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 »
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 Assistant 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 »
John DiFiori, MD Associate Director, UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program
Dr. DiFiori has been a team physician for the UCLA Department of Intercollegiate Athletics for more than 15 years, and currently serves as team physician for the Bruins’ football and men’s basketball programs. He serves as a medical consultant for the NHL Players Association, and is a member of the U.S.A. Gymnastics physician referral network. He has served as a U.S. team physician for several international competitions including the XIIIth Pan American Games. In addition, he has served as a physician for the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO, and USA Basketball. His research interests include overuse injuries affecting children and adolescents, the use of musculoskeletal ultrasound in the treatment of sports injuries, and preparticipation screening. He has conducted primary research on growth plate injury in young gymnasts. He has authored multiple scientific articles, case reports, and book chapters on a variety of sports medicine issues. More »
Program and Clinical Research Team
Constance Johnson, MA
Assistant Director, UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program
Constance Johnson is a project manager with 10 years of experience working within the context of higher education in various capacities including: academic outreach, admissions, financial aid and student affairs. While receiving her B.A. in Political Science at UCLA, Constance worked for academic outreach programs aimed at enhancing academic performance and expanding postsecondary educational opportunities for California's educationally underserved youth populations. Upon graduation, Ms. Johnson completed a year of service with AmeriCorps Vista where she designed programs aimed at fighting poverty, through education, in the South Central Los Angeles area. Subsequently, Ms. Johnson received her M.A. in Higher Education Administration from Boston College and went on to coordinate services and academic programming at Boston College, Harvard and MIT. Her commitment to educational outreach and engagement brought her to the UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program where she works to increase awareness of traumatic brain injury and sports concussions by assisting with the development of partnerships and program expansion with local schools.
Program Coordinator, UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program
Philip Rosenbaum graduated in 2015 from UCLA with a Bachelor’s of Science in Neuroscience and a minor in Philosophy. While studying at UCLA, Philip played Division 1 and club water polo, which led 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 Tisch BrainSPORT Volunteer Club and through his involvement in the community, he subsequently became a member of the Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program team, as program coordinator. While at UCLA, Philip also volunteered for the Peer Health Exchange, a non-profit organization that delivers educational health clinics to underserved high schools in the Greater Los Angeles community. When he is not working, he is likely enjoying the Los Angeles weather on the beach or in the mountains. Philip plans to pursue a medical degree in the future.
Sr. Clinic & Research Coordinator, UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program
Briana Meyer graduated with a B.S. in psychobiology from UCLA in 2013. She has two years of clinical and translational research experience in the UCLA Department of Orthopaedics investigating the role of vitamin D in the activation of the innate immune system. As a member of BrainSPORT, Briana has the opportunity to combine her interests in neurology and sports medicine. Her interest in athletes stems from her own experience as a UCLA swimmer and she continues her involvement in the sport as a high school coach.
Sonal K. Singh
Research Coordinator, UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program
Sonal Singh earned her B.A. with honors in Political Science and a minor in Neuroscience and Theater from UCLA. She first started her work in clinical research with the UCLA Departments of Family Medicine & Orthopaedic Surgery, Division of Sports Medicine and Non-Operative Orthopaedics as a research coordinator investigating strategies for optimizing bone mineral density and reducing risk and incidence of bone stress injuries in Division I Collegiate middle and long distance runners. During her undergraduate years, Sonal worked in sports medicine as an Intern athletic trainer in the UCLA Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. Following graduation, she returned to her hometown to continue her athletic training work at her local high school in the city of La Mirada, California. Concurrently she worked in sports rehabilitation as a physical therapy aide. The need for sideline concussion care as it relates to appropriate return to play management, led her to the UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program. Sonal aspires to empower every athlete, child and individual with the information and tools necessary to manage concussions.
Jr. Clinic and Research Coordinator, UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program
Zoey is a recent UCLA graduate, with degrees in both neuroscience and economics. She is an international student from China and is preparing to apply to US medical schools. We met Zoey as a CTSI volunteer and she has spent the last year and a half volunteering with BrainSPORT, administering baselines and entering data. She currently volunteers at the Venice Family Clinic and has experience in a basic science laboratory as a research assistant at Jules Stein. Zoey enjoys playing sports and exercising; she grew up playing basketball in China.
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.
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.
Tisch BrainSPORT Fellows
Adam Darby, MD
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 and emerged 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 opportunity as a mission to protect two of his loves: the brain and sports.
Josh Kamins, MD
UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Fellow '18
Dr. Kamins received his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in Biological Basis of Behavior, attended the University of California, San Diego for medical school, conducted a preliminary medicine internship at California Pacific Medical Center before coming to UCLA for his Neurology residency and subsequently, joining the Tisch Sports Neurology-Neurotrauma Fellowship in 2016. As Dr. Kamins progressed through his Neurology training residency at UCLA, he knew that he wanted to subspecialize in a field that combined behavioral, neuropsychiatry, and mild traumatic brain injury. Being a former combat sports athlete, Dr. Kamins has combined his love for sports, research, clinical treatment, and sideline management, into this fellowship.
Julia Kerrigan, MD
UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Fellow '18
Dr. Julia Kerrigan grew up in Minnesota before traveling to California to play basketball at Santa Barbara's Westmont College where she was a four year starting center and All-American scholar athlete. After receiving her undergraduate degree, she accepted a clinical research position in Oslo, Norway where she investigated the influence of antibiotics on long term complications related to otitis media and presented her findings at an international conference in Paris, France in 2005. While in Europe, she was recruited to play Women's basketball and had the opportunity to play professionally while continuing her research. Dr. Kerrigan obtained her medical degree at the University of Minnesota Medical School where she remained active in research, community service, and athletics. In 2016, she completed her Adult Neurology Residency at Harbor UCLA Medical Center and thereafter joined the Tisch Fellowship Program where Dr. Kerrigan is able to combine her love for sports and medicine to help those with acute and chronic complications following concussion.
Douglas R. Polster, PhD
UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Fellow ‘17
Dr. Douglas Polster is the UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program Neuropsychology Postdoctoral Fellow. He specializes in brain injury and sports concussion at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. Former basketball player at Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Polster has a passion for incorporating his clinical expertise in sports-related concussion with his background in athletics. He is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and received his doctoral degree in clinical psychology with an emphasis in sports neuropsychology at Nova Southeastern University in 2015. He completed his predoctoral internship at Broward Health Medical Center specializing in medical psychology and consultation/liaison work. His research and clinical interests include assessing severity of sports-related concussion, novel diagnostic techniques, baseline screening and dissemination of concussion information to the community. While in graduate school, he helped promote the implementation of a county-wide policy requiring high school athletes to complete baseline neurocognitive screening prior to participating in athletics.