New UCLA Center Focusing on Disorders of the Esophagus to be Named for Robert Kardashian
The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA has established a center for holistic, patient-centered treatment, research and education related to disorders of the esophagus.
The new center is named in memory of Robert G. Kardashian, a prominent Los Angeles attorney who died of esophageal cancer in 2003. Kardashian’s family will launch fundraising efforts to provide resources for the center’s key initiatives and activities.
The Robert G. Kardashian Center for Esophageal Health, which is based in the UCLA Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases, combines UCLA Health’s collective expertise in gastroenterology, surgery, oncology, anesthesiology, radiology, pathology and pediatrics to gain new insights into the causes of these disorders and to develop new prevention and treatment strategies. The Robert G. Kardashian Center will collaborate with the Melvin and Bren Simon Digestive Diseases Center and the Manoukian Division’s Integrative Digestive Health and Wellness Program to provide individualized care to patients.
“I am grateful for my friendship with the Kardashian family and this partnership, which will make a difference in patients’ lives for decades to come,” said Dr. Eric Esrailian, chief of the Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases. “We hope the family’s commitment inspires even more support from our community of friends — positioning the Robert G. Kardashian Center as a leader in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of esophageal conditions. This is just the beginning.”
Rates of esophageal cancer have increased dramatically in recent years. Evidence suggests lifestyle and the presence of gastroesophageal reflux disease play a role. Esophageal cancer, which has few symptoms, often goes undetected but is treatable if caught early — especially with the most innovative approaches.
“Our family is proud to pay tribute to our father by partnering with UCLA Health to establish the Robert G. Kardashian Center for Esophageal Health,” Kim Kardashian West said. “We look forward to working with our longtime family friend, Dr. Eric Esrailian, the Melvin and Bren Simon Digestive Diseases Center, and the UCLA Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases to build the best program of its kind in the country. We hope to save lives and help the community for many years to come in honor of our father.”
The Kardashian Center will utilize state-of-the-art treatments, recruit top faculty from around the world, invest in training specialists and raise awareness of the causes and treatment of esophageal disease.
“Establishing critical centers of excellence, combining comprehensive care, research and education enables our institution to bring patients, physicians, scientists and staff together with a specific focus and with the potential to have maximal impact for our community,” said Dr. John Mazziotta, vice chancellor of UCLA Health Sciences and CEO of UCLA Health. “The Robert G. Kardashian Center for Esophageal Health will be yet another important pillar for UCLA Health and the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in our efforts to advance patient care and science for years to come.”
The establishment of the center and the Kardashian family’s fundraising initiative were announced April 16 — during Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month — at a campus event attended by the family and by other friends of the university.
Muriel Larauche, PhD, Awarded NIH SBIR Phase II Grant for $2 Million
Dr. Larauche and Sentia Medical Sciences, Inc. (La Jolla, CA) were awarded a $2 million two-year, NIH SBIR Phase II grant, through the NIH NIDDK institute, to investigate and validate the use of non-selective peripherally-restricted CRF receptor antagonists (astressins) to target visceral pain in IBS patients. The grant follows a six-month SBIR Phase I grant awarded in June 2018 to the same team. Dr. Larauche will be responsible for the preclinical studies and testing the efficacy of the astressin drug candidates in both prophylactic and therapeutic modalities in rodent models of chronic IBS. Drs. Yvette Taché and Lin Chang from the UCLA Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases are also involved in the study.
Elaine Hsiao, PhD, Co-recipient of John H. Walsh Lectureship in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
Dr. Hsiao, assistant professor in the Department of Integrative Biology & Physiology and the Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases, was recognized for her “Host-Microbiome Interactions through Intestinal Serotonin” research. Dr. John Walsh was a distinguished member of the faculty at the David Geffen School of Medicine from 1970 until 2000 and was chief of the Division of Digestive Diseases from 1988 to 1993. He was renowned for his research in the regulation of gastric secretion and the physiology of gastrointestinal tract hormones. Dr. Walsh’s greatest passion was mentoring young basic and clinical scientists in achieving successful academic careers. The Walsh Prize for outstanding research was established to honor his memory.
Ani Kardashian, MD, Receives 2019 AASLD Advanced/Transplant Hepatology Foundation Award
Dr. Kardashian was selected to receive a 2019 Advanced/Transplant Hepatology Award through the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases Foundation (AASLD Foundation). Her project — in collaboration with selected UC San Francisco faculty — will be on the role of the microbiome in liver fibrosis in HIV. This two-year, $30,000 award is intended to encourage the academic careers of exceptional hepatology trainees, providing research support during the academic hepatologist’s first faculty year and providing protected time to perform mentored research.
Jihane Benhammou, MD, Receives 2019 AASLD Advanced/Transplant Hepatoloy Foundation Award
Dr. Benhammou received Advanced/Transplant Hepatology Foundation funding for her study — under the mentorship of Dr. Steven-Huy Han — of liver transcriptomics in NASH-associated hepatocellular carcinoma through the infrastructure of the newly NCI-funded translational liver consortium group. This award is intended for trainees obtaining an advanced degree in transplant hepatology with an interest in research and pursuing an academic career.
Sammy Saab, MD, MPH, Elected to the American Liver Foundation (ALF) Board of Directors
Dr. Saab was elected to the ALF board, an honor that recognizes his commitment to the fight against liver-related diseases. The ALF, founded in 1976, is a national, voluntary nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention, treatment and cure of hepatitis and other liver diseases through research, education and advocacy.
V. Raman Muthusamy, MD, MAS, Leads AGA’s Annual Tech Summit in San Francisco
Dr. Muthusamy, the current chair of the American Gastroenterological Association’s (AGA) Center for GI Innovation and Technology, is also the chair of the Annual Tech Summit’s planning committee. The two-day, summit bridges the divide between a growing need for new clinical tools and the ability to move innovative solutions to market. By bringing together and fostering collaboration among innovators, clinicians, MedTech companies, regulatory agency representatives and venture capitalists, AGA is helping to ensure a pipeline for GI innovation that ultimately will improve delivery of care and patient outcomes.
2019 Southern California Super Doctors
Selection of Super Doctors is a rigorous, multi-step process designed to identify physicians who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. Super Doctors is a selective yet diverse listing of outstanding doctors, representing consumer-oriented medical specialties. Physicians are asked to consider the following question: "If you needed medical care in one of the following specialties, which doctor would you choose?" Learn more about the selection process >
2019 UCLA Division of Digestive Diseases Super Doctors: Drs. Michael J. Albertson, Peter A. Anton, Lin Chang, Hartley Cohen, Daniel Cole, Jeffrey L. Conklin, Francisco Durazo, Eric Esrailian, Steven-Huy Han, Dennis M. Jensen, Rome Jutabha, Thomas O. Kovacs, Emeran A. Mayer, Sammy Saab and Kirsten Tillisch
2019 Southern California Rising Star
The selection process for Rising Stars is the same as that of Super Doctors except: to be eligible for inclusion in Rising Stars, candidates must be active physicians who have been fully-licensed to practice for approximately 10 years or less. Learn more about the selection process >
2019 UCLA Division of Digestive Diseases Rising Stars: Drs. Gina Choi, Lynn Shapiro Connolly, Kevin Ghassemi, Wendy W. Ho, Ara Kardashian, Stephen Kim, Hamed Nayeb-Hashemi and Alireza Sedarat
Eat This If You’re Following a Specialized Diet for IBS
Business Insider featured Nancee Jaffe, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian in the UCLA Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases, in a story about foods you can eat on a specialized diet for inflammatory bowel syndrome.
Arpana Gupta, PhD, Receives 2019 IFFGD Research Recognition Award
The International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD), selected Dr. Gupta to receive a 2019 IFFGD Research Recognition Award. These awards recognize the accomplishments of young investigators working to advance the understanding and care of chronic gastrointestinal disorders in adults and children. The International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders is a nonprofit education and research organization dedicated to supporting people affected by gastrointestinal disorders.
Folasade P. May, MD, PhD, MPhil, Selected as 2019-2020 AGA Scholar to Promote Diversity in Gastroenterology
Dr. May was selected as a 2019–2020 scholar by the American Gastroenterological Association for its new program to help promote diversity in the field of gastroenterology. The FORWARD Program, which stands for Fostering Opportunities Resulting in Workforce and Research Diversity, is a new initiative funded by National Institutes of Health that is designed to match young scholars with top gastrointestinal investigators to help develop their leadership skills and strengthen their research and management skills. The inaugural class of scholars includes 10 promising underrepresented minority physician-scientists early in their careers who are helping shape the future of academic medicine.
Folasade P. May, MD, PhD, MPhil, Publishes Article in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Dr. May, director of the Melvin and Bren Simon GI Quality Program, published “Barriers to Follow-up Colonoscopies for Patients With Positive Results From Fecal Immunochemical Tests During Colorectal Cancer Screening,” in the February 2019 issue of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
Germs in Your Gut Are Talking to Your Brain. Scientists Want to Know What They are Saying
Elaine Y. Hsiao, PhD, assistant professor of medicine in the UCLA Division of Digestive Diseases and Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology, saw her lab’s work on gastrointestinal microbes and the impact they have on health and disease highlighted in the New York Times.
Immune Cells in the Gut May Explain Why Some People Can’t Lose Weight
Emeran A. Mayer, MD, director of the G. Oppenheimer Center for Neurobiology of Stress and Resilience in the UCLA Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases, commented in an NBCNews.com story on research suggesting certain immune cells in the gut regulate weight and metabolism.
Could Germs in Your Gut Send You Into Depression?
Emeran A. Mayer, MD, director of the G. Oppenheimer Center for Neurobiology of Stress and Resilience in the UCLA Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases, commented in a HealthDay story on a study suggesting that certain gut bacteria fuel depression. The story appeared on WebMD.
What Research Says about Probiotic Supplements
Today’s Dietitian interviewed Dr. Kirsten Tillisch, chief of integrative medicine, Greater Los Angeles VA and health sciences professor of medicine in the Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases, in a feature in the December 2018 issue about probiotics and brain health. The story explores her researchinvolving probiotics in yogurt and human brain responses.
Lin Chang, MD, Appears on Good Day LA Wellness Wednesday
Dr. Chang, vice-chief of the Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases, appeared on Good Day LA to discuss irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). She discussed the stigma attached to IBS, common symptoms and when to see a physician. Watch here >
Arpana Gupta, PhD, Recipient of a 2019 AGA-Rome Foundation Functional GI and Motility Disorders Pilot Research Award
The Rome Foundation has supported research projects to guide innovations in the development of diagnostic criteria and to establish the international representation of gastrointestinal and motility disorders. In 2007, the foundation took the first formal step in establishing a regular process for awarding grants to young investigators on an annual basis. They published application guidelines and made a commitment to award an annual research grant of $30,000 to a young investigator. The goals of the awards are to (1) validate the Rome diagnostic criteria for functional GI disorders, (2) increase knowledge on the prevalence, epidemiology, and pathophysiology of these disorders, and (3) interest young investigators in pursuing research in this field. This process continued until 2013 when the Rome Foundation partnered with the American Gastroenterological Association added a second annual award and renamed these the AGA-Rome Foundation Functional GI and Motility Disorders Pilot Research Awards. Since 2014, the review committees has included reviewers from both the AGA and the Rome Foundation.
Neil Marya, MD, GI Fellow, Publishes Article in Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (GIE)
Dr. Marya’s original article, “A randomized controlled trial comparing efficacy of early video capsule endoscopy with standard of care in the approach to nonhematemesis GI bleeding” was selected for Volume 89, Issue 1, January 2019, Pages 33-43.e4 of GIE. Video interview with Dr. Marya >