her free time, she enjoys reading, spending time with her cats, and practicing muay thai.
Program and Research Coordinator
Philip has been a member of the BrainSPORT Program since 2015. A proud UCLA Bruin, he earned his BS in neuroscience with a minor in philosophy. While a student at UCLA, he played Division 1 and club water polo, leading to his interests in sports related injury prevention and treatment. Philip’s passion for sports, health, neuroscience research and outreach brought him to become a part of the UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT team. In addition to working at BrainSPORT, he is currently pursuing his Master of Public Health in prevention sciences through the Executive MPH program at Emory University. Philip still loves to be in the water; he is an avid swimmer and surfer. He loves to balance these various passions in his life to make the most out of every day.
Clinical Research Coordinator
Anne Brown joined the BrainSPORT team in September 2018. Anne is an Ohio native where she earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology from Wright State University. Upon graduating, she began working at Nationwide Children’s Hospital (NCH) in Columbus, OH. During her 5 years at NCH she helped to execute various studies examining early life influences on child development and behavior. After moving to Los Angeles in 2017, she joined Children’s Hospital Los Angeles where she coordinated therapeutic trials for children with bleeding disorders. Anne’s interest in the intersection of the brain and sports, and her love of working in pediatric research aligned and led her to the BrainSPORT Program at UCLA. When she is not working, she enjoys watching movies and teaching her dog new tricks.
Aliyah Snyder, PhD
Dr. Aliyah Snyder is the UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program Neuropsychology Postdoctoral Fellow. She specializes in brain injury and sports concussion at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. Dr. Snyder received her doctoral degree in the neuropsychology track of the clinical and health psychology program at the University of Florida. While at UF, she completed a predoctoral training fellowship in clinical and translational science (CTSI TL1) and founded Athlete Brain, a student-run organization dedicated to promoting concussion safety and awareness in the community. She completed her predoctoral internship at the Emory University School of Medicine in the adult and pediatric neuropsychology track. Dr. Snyder competed as a varsity coxswain on the men’s rowing team as an undergraduate at Florida Institute of Technology and then went on to coach rowing at the high-school and collegiate levels before competing internationally as a skeleton athlete. Dr. Snyder’s research interests and experience include translational models of post-injury neuroplasticity, biobehavioral interventions to enhance recovery from concussion, and prevention of persistent post-concussion syndrome.
Basic Science Research Team
David Hovda, PhD Vice Chair of Academic Affairs
Director, UCLA Brain Injury Research Center
In 1989, Dr. Hovda was recruited by the Department of Neurosurgery to direct its scientific efforts to understand the cellular pathophysiology of brain injury. This work resulted in providing the backbone for UCLA being recognized as a "Center of Excellence" by the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Hovda has received a number of awards for his research on brain injury and recovery of function, including the 1991 National Head Injury Foundation Award, the Giannini Foundation Award, the Benjamin Franklin Haught Memorial Award and was named the Lind Lawrence Eminent Scholar for his work on the topic of Traumatic Brain Injury and the 2006 Women in Neurotrauma award for his teaching and support of women in neuroscience. Dr. Hovda is the Director of the UCLA Brain Injury Research Center. He is past President of the National Neurotrauma and International Neurotrauma Societies. He has served as Chair of study sections for the National Institute for Neurological Disease and Stroke (NINDS).
Dr. Hovda is internationally known for his translational work on the pathobiology of traumatic brain injury and has devoted most of his career to understanding the mechanisms of recovery of function. More »
Mayumi Prins, PhD
Associate Director, UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program
Director, BIRC Outreach & Education Programs, Department of Neurosurgery
Dr. Prins’s research interests include understanding the changes in brain metabolism that occur after pediatric traumatic brain injury and how alternative fuels can be used as therapeutic options for the young brain after head injury. In addition to this main focus, she is interested in repeat mild head injuries as they apply to both children and young adult athletes.
Neil Harris, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Neurosurgery
Dr. Neil Harris has worked within the fields of hydrocephalus, stroke and traumatic brain injury. The major theme of his current research at UCLA is understanding the potential for plasticity and function after trauma utilizing both light microscopy cell biology techniques as well as in vivo neuroimaging methodologies.
Current Tisch BrainSPORT Fellows
Neil Bhathela, DO
Dr. Neil Bhathela was born and raised in Raleigh, NC. He graduated with a BSPH in Public Health at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill with a focus in toxicology and environmental engineering. He completed his medical training at Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine in 2017, where he held several leadership positions in health care advocacy. He led nationwide efforts in supporting patients and families affected by Parkinson's Disease and Huntington's Disease. He completed his neurology residency at Virginia Commonwealth University. His research interests include post-traumatic headache, sleep pathology, and interventional pain. Dr. Bhathela joined the UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT team to further his training in sports neurology and traumatic brain injury in the summer of 2021.
Maria Pia Grant Tejada, MD
UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Fellow ‘23; UCLA Goldberg Migraine Program Fellow ‘23
Dr. Maria Pia Grant Tejada was born and raised in Puerto Rico. She found an early interest in medicine during her teens, particularly Neurology, after she found her grandmother having a stroke. She attended the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), where she was on the Dean's List and graduated Magna Cum Laude in Biology. She attended medical school at Universidad Central Del Caribe in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. During her pediatric rotation she became attracted to Pediatric Neurology and became a board-certified Pediatrician after graduating from University Pediatric Hospital of the Medical Sciences Campus, UPR. Dr. Grant joined UCLA in 2018 for her Pediatric Neurology training. She is now pursuing a dual fellowship in Sport Neurology and Headache Medicine and is excited to be able to combine her interest in comprehensive management of patients with concussion along with headache medicine and her passion for pediatrics.
Daniel Rafie, MD
UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Fellow ‘22
Dr. Rafie graduated with his Bachelors in International Affairs from James Madison University. He was inspired to pursue a medical degree after multiple medical services trips to Central America and Haiti in which he observed the positive effects of philanthropic medicine. He obtained his MD at the American University of the Caribbean, and completed his Neurology residency training at the Hackensack Health - JFK Neuroscience Institute in New Jersey. Dr. Rafie noted the neurological curriculum lacked a focus on concussion and traumatic brain injury (TBI) during his residency. As a result, he sought out additional training through multiple TBI elective rotations. The significant influence of sports in his life, his personal experience in concussion, and interest in working with high-risk groups and underserved populations led to his work on the concussion guidelines for the New Jersey Amateur Boxing Association and volunteer work alongside boxing ringside physicians. He was introduced to the field of Sports Neurology through an American Academy of Neurology article, and met Dr. Chis Giza at the Academy’s conference which brought him to the team. Dr. Rafie still practices his passion of sports playing basketball, surfing, and snowboarding. He also enjoys exercising and incorporates boxing and mixed martial arts to his workout regimens. He plans to become a certified ringside physician. Dr. Rafie’s main clinical and research interests include objective measures for concussion diagnosis, utilizing neurological therapies to enhance peak athlete performance, and the potential use of cannabidiol (CBD) as a therapeutic measure in treatment of concussion and traumatic brain injury. He looks forward to continuing his UCLA BrainSPORT fellowship while continuing his practice and research with a high standard of excellence and care.