UCLA Urologic Oncology Fellowship Testimonials

Wayne Brisbane, MD (2019 - 2021):
Dr. Brisbane joined UCLA’s Institute for Urologic Oncology and Department of Urology for a 2-year SUO accredited fellowship in 2019.  He currently holds a joint appointment at an Assistant Professor at the University of Florida and a Project Scientist at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine.

“When looking for fellowships I had 3 goals: 

  1. Improve my research
  2. Refine my surgical skills
  3. Learn to surf

Reflecting back on my 2 years at UCLA, I confidently achieved 2 of the 3. 

  1. The research experience was the jewel of my fellowship.  I wrote 5 grants, got 2 funded, ran a clinical trial, and published 7 manuscripts. I benefited from several mentors and advocates resulting in an academic urology position at the University of Florida with a 40% research allocation. 
  2. I had excellent training during residency, however, my fellowship instructed me in advanced techniques including a) robotic RPLND, b) intracorporeal urinary reconstruction, c) multi-focal partial nephrectomy, and d) prostate focal therapy. 
  3. I spent a considerable amount of time surfing, but it still feels like controlled drowning.”

David Johnson, MD:
Dr. Johnson joined UCLA’s Institute for Urologic Oncology and Department of Urology for a 3-year SUO accredited fellowship in 2017.  He is currently the Medical Director for Value Transformation at BlueCross BlueShield North Carolina (BCBSNC) and Clinical Assistant Professor of Urologic Oncology at the University of North Carolina.

“My three years at UCLA was spectacular. Starting with my clinical year, I made strong and lasting relationships with my co-fellows, residents, administrative support and research staff, and faculty that positively shaped the remainder of my time during my research years. The highlight of my time was collaborating with all parts of the Department of Urology and the entire UCLA Institution. I was afforded the opportunity to work with the UCLA Health System Leadership, the finance department, public health and management faculty, and health system researchers from multiple departments. I was supported at every step in my process of exploring a non-traditional research and career path, which allowed me to land a unique employment opportunity that is expanding my skill set and ability to affect change on the health system level. I will always feel like I am part of the UCLA family and continue to benefit from the IUO network.” 

Aydin Pooli, MD:
Dr. Pooli joined UCLA’s Institute for Urologic Oncology and Department of Urology for a 2-year SUO accredited fellowship in 2017.  He is currently a physician and Clinical Instructor at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital and Olive View-UCLA Medical Center.

"As a urologic oncology fellow, I had the great privilege of working with a brilliant and supportive UCLA team – a team that immersed us in an academic world that celebrated new ways of thinking and innovative medical and surgical solutions for patients suffering from genitourinary cancer. I know I was surrounded with excellence at every level: from the faculty, nursing, and research staff to the coordinators, secretaries, and co-fellows who together made my fellowship experience the best in every aspect. For this, I will always be grateful."

Izak Faiena, MD:
Dr. Faiena joined UCLA’s Institute for Urologic Oncology and Department of Urology in 2016 for a 3-year SUO accredited fellowship and obtained a Master's in Clinical and Translational Research from the UCLA CTSI.  He is currently Chief of Urology at the James J Peters VA Medical Center and Assistant Professor of Urology at Columbia University

"My fellowship experience at UCLA was memorable, enjoyable, and rewarding. The multidimensional mentorships that I was fortunate to have were instrumental in my development as a urologic oncologist. I achieved my goal of gaining significant experience in translational immuno-oncology under the mentorship of Dr. Pantuck, Dr. Drakaki, and Dr. Belldegrun. They allowed me some autonomy in developing my ideas and my research knowledge while guiding me through the bewildering process of a translational project from start to finish. They helped me tap into their vast network of collaborators to ensure I had all the resources necessary to successfully complete my project. They advocated for me in numerous ways and were crucial in helping establish connections that eventually led to my current position. My surgical and career mentors, Dr. Chamie and Dr. Litwin, helped me hone my surgical skills to take me to the next level in my development. They had incredible patience to have numerous conversations with me regarding my career path and to advise me on how to approach the tricky job search. Their foresight and knowledge pointed me in the right direction and helped find a great job that suited my interests, which placed me on a path to future academic success.  At the end, and just as important, I forged lasting relationships with an incredible group of academic urologic oncologists nonpareil."

Nicholas Donin, MD:
Dr. Donin joined UCLA’s Institute for Urologic Oncology and Department of Urology for a 2-year Society of Urologic Oncology (SUO) – accredited fellowship in 2015. He is currently UCLA Health Sciences Assistant Clinical Professor.

“I had a tremendous time at UCLA. For a two-year fellowship, UCLA allowed me to meet virtually all of my professional goals. I consider it an amazingly successful professional experience and I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to be a UCLA fellow.”

Christopher Filson, MD:
Dr. Filson joined the UCLA Institute for Urologic Oncology for a 2-year Society of Urologic Oncology (SUO) – accredited fellowship in 2013. He is currently Assistant Professor of Urology at Emory University School of Medicine.

“In my experience, the urologic oncology fellowship at UCLA’s Department of Urology and Institute for Urologic Oncology was instrumental in preparing myself for a career as an academic urologic oncologist. I was trained well in all facets: the operating room, the multidisciplinary clinic, and in the academic research setting. In particular, with UCLA’s efforts in leading the field in immunotherapy research for urologic oncology patients, I feel is a particular advantage when working with patients and researchers in that field.”

HungJui “Ray” Tan, MD:
Dr. Tan joined the UCLA Institute for Urologic Oncology for a 3-year Society of Urologic Oncology (SUO) – accredited fellowship in 2013. He is currently Assistant Professor of Urology at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“What has struck me most about the fellowship at UCLA is the breadth of exposure to the field. Now as faculty at the University of North Carolina, I find myself working in areas I didn’t necessarily expect. This includes working with the prostate imaging program, growing the MRI-US fusion biopsy program, and finding potential translational and clinical applications for prostate and kidney biomarkers. Even though my institution is well-known for its robotic surgery program, I also find myself adding to the program with robotic RPLND and retroperitoneal robotic partial nephrectomy.”

Joshua Logan, MD:
Dr. Logan joined UCLA’s Institute for Urologic Oncology and Department of Urology in 2011 for a 2-year Society of Urologic Oncology (SUO) – accredited fellowship. He is currently a staff urologic oncologist at Alaska Institute of Surgical and Medical Specialties.

“As a graduate of the UCLA urologic oncology fellowship, I can see a clear impact of the advanced training I received in my current community non-academic practice resulting in statewide referrals. My oncologic thinking processes, advanced surgical skills, as well as my collaborative approach to complex urologic oncology were refined through the fellowship, and have been invaluable to me, and the patients I care for.”

Geoffrey Sonn, MD:
Dr. Sonn joined UCLA for a 2-year Society of Urologic Oncology (SUO) – accredited fellowship in 2011. He is currently Assistant Professor in the Department of Urology at Stanford School of Medicine.

“My experience as a urologic oncology fellow at UCLA was instrumental in achieving my goal of becoming an academic urologic oncologist.  I came to UCLA because of its tremendous breadth of research opportunities.  I quickly found several exciting projects that I continue to pursue as a junior faculty member at Stanford.  At UCLA I gained valuable surgical skills, worked with outstanding mentors, and developed the research interests that resulted in my first academic job and enabled me to launch my research career.”

Frédéric Birkhäuser, MD:
Dr. Birkhäuser joined UCLA’s Institute for Urologic Oncology and Department of Urology in 2010 for a 2-year urologic oncology fellowship. He is currently Assistant Professor at University of Bern in Switzerland.

“Beside all the great moments I enjoyed in California, the two-year fellowship was a key piece in my academic training and dossier that allowed me to obtain the assistant professor position at the University of Berne. Thanks to the unique opportunity I had to work with all of the experts at UCLA, I got an excellent view into the field of immune-oncology. Even today, I am still benefitting a lot from these two years, and I remain very grateful to all of you!”

Nils Kroger, MD:
Dr. Kroger joined UCLA for a year-long urologic oncology research fellowship in 2010. He is currently an Assistant Professor at Ernst-Muritz-Arndt University in Greifswald, Germany.

“I was a research fellow at UCLA under the supervision of Dr. Allan Pantuck from 2010-2011. When I began, I had only basic knowledge how to design and perform research, to write papers, and to present my findings in an academic setting. Dr. Pantuck formed nearly all my scientific skills during my fellowship and the following years of our intensive collaboration. Collectively, my work at UCLA was the basis for my “habilitation thesis”, a formal requirement to become a Professor in Germany. Additionally, the reputation for having been a former fellow at UCLA formed the basis for me to contact and to collaborate with world leading experts in urology and GU Oncology. This was undoubtedly another key aspect for the development of my career. Many thanks for your support, Drs. Pantuck and Belldegrun!”

Karim Chamie, MD:
Dr. Chamie joined UCLA in 2009 for a 3-year combined Society of Urologic Oncology (SUO) – accredited and Health Services fellowship. He is currently Associate Professor of Urology at UCLA.

“The SUO Fellowship at UCLA has been instrumental in my career development. Drs. Arie Belldegrun, Mark Litwin, Allan Pantuck and Christopher Saigal were not only my mentors, but my biggest career advocates. This was first evident during fellowship when I found myself with the unique skill sets necessary to succeed as a clinician, surgeon, and scientist. Upon completing fellowship, I was offered a number of jobs at top-tier academic institutions with the opportunity to be in a leadership position. In fact, it is not uncommon for UCLA Urologic Oncology fellows and junior faculty be giving plenary talks at the societal organizations such as the AUA, SUO, and ASCO. After 4 years out from fellowship as I transition from being an assistant professor to an associate professor, I am forever indebted to my mentors at UCLA who have helped support me, my family, and my career along the way. It is without doubt, the best fellowship program in the country.”

Tobias Klatte, MD:
Dr. Klatte joined UCLA in 2006 for a 2-year research fellowship in the field of urologic oncology. He is currently Associate Professor of Urology at the Medical University of Vienna.

“I came to UCLA in 2006, and my research fellowship helped me do all the things I had hoped for. I was put in a stimulating environment with outstanding researchers who facilitated my scientific training and productivity. I was able to extend the output of my research papers by a considerable amount, both in qualitative and in quantitative terms, and achieved standards of definite excellence. After two years, I was prepared to look for opportunities to relocate to Europe under the best conditions possible. This fellowship helped me to get into the prestigious program at the Medical University of Vienna and to establish my own clinical and translational research group. Furthermore, the numerous publications I published while at UCLA set the stage for my academic promotion to the rank of an associate professor. I will always remain very grateful for this experience and the continuous support I received even after leaving UCLA.”

Brad Leibovich, MD:
Dr. Leibovich joined UCLA in 2003 for a one-year urologic oncology fellowship. He is currently Professor and Chair of Urology at the Mayo Clinic.

“My fellowship experience helped me to solidify my understanding of the surgical and medical oncologic management of patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma.  It also helped with making contacts nationally and internationally in renal cell carcinoma. I also developed a more mature understanding of the intricacies of both investigator initiated and industry sponsored clinical trial research.”

Hyung Kim, MD:
Dr. Kim joined UCLA in 2002 for a one-year urologic oncology fellowship. He is currently Associate Director, Surgical Research at the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute; Director of Academic Programs for Urology and Co-Medical Director of the Urologic Oncology Program at Cedars-Sinai Hospital.

“I was a urologic oncology fellow at UCLA under Dr. Arie Belldegrun.  It was one of the most educationally productive times of my life.  I left the fellowship with increased confidence in my surgical skills.  I learned how to write and conduct clinical trials.  Many of the UCLA faculty were wonderful role models of surgeon scientists.  After completing my fellowship, I was awarded an NIH career-development grant that led to an independent, NIH-funded research program.  I am now the Director of the faculty urology program at Cedars Sinai, and I am grateful for the wonderful fellowship training I received at UCLA that prepared me for my academic-urology career.”

Jeffery Wieder, MD:
Dr. Wieder joined UCLA in 2000 for a two-year Society of Urologic Oncology (SUO) – accredited fellowship. He is currently a practicing urologist at Golden Gate Urology in California.

“My oncology fellowship at UCLA was invaluable. It helped me further hone my clinical and surgical skills, and undoubtedly made be a better urologist.  The fellowship also enhanced my ability to critically review the urological literature, which ultimately improved my ability to create quality content for my pocket guide.”

Amnon Zisman, MD:
Dr. Zisman joined UCLA for a 2-year Society of Urologic Oncology (SUO) – accredited fellowship in 1999. He is currently Professor and Chair in the Department of Urology at the Assof-Harofeh Medical Center in Israel.

“As a Urologic Oncology fellow at UCLA, I experienced cutting edge urology. Since that time, part of the activities I saw at UCLA have become the standard of care and other parts have become absolutely mandatory. The real "take home message," however, was the framework that I learned:  set-ups, leadership and spirit, intra-departmental organization, and the general feeling of a real "know how."  Since the end of my fellowship until the time I was appointed Chief of my department, the UCLA fellowship in urologic oncology gave me a full urologic-oncology tool pack and an example of what should be a fully developed framework of a urologic oncology division, as well as how a group of urologic oncologists divide missions and get along with each other and still promote the organization.

When I became Division Chief in 2013, my horizon further widened and again allowed me to see that being actively involved with the UCLA Department of Urology for 2.5 years prepared me to make decisions on departmental goals and priorities in terms of structure, atmosphere, resident and student education and research goals and programs. With a full-blown role model in the shape of UCLA Department of Urology, this was actually very easy for me. Therefore my first understanding was to establish a pediatric urology division that was missing within the department for at least 3 decades and to develop a robust robotic program. I am sure that when future challenges will come along the way, I will be able to rely on the UCLA example to decide how it should be managed.”