Research is an integral part of the resident training experience at UCLA Urology. Every year the Urology fourth-year (R4) residents choose a research project and work with a faculty mentor to develop their specific project. Our Department is fortunate to have excellent clinicians and researchers on faculty working on a wide variety of research projects. We firmly believe this has enabled us to build a comprehensive and cohesive academic residency program.
2022 Resident Research
Dr. Andre Belarmino is devoting his fourth year to leading the research endeavors of the Men’s Clinic at UCLA, under the mentorship and guidance of Drs. Jesse Mills and Sriram Eleswarapu, UCLA Urology faculty members. There, he will focus on identifying causes and possible therapeutic interventions for male factor infertility. His main project utilizes a mail-in semen analysis kit to assess rates of DNA fragmentation among sub-fertile cohorts, and optimization of semen cryopreservation. Dr. Belarmino will collaborate with Fellow Health in its DNA fragmentation test and mail-in semen kits, and will work on projects examining the cost-effectiveness and compliance of mail-in semen testing in the post-vasectomy patient. “My goal for this research year is to further my knowledge of infertility and andrology, and better understand how medical startups can integrate with academic medicine to advance health care,” Dr. Belarmino says.
Dr. Cindy Gu is spending her research year investigating new diagnostic tools to better understand and treat patients afflicted with interstitial cystitis or bladder pain syndrome (IC/BPS), under the guidance and mentorship of Dr. A. Lenore Ackerman, UCLA Urology assistant professor and director of research for the Division of Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery. Her research project aims to better categorize and identify clinical phenotypes of IC/BPS through objective measures by using machine-learning approaches and identifying unique urinary microbiome groups through PCR and next generation sequencing. “We often see IC/BPS patients in clinic and they can be some of the most difficult patients to treat because we just don’t know enough about them,” Dr. Gu says. “Treatments courses are often prolonged because it requires a lot of trial and error, as each patient’s symptoms are unique. Through better diagnostic tools and more accurate categorization of IC/BPS patients, future treatments and research can be tailored appropriately and accurately."
Dr. Lin Lin is spending her research year investigating the metabolism of a common type of kidney tumor called oncocytoma, under the supervision of Dr. Brian Shuch, UCLA Urology associate professor, director of the Institute of Urologic Oncology Kidney Cancer Program, and Henry Alvin and Carrie L. Meinhardt Chair for Kidney Cancer Research; and Dr. David Shackelford, associate professor in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine and an expert in signal transduction and cancer metabolism. Using next-generation sequencing, gene expression analysis, and metabolic functional assays, the team aims to characterize the metabolic alterations in oncocytomas. “Renal oncocytoma is one of the most commonly encountered benign renal tumors, and currently we are unable to differentiate these lesions from malignant kidney cancers, which leads to unnecessary treatment and tremendous health care costs,” Dr. Lin explains. “We know oncocytomas are densely packed with mitochondria, where the biochemical processes of respiration and energy production occur; given that many cancers have mitochondrial defects, I hope this work will be a critical step toward understanding a wide range of pathologies in urologic cancers.”
Dr. Grace Sollender is spending her research year exploring the experiences of patients and their families with the diagnosis and management of adolescent varicocele. Under the primary mentorship of Dr. Sriram Eleswarapu with Drs. Jennifer Singer and Christopher Saigal as co-mentors, she is employing qualitative research methods to elicit core themes that inform decision-making. "To better counsel patients and their families on how to proceed after diagnosis of a varicocele, this project aims to identify key factors at play when families are making a decision on management. Ultimately, our goal is to improve the patient and family experience," Dr. Sollender notes. She states, "During residency, my clinical work has focused my understanding of the importance of the family perspective as a key component of disease management in pediatric urology. To this end, I hope this work will be an initial step in sparking a career dedicated to taking care of pediatric patients and their families."