Meet the Fellows

Ching Zhu, MD

Ching Zhu, MD

Track: STAR Fellow (Basic Science PhD)
Residency: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Medical School: Stanford University School of Medicine

I grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, but completed most of my education and training—with the exception of medical school—in Boston. I thought I would stay on the East Coast for fellowship as well, but I knew that UCLA was the place for me when I learned about the STAR program. There is truly no other program like this anywhere else, especially for someone like me who wants to go into a procedural field (EP), but still be a serious basic scientist as well. My mentors at UCLA could not be more supportive, and it just feels like home here. I also love the huge variety of things to do and eat in LA. My favorite activity is getting ramen and boba in Sawtelle.


PGY-7

Xinjiang Cai, MD, PhD

Xinjiang Cai, MD, PhD

Track: STAR Fellow
Residency: Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (Bronx) Program
Medical School: Hunan Medical University

I was born and raised in Hunan, China. Hunan means "south of the lake" in Chinese, and it is located near the Dongting Lake, a flood basin for the longest river in China, the Yangtze. Hunan is also the birth place of dragon boat racing, which dates back more than 2,500 years. The Hunanese love rivers, and my first name literally means "new river" in Chinese. There are many reasons why I chose to come to UCLA for cardiology fellowship. UCLA has a comprehensive and superb clinical curriculum, diverse patient population, amazing fellows, and a strong supportive environment from the division leadership, faculty and staff. I also immediately fell in love with the STAR Program at the annual STAR symposium, which concurred during the fellowship interview. As someone who is interested in translational research, my favorite part of training has been the STAR program, which provides protected research time. After busy clinical rotations, I enjoy attending seminars, meeting with scientists, discussing projects with lab members and co-fellows, and designing and performing bench experiments. When I'm not working, I enjoy visiting the Santa Monica beaches and going to San Gabriel for authentic Chinese food.


Arash Nayeri, MD

Arash Nayeri, MD

Track: STAR Fellow
Residency: UCLA
Medical School: Vanderbilt University

Ashley Stein-Merlob, MD

Ashley Stein-Merlob, MD

Chief Fellow

Track: STAR Fellow
Residency: UCSF Medical Center
Medical School: Harvard Medical School

I was born and raised in Irvine, but I lived on the East Coast for almost a decade before returning to warm, sunny California for training. I came to UCLA because I wanted to pursue multidisciplinary research that takes advantage of the broad range of strengths of the university in biology, mathematics and engineering, while also ensuring high quality clinical cardiology training. The STAR program has provided the time and resources for me to pursue these interests through a PhD program with research in computational modeling of heart failure. Training at UCLA has been a great experience with a very supportive environment. In my spare time, I enjoy traveling, photography, and spending time with my dog and husband.


PGY-6

Manyoo Agarwal, MD

Manyoo Agarwal, MD

Track: Clinical Fellow
Residency: University of Tennessee-Memphis
Medical School: Maulana Azad Medical College

Nicholas Brownell, MD

Nicholas Brownell, MD

Track: STAR Fellow
Residency: University of Texas Southwestern
Medical School: Emory University

I was born in London, and on average, have moved every three years. I've lived in San Francisco, Tokyo, Singapore, Chicago, Ojai, Philadelphia, New York, Atlanta and Dallas. I chose UCLA for cardiology fellowship because of the strong clinical training, the supportive leadership, and the broad exposure to patients and pathology across three hospitals. In particular, I care deeply about working within the county system, where I can care for underserved populations; working at Olive View has been the highlight of my training. Otherwise, my favorite part of fellowship, without a doubt, has been working with my phenomenal co-fellows. When I get a free moment, my favorite activity is exploring the many hiking trails around LA with my wife and my UCLA family.

Dhananjay Chatterjee, MD

Dhananjay Chatterjee, MD

Track: Clinical Fellow
Residency: UCLA
Medical School: David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

I am a Southern California native and have insisted on staying at UCLA for all of my training. The culture of our program is phenomenal, and there is truly a sense of family amongst my cofellows, many of whom have become my closest friends. Our clinical training is rigorous but our program offers excellent flexibility, whether a fellow chooses to use their elective time to round out a procedural aspect of their skills or pursues research. My favorite rotation is the CCU, an intense rotation packed with learning, excitement, and unforgettable experiences. I enjoy it so much here I am even staying for interventional fellowship! Outside the hospital, LA has a myriad of experiences to offer (even during the pandemic). I enjoy going to the beach, playing volleyball and basketball, and most importantly spending ample time in the sun with my amazing wife and baby boy.

Girish Kalra, MD

Girish Kalra, MD

Track: Clinical Fellow
Residency: Emory University
Medical School: University of Miami Leonard M. Miller

Yi Lu, MD

Yi Lu, MD

Track: Clinical Fellow
Residency: Brigham and Women's Hospital
Medical School: UCSF

I grew up on the sunny shores of Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin. One of the highlights of my summers was going to a biblically-themed water park called Noah's Ark. I chose UCLA because of the fantastic clinical training. I was drawn to the three-hospital system for the breadth of experiences and pathologies, and we truly do split our time equally between a tertiary care center, the VA and a safety net hospital. My favorite part of the fellowship has been my co-fellows. This past year, I have met some of the smartest, funniest and most unique people that I know, and I love spending time with them at work and outside of the hospital. This includes the advanced fellows, who I have no hesitation texting for a clinical question or for a pasta recipe. My favorite locations in LA are the Cheesecake Factory in Santa Monica, the San Gabriel Mountains and the Griffith Park Observatory.

Jay Patel, MD

Jay Patel, MD

Track: Clinical Fellow
Residency: Stanford University
Medical School: University of Illinois at Chicago

I grew up in the Chicagoland area, where I completed all of my education before coming to California for residency and fellowship training. What an incredible 4-plus years it has been. I chose UCLA for cardiology fellowship because of the balance between strong clinical and research-oriented training, the camaraderie amongst attendings/fellows/housestaff, and the commitment to wellness displayed by our program leadership and the larger GME. My favorite part of fellowship so far has been working in the CCU. Although it's a tough rotation, the bonds formed and lessons learned will not soon be forgotten. Outside of work, there really is something for everyone in this beautiful city. My wife and I like nothing more than to delve into a delicious meal, so you'll either find us in line at a taco stand, tucked away in the corner of a trendy Arts District restaurant, or working furiously in the kitchen.

James Pinney, MD, PhD

James Pinney, MD, PhD

Chief Fellow

Track: Clinical Fellow
Residency: UCLA
Medical School: UCSF

I grew up in Santa Barbara and after finishing my MD/PhD training at UCSF, it was an easy choice to return to Southern California and UCLA for residency and fellowship training. In addition to the great weather and interesting geography that people always mention as benefits when discussing LA, the UCLA programs were appealing because of the rigorous training that’s offered in multiple distinct health systems, including a tertiary referral center, a large VA Medical Center, a private community hospital, and a rural county hospital with a predominantly underserved minority population. Cardiology, in particular, encompasses a huge range of pathology that is often disproportionately parsed along socioeconomic, ethnic and geographic lines. Having this breadth of training in a large and diverse demographic in one of the most populous culture centers in the world allowed me to gain exposure to and comfort with all manners of cardiac disease. Even more importantly, the culture of the faculty and housestaff is congenial, open, supportive and dedicated to teaching and ensuring the success and well-being of its trainees. I look forward to continuing to thrive in this environment and to pursuing my interests in applying tissue engineering and device technology to cardiology. Outside of the hospital, I am passionate about playing volleyball and raising a toddler and puppy. Parenthood has allowed me to experience fun activities in the Los Angeles area, such as the LA Zoo, Griffith Observatory, and countless science and kid's museums.

Negeen Shahandeh, MD

Negeen Shahandeh, MD

Chief Fellow

Track: Clinical Fellow
Residency: UCLA
Medical School: David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

I'm a Los Angeles native and a UCLA Bruin through and through. One of the reasons I chose to stay at UCLA for fellowship is the incredible camaraderie between fellows, which I noticed as a resident. Training at UCLA has given me the opportunity to see many diverse patients and diseases across three very different healthcare systems. When I'm not busy at work, I love baking, exploring new restaurants in different parts of the city, and going to summer concerts at the Hollywood Bowl.

Pratyaksh Srivastava, MD

Pratyaksh Srivastava, MD

Chief Fellow

Track: Clinical Fellow
Residency: UCLA
Medical School: Harvard Medical School

I am originally from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, though the California sun has done a great job of erasing snow from my memory. I really enjoy watching and playing ice hockey (yes, there is ice hockey in LA!), strumming my acoustic guitar, and eating my way through LA. I have truly enjoyed my time at UCLA. You would be hard-pressed to find a more passionate, caring, and well-rounded group of fellows, attendings, and administrators. Everyone is always there for each other, whether if be helping out on a busy call day or gathering to celebrate a birthday. UCLA also offers a rigorous and thorough clinical experience with an abundance of high-quality research opportunities.  Add on the perfect year-round weather, and the cultural diversity of Los Angeles, and you’ve got a program that’s pretty hard to beat!

David Tehrani, MD

David Tehrani, MD

Track: Clinical Fellow
Residency: University of Chicago
Medical School: UC Irvine

I grew up and completed my education in Southern California, before heading to Chicago for residency. Now, back at my alma mater for fellowship, I couldn't be happier. I chose UCLA because of the wonderful diversity in pathology and the opportunities we get across our clinical sites. We have wonderful teachers and mentors that help us develop into whatever type of cardiologist we hope to be. Beyond the broad clinical and research opportunities UCLA has to offer, Southern California is not a bad place to live. Having escaped the cold Chicago winters, I love spending my weekends with my wife findings new hikes across LA, running along the beach, and eating my way through all the neighborhoods in LA. I hope you considering joining our family.


PGY-5

Omid Amidi, MD

Omid Amidi, MD

Track: Clinical Fellow
Residency: Baylor College of Medicine
Medical School: SUNY Downstate

Being at UCLA for my cardiology fellowship training has been an absolute thrill. Working with amazing attendings in the cath lab, leading rounds in the CCU with stellar residents, and learning from world-class experts have been the three biggest highlights of the program for me. When I'm not at the hospital, you can find me at the Getty, the Santa Monica Pier, or exploring the many restaurants of LA (Persian food should be at the top of anyone’s list)!

Christopher Berg, MD

Christopher Berg, MD

Track: Clinical Fellow
Residency: UCLA
Medical School: David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

Kristin Boulier, MD

Kristin Boulier, MD

Track: STAR Fellow
Residency: Stanford
Medical School: University of Virginia

Celso Diaz, MD

Celso Diaz, MD

Track: Clinical Fellow
Residency: Northwestern
Medical School: UCSF

Elizabeth Hutchins, MD

Elizabeth Hutchins, MD

Track: STAR Fellow
Residency: Harbor-UCLA
Medical School: Columbia

I grew up in Santa Barbara and then moved to NYC for 10 years where I did both undergrad and medical school. For residency, it was back to Southern California at Harbor UCLA. I am so happy to be part of the UCLA Bruin family now as a fellow. We have such a great community and the academic environment is excellent. In my spare time I love to be outside, play tennis and squash, and enjoy west LA!

Lua Jafari, MD

Lua Jafari, MD

Track: Clinical Fellow
Residency: Northwestern
Medical School: Ohio State University College of Medicine

I grew up and completed most of my education/training in the Midwest. I was drawn to UCLA for the well-rounded clinical and research opportunities here. The ability to train at three distinct sites, each with unique patient populations and healthcare delivery systems, provides a well-balanced, rigorous curriculum in cardiac diseases. However, the best part of fellowship so far has been the people. My co-fellows, the faculty, and the program leadership have all been so positive and supportive from day one, with a steadfast commitment to our education and well-being. When not working, I’ve had a blast exploring LA with my husband and Boston terrier. I enjoy going on hikes and devouring the delicious and diverse food across the city!

Srikanth Krishnan, MD

Srikanth Krishnan, MD

Track: Clinical Fellow
Residency: UCLA
Medical School: University of California Irvine

UCLA has been the perfect fit for me for fellowship. I get to train in one of the best programs in the country while being close to family and I get to be in one of the coolest cities in the world. In my spare time I go for walks on the beach with my wife and son. 

Deepak Ravi, MD

Deepak Ravi, MD

Track: Clinical Fellow
Residency: UCLA
Medical School: David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

Buddy Reed, MD

Buddy Reed, MD

Track: Clinical Fellow
Residency: Vanderbilt
Medical School: George Washington University

Interests: Cooking, swimming, dancing, working out, camping, reading

Career goals: General Cardiology 

Marwah Shahid, MD

Marwah Shahid, MD

Track: Clinical Fellow
Residency: Baylor
Medical School: Georgetown University

Though being a cardiology fellow during this pandemic has brought an unexpected set of clinical challenges, it has also helped me realize how grateful I am to train at UCLA. I am indebted to the UCLA Cardiology Fellowship Program for constantly focusing on my training and growth as a fellow through protected research time, daily didactics and a house mentorship program. Being able to not only explore but also integrate my passion of biodesign into my practice as a cardiologist has been an opportunity I would not be able to find outside of UCLA.

Not only have my co-fellows been dependable in the clinical setting, they have become my best friends. From discussing complex ECMO cases over lunch to playing spikeball at the beach, I really have found a cohort of colleagues who I know will be lifelong friends.


PGY-4

Akintunde Akinkuolie, MBBS, MPH

Akintunde Akinkuolie, MBBS, MPH

Track: STAR Fellow
Residency: Massachusetts General
Medical School: University of Ibadan - College of Medicine

I come from Ondo city which is on the west of Nigeria and known for cocoa export. My clinical trek began in a neighboring city at the University of Ibadan where I developed my interest in cardiology. Exploring the drivers of the contrasting outcomes of patients who start out with the same disease process ignited my pursuit of academic medicine. After graduate school on the east coast, I embarked on research with the purpose of translating emerging mechanistic paradigms in lipoprotein biology and inflammation into patient care. This experience also strengthened my passion for bedside oriented research which led me to Massachusetts General Hospital for residency. The UCLA Cardiology interview convinced me that here I will develop into a thoroughly well-rounded clinical cardiologist and convinced me that I will not lack the excitement that comes with learning the intricacies of managing acute and stable cardiac conditions. In addition, the STAR program is the best platform for me to advance my research interest in Bioinformatics in relation to atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. My day-to-day clinical growth, immersion in purposeful mentorship, and unbridled interactions with all my attendings, have all been fulfilling. The scope of resources available for my development to become a clinician-scientist has truly been unmatched. Complementing these is the vibrant social scene in West Los Angeles that includes cultural diversity, beautiful beaches accessible all year round, and truly the best street tacos. Without a doubt, my favorite aspect thus far is the friendships that I have formed not only within my fellowship class, but also within the entire program. There is always a friend to discuss a clinical case, share life experiences, or explore town together.

Adrian Castillo, MD

Adrian Castillo, MD

Track: Clinical Fellow
Residency: Stanford
Medical School: David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

I’m a life-long Californian and grew up in the suburbs just outside of Los Angeles. After medical school at UCLA I went to Stanford for residency, but when it came time for cardiology fellowship I knew coming back to UCLA was the perfect match for me. This program has it all: an outstanding, supportive faculty; our incredibly diverse patient population; four unique training sites; and, most importantly, the absolute best co-fellows. Even just a month into fellowship I’ve been blown away at how amazing the Bruin Hearts family is. Outside of work, my wife and I are having a blast raising our infant son and two dogs and you will often find me surfing, exploring LA’s incredible food scene, or looking for the next great board game.

Neha Chandra, MD

Neha Chandra, MD

Track: Clinical Fellow
Residency: UCLA
Medical School: UC San Diego

I am a California native and have lived in the Bay Area, San Diego, and Los Angeles for my training. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to stay at UCLA for cardiology fellowship. UCLA offers a rigorous and diverse clinical training experience under the mentorship of passionate and supportive faculty and co-fellows. Within cardiology, I am interested in advanced heart failure/transplant cardiology and supporting women in cardiology. Outside of work, you can find me picnicking in Palisades Park, going on walks in Brentwood with my husband, or obsessing over my next Peloton class.

Sthuthi David, MD

Sthuthi David, MD

Track: Clinical Fellow
Residency: University of Virginia
Medical School: University of Rochester

I was born in Chennai, India and moved to Boston when I was eight years old. I spent most of my life on the east coast and when applying for cardiology fellowship, I cast a wide net and applied to programs all over the country. UCLA stood out of the pack instantly and had everything I was looking for and more. The faculty here are leaders in their respective fields and are committed to fellow education. The training is comprehensive, and through the four-hospital system, we treat a wide array of cardiac pathology and take care of a diverse patient population. I can’t say enough good things about my co-fellows; I learn so much from them and the camaraderie between us is truly unmatched. I love Los Angeles because there is something here for everyone. Outside of the hospital, you can find me taking part of various outdoor fitness classes, spending time at the beach, and indulging in Korean BBQ.   

Samuel Jackson, MD

Samuel Jackson, MD

Track: Clinical Fellow
Residency: UCLA
Medical School: David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

I grew up on the east coast in Ipswich, Massachusetts before moving to Napa, California when I was 10 years old. I attended UC Davis and remain a proud Aggie to this day. I went to medical school at UCLA and continued there for residency and now fellowship! In fellowship, I'm excited to further develop my interests in medical education and Cardio-Oncology. I'm thrilled to be training at UCLA, and have loved so many aspects of my experience so far. The supportive nature of my senior fellows and attendings, outstanding opportunities for research and curricular innovation, and the tremendous breadth of pathology that we see at our different training sites have made for a fantastic start to fellowship. Outside of the hospital, you can find me exploring the expansive city of Los Angeles, hiking, or trying out a new recipe at home. 

Golsa Joodi, MD

Golsa Joodi, MD

Track: STAR Fellow
Residency: Yale University
Medical School: Tehran University

Sami Natour, MD

Sami Natour, MD

Track: Clinical Fellow
Residency: UCLA
Medical School: University of Virginia

I was born and raised in Lynchburg, Virginia and lived most of my life in the mid-Atlantic until coming to UCLA for residency. For me, the decision to stay at UCLA for fellowship was an easy one: outstanding clinical training across very different patient populations, some of the most supportive and dedicated clinician educators you will ever meet, and of course brilliant co-fellows whom I am lucky to call colleagues. Outside of work you can find me struggling to keep up with the Pacemakers (UCLA IM residency running club) and eating my way through LA’s almost endless restaurant scene.

Soniya Rabadia, MD

Soniya Rabadia, MD

Track: Clinical Fellow
Residency: UCLA
Medical School: UC San Diego

I was born and raised in Seattle, Washington, but have made my way down the coast to complete my training in San Diego and Los Angeles. I am thankful to continue my training within the UCLA family. That's the thing, it truly feels like a family. The camaraderie and culture amongst the residents, fellows and faculty is unmatched. UCLA really is the full package: diverse patient population, rigorous clinical training, enthusiastic and supportive faculty, and obviously the best co-fellows one could ever ask for. I am interested in medical education and promoting women in cardiology. Outside of work, you can find me drinking boba, hiking along LA's numerous trails, or eating the best donuts in town.

Warren Tai, MD

Warren Tai, MD

Track: STAR Fellow
Residency: Vanderbilt
Medical School: University at Buffalo

Patrick Zakka, MD

Patrick Zakka, MD

Track: Clinical Fellow
Residency: Emory University
Medical School: American University of Beirut

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and moved to Lebanon at the age of 10. I completed medical school at the American University of Beirut, after which I spent two years there doing basic and clinical research in cardiac electrophysiology. I then moved to Atlanta to complete my residency in internal medicine and a chief resident year at Emory University, and am now thrilled to have moved back home to Los Angeles to a program I had always wanted to train at: UCLA. The cultural diversity, and both the clinical and research opportunities are big reasons as to why I pursued cardiology here. The diversity of training (VA, Olive View, Ronald Reagan, etc) also helps build a well-rounded cardiologist. In my free time, I enjoy playing basketball and supporting my Lakers.