Our Team


Yalda Afshar, MD, PhD
Principal Investigator
Assistant Professor In-Residence
UCLA Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine 
Dr. Afshar is a physician-scientist with clinical and research interests that intersect and include high-risk pregnancy, prenatal ultrasound, genetic testing, and congenital heart disease, either affecting the mother or fetus. Dr. Afshar is a recipient of a National Institute of Health Reproductive Scientist Development Award. Her research is focused on congenital heart disease and placentation, among other translational pregnancy related topics.


Lior Kashani Ligumsky

Lior Kashani Ligumsky, MD
Lior a project scientist, who, along with her husband and four children, relocated to Los Angeles for their fellowships. She grew up in Israel and attended medical school at Tel-Aviv University, she completed her obstetrics and gynecology residency at Maynei Hayeshua Medical Center in Bnei Brak, Israel. Her current research focus centers on developing in vivo and in vitro models for the placenta accreta spectrum (PAS). Lior is dedicated to contributing to advancements in early detection and prevention of PAS through her research efforts.  

Angela Desmond

Angela Desmond, MD 
Angela is a pediatrician and neonatal-perinatal medicine fellow at UCLA. She grew up outside of Boston and attended medical school in Albany, NY before moving to Los Angeles for her pediatrics residency. Her research interests include prenatal cardiac magnetic resonance imaging and investigating metabolomic derangements in pregnancies affected by congenital heart disease. She hopes her research endeavors contribute to improving the care of infants born with congenital heart disease. When she is not in the ICU or in the lab, you can find Angela running, hiking, drinking tea, spending time with family, and exploring the west coast. 

Zahra Sharifheris

Zahra Sharifi-Heris, PhD 
Zahra Sharifi-Heris is a CTSI postdoctoral fellow with a PhD in nursing who follows her enthusiasm enhancing health care by integrating implementational and computational science in order to develop efficient and feasible predictive model for the life-threatening complications during pregnancy. 

Sohum Shah

Sohum Shah, MD 
Sohum is an OBGYN and maternal-fetal medicine fellow at UCLA. He completed his medical school and Ob/Gyn residency at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX, where he is from. His clinical and research interests include fetal intervention and placenta accreta spectrum disorders. In his free time, Sohum loves all things outdoors including hiking, climbing, running, and skiing. You can find him on the LA trails with his rescue husky dog Rainey. He is excited to call LA his new home.  


Guadalupe Martinez

Guadalupe Martinez 
Guadalupe Martinez, a first-generation student, graduated from UCLA in 2021 with a Physiological Science Major and a Global Health Minor. She formally joined the Afshar Lab as a Staff Research Associate in Summer 2022. She is currently pursuing her Master’s of Public Health at the University of Southern California. Guadalupe is currently working on a few projects including Social Determinants of Health in pregnant women with Cardiovascular Disease and understanding the underlying mechanism of Placenta Accreta Spectrum. In addition to being an SRA, she is also greatly involved in community and global health work both in Los Angeles and Tijuana, Mexico. In the future, she plans to apply to medical school and hopes to become a physician who works in underserved communities and advocates for health and equity for all. When she is not in the lab she enjoys painting and dancing in a ballet folklorico group where she is able to stay connected to her Oaxacan roots. 

Anhyo Jeong

Anhyo Jeong 
Anhyo is a staff research associate (SRA I) from Santa Barbara. He was born in South Korea but raised in the U.S., and some of his favorite hobbies include playing soccer and piano. His current focus of research is on the altered endothelial cell response to flow in congenital heart disease patients as well as placenta accreta spectrum, but also loves learning about other areas of research like kidney cancer. Anhyo hopes to attend medical school and eventually set up a lab in the future in order to continue biomedical research. 

Medical Students

Olivia Scott

Olivia Scott 
Olivia Scott grew up in Los Angeles, CA, and she is currently a second-year medical student at UCLA. In the lab, she is working on a project about cord blood signatures and risk stratification of prenatal congenital heart disease. Olivia is very interested in women's health broadly, and specifically in working to improve maternal health outcomes for Black women. 

Vanessa Kirschner 

Vanessa Kirschner  
I studied neuroscience as an undergraduate at Wake Forest University. During that time, I worked as a birth doula for people uninsured or with Medicaid - introducing me to the world of women's health. Here at DGSOM, I was the Operations Director for the LA Human Rights Initiative. I hope to continue being involved and learning more about the intersection of women's health, immigrant health, and cardiovascular disease. Outside of medicine, you'll find me at a local bookstore or hiking around the Palisades! 


Joanne Sarsam

Joanne Sarsam 
Joanne is a third year Computational and Systems Biology student at UCLA. She studies computational modeling methods to develop a novel pipeline for modeling 3D prenatal aortic morphology from 2D echocardiograms, to improve prenatal diagnosis of coarctation. Joanne's research interests include applying mathematical modeling and bioinformatic methods to elucidate fetal and reproductive biology. Outside of lab, she enjoys exploring new cities, crocheting, and spending time with family.  

Abigail Chang

Abigail Chang 
Abigail Chang is a second-year undergraduate majoring in Human Biology and Society. Abigail joined the Afshar Lab in the fall of 2023 and is enthusiastic about promoting women’s health and reproductive justice. She is excited to join projects further exploring the connection between the placenta and fetal heart to learn more about congenital heart disease and improve outcomes for affected mothers and infants. In her free time, you can find Abigail hanging out with friends and family, trying new recipes, exercising, or anywhere by the beach––swimming, surfing, scuba diving, or just enjoying the sun. 

Preeti Karthikeyan

Preeti Karthikeyan 
Preeti Karthikeyan is a sophomore at the University of California, Los Angeles, pursuing a degree in Statistics & Data Science on the pre-medical path. The research the Afshar Lab works on successfully combines her two vastly different interests to produce something fascinating and groundbreaking. In addition to her research and academic endeavors, she is very inclined to the performing arts, reading, sketching, and writing. She has dreamed of being a doctor since the age of 7 and being in the Afshar Lab provides her with a platform to learn more about the biology behind—and the real-life impact of—the research being done. 

Resident Physicians

Prisca Diala

Prisca Diala, MD 
Prisca Diala is a resident in the Obstetrics and Gynecology Residency Program at the David Geffen UCLA School of Medicine. She completed her undergraduate education at Pomona College and her medical school education at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine. Her academic and research interests lie at the intersections of Global Health and Maternal Fetal Medicine. In her free time, she loves reading books, watching Korean dramas, and hanging out with her nieces and nephews. 

Sabrina Alexander

Sabrina Alexander, MD 
Sabrina Alexander is a resident in the Obstetrics and Gynecology Residency Program at the David Geffen UCLA School of Medicine. Sabrina grew up in Newark, NJ. She attended Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and is currently a second-year Ob/Gyn resident at UCLA. Her research interests include obstetrics with a focus on health disparities and preventive medicine. Her hobbies include playing tennis and learning how to crochet. 


Irina Gontschar, MD, PhD, CCRP

Jenny Mei, MD

Allison Woods

Ophelia Yin, MD

Marie Altendahl, MD 

Nicole Charland 

Jasmine Gonzalez 

Helia Imany-Shakibai, MD 

Sarah Tabataei 

Karrison Ibe  

Christine Yang