Dr. Alessi is the Director of the VA Greater Los Angeles (GLA) Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center (GRECC), and Chief of the Division of Geriatrics at VA GLA. She is a Professor of Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, where she is also Associate Director of the Multicampus Program in Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology.
A native of Illinois, Dr. Alessi obtained her undergraduate degree at the University of Illinois in Urbana/Champaign, and her medical degree at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago. She completed Internal Medicine residency at Michael Reese Hospital Medical Center in Chicago, and Geriatric Medicine clinical and research fellowships at the University of Chicago. Dr. Alessi’s research focuses on descriptive and interventional research to improve sleep problems in older adults. Dr. Alessi is a Past Chair of the Health Sciences Section of the Gerontological Society of America, a Past President and a Past Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Geriatrics Society, and is currently the Chair of the Research Committee of the Sleep Research Society.
Dr. Lee is a board-certified Internal Medicine and Geriatrics Specialist who is currently an Associate Professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and an Attending Physician at the Greater Los Angeles Veterans Administration Healthcare Center. After completing her accelerated, 7-year combined B.S., M.D. program at Union College and Albany Medical School in New York, she went on to do her Internal Medicine residency at Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine. She then completed a 2-year Geriatrics Fellowship at the University of Michigan where she also earned a Master’s Degree in Clinical Research Design and Statistics.
Dr. Lee’s research focuses on age-related changes in hormone levels, body composition and metabolism, and interventions to improve metabolic risk. Currently, she is Director of the Gerofit Program at the West Los Angeles VA, a model VA exercise and health promotion program targeting older/more vulnerable older Veterans. She is also Co-Director of the Medical Student in Aging Research Program (MSTAR) at UCLA, an NIH-funded, nationally competitive summer research program that provides medical students research support and training in aging and geriatrics. In addition to balancing her clinical, research, and teaching duties in her professional life, she is most proud of being married to her high-school sweetheart and being a mom to her two teenagers, son Alex who is 16, and daughter Emmy who is 13.
Thomas T. Yoshikawa, MD., is presently Associate Chief of Staff (ACOS) for Geriatrics, Extended Care (GEC; Second tour) for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System (GLAHS) and was also appointed the GLAHS Designated Learning Officer(2013-2016). He was Acting Director of Primary and Ambulatory Care Services from April 5, 2010 to August 15, 2011. Prior to these appointments, Dr. Yoshikawa was the Makinodan Director of the Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center (GRECC) and ACOS for GEC at GLAHS (2007-2010), as well as Lead for VA Network 22 (5 VA medical centers) GEC programs (2007-2013). He is a Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Geriatric Medicine and Infectious Diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and Research Professor at the Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science.
Prior to returning to GLAHS, Dr. Yoshikawa held senior executive leadership positions at Charles Drew University of Medicine Science as Interim President and Provost/Chief Operating Officer (2005-2006); Chairman, Department of Internal Medicine (and simultaneously as Chief of the Medical Service at Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital) (1995-1998; 1999-2005) and Interim Dean, College of Medicine (1998-1999). From 1988 to 1995, Dr. Yoshikawa served as Chief Consultant (then called Assistant Chief Medical Director) for the Office of Geriatrics and Extended Care in VA Central Office in Washington, DC and was administratively responsible for geriatrics and long-term care services and programs in the entire VA healthcare system. During the period 1981 to 1988, he was the Clinical Director of the (then) West Los Angeles GRECC and Chief of the Division of Geriatric Medicine in the Department of Medicine, as well as Medical Director of the VA Nursing Home Care Unit (now called Community Living Centers). Dr. Yoshikawa was Associate Chief, Division of Infectious Disease at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center as well as the Research Laboratory Director and Fellowship Director from 1974 to 1981.
He has published over 200 scientific articles, 75 book chapters and 17 books. He had been the Editor in Chief of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) from 2000 to June 2016, and he belongs to numerous professional societies in the area of internal medicine, microbiology, infectious diseases, gerontology and geriatrics. His research interest has been in the area fever, host resistance, infection and aging.
Dr. Yoshikawa was a delegate to the 1995 White House Conference on Aging, representing the VA. He received the Distinguished Service Award from the Secretary of VA, as well as the National Association of State Veterans Homes, and the Gold Medal Award from the Board of Trustees of Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science. He recently (2016) received the American Geriatrics Society David Solomon Public Service award for his contributions to the field of geriatrics. He served on the Secretary of VA and Under Secretary of Health Geriatrics and Gerontology Advisory Committee (2002-2007) and was on the Board of Directors for the National Alzheimer’s Association from 2007-2011. He was a member of the Board of Directors of the American Geriatrics Society (2000 to 2016).
Dr. Yoshikawa attained his bachelor’s degree at UCLA and MD degree at the University of Michigan. He completed his internship, residency and infectious disease fellowship at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. He is married to Catherine Yoshikawa and they have 3 adult children and 5 grandchildren. He served the community as President of the Board of Directors for a community-based health center for the underserved population (Asian Pacific Health Care Venture) from 2003 to 2012, as well as a voluntary speaker for Keiro Health Institute.
Dr. Zaldy S. Tan is Associate Chief for Education of the UCLA Division of Geriatric Medicine and Medical Director of the UCLA Alzheimer's and Dementia Care Program. He is Professor and Assistant Dean for Curricular Affairs at the David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California Los Angeles. Dr. Tan trained in Medicine at Brown University, Geriatric Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Public Health/Healthcare Management at Harvard University. He is the Director and Principal Investigator for the UCLA Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program, the TimeOut Intergenerational Program and the Improving Caregiving for Dementia (I-CareD) Project. Dr. Tan holds the Philo Van Wagoner Endowed Chair in Geriatric Medicine. He performs dementia epidemiological research at the Framingham Heart Study and health services research at UCLA.
Dr. Wanagat is a physician-scientist in the division whose research focuses on how our muscles weaken as we age and how we might prevent this decline. His training in geriatric medicine and aging research began at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he attended medical school and received his PhD and continued at the University of Washington in Seattle where he was an internal medicine resident before moving to UCLA in 2009. In addition to his clinical and research efforts, Dr. Wanagat is co-director of the NIH-funded Medical Student Training in Aging Research (MSTAR) Program at UCLA, chair of the annual UCLA Research Conference on Aging, and editor of the Healthy Years newsletter.
Although we have a countless amount of distinguished Alumni of the UCLA/VA Geriatric Medicine Fellowship, we wanted to call attention to a few of our standouts.
Lee A. Jennings, MD, MSHS, Chief and Assistant Professor, Reynolds Section of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, is a board-certified geriatrician and health services researcher whose work focuses on improving models of care delivery for dementia, aligning care received with patient health goals, and improving the competency of health professions students to provide high quality geriatric care. Dr. Jennings received her Medical Degree from Eastern Virginia Medical School and her Master in Health Services from UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. She completed her Internal Medicine Residency at UCSF School of Medicine. Dr. Jennings is currently the Principal Investigator for 3 statewide grants funded by HRSA, ACL, and the Reynolds Foundation focused on geriatric health care workforce development and community health education for older Oklahomans and their family caregivers. She is a co-investigator on research funded by PCORI, NIA, and the John A. Hartford Foundation and co-chairs the Women in Geriatrics Section for the American Geriatrics Society. Clinically, she specializes in comprehensive geriatric assessment and cognitive evaluation and sees patients at the OU Physicians Senior Health Clinic and the Oklahoma City VA Health System.
Katie Ward is the Chief of General Internal Medicine and the Director of Geriatrics at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. She has developed the Division of Geriatrics at Harbor-UCLA from 1 member to its current size of 4 Geriatricians. Dr. Ward attended college at UCSD and completed medical school at St. Louis University. She also trained at OHSU for Internal Medicine and UCLA for Geriatrics Fellowship. Prior to coming to Harbor-UCLA she practiced at UCLA in the Division of Geriatric Medicine. Teaching medicine and geriatrics is her passion. Her other interests include palliative care, skilled nursing facility care, care transitions, safe opioid prescribing, elder mistreatment and neglect, ethno geriatrics, geriatric assessment, and communication skills, medical-legal partnerships.
Dr. Wessam Labib finished his fellowship at UCLA on June 2009, and his first job is his current job at Loma Linda University; Department of Family Medicine. When he first started at LLU, there was no structured Geriatric rotation for the Family medicine residents. He started structured Nursing home rounds as well as an outpatient experience for the Family Medicine residents. Shortly after he started at LLU, he developed a Geriatric Specialty clinic to diagnose and manage Dementia. This clinic was greatly needed in the inland empire, specifically in Loma Linda. This immense need was driven by the fact that Loma Linda is a Blue zone, which is a region where people tend to live about a decade longer than average.
During the years Dr. Labib has worked at Loma Linda, he has expanded the Geriatric service to include 5 fellowship trained Geriatricians, 4 of whom graduated from the UCLA fellowship, and 1 physician assistant. He also expanded the Specialty clinic to accommodate 5 times the number of patients and expanded the clinical services to local skilled nursing home facilities. As Director of Geriatrics at Loma Linda, he is actively working with the medical center to improve the quality of care of geriatric patients and to reduce the unnecessary readmission rate. Additionally, he is working on starting a PACE program and a Geriatric Fellowship. He is proud to be a UCLA alumnus and feels strongly that UCLA prepared him well for the Geriatric Medicine Field.
Dr. Castle is Clinical Professor of Geriatric Medicine at UCLA, Clinical Director of Geriatrics at the VA Greater Los Angeles and was a Governor appointee to the California Commission on Aging from 2013-18. He is also the first physician certified as a FallPROOF!TM Instructor from Cal State Fullerton.
His degrees are from Miami University and Ohio State School of Medicine. He did his residency in Internal Medicine at Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus, Ohio and a Geriatric Medicine Fellowship at UCLA.
He has received over $2.8 million in grant funding, including from the National Institute on Aging for studies on immune function with aging, from NIA and National Science Foundation for developing protective headwear to reduce brain injury in older adults; as well as mobility and balance awareness programs in affordable retirement communities. He has over 60 publications and has over 400 invited presentations nationally and internationally. His focus now is on adapting fitness routines to address chronic health issues in older adults and the role of prehab in helping older, at-risk adults have better outcomes with elective surgeries.
He has received many awards and honors, including the Clinician of the Year from the American Geriatrics Society and six teaching awards at UCLA. He was a finalist at the 2015 GE/Stanford Healthcare Hackfest and was awarded as a Patient Safety Champion in 2017, for contributions for advancing a Culture of Safety for Veterans by the VA National Center for Patient Safety.
Dr. Zhuoer Xie is an advanced fellow physician in Geriatrics at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System (VAGLA) and an assistant project scientist in the Hematology-Oncology department at UCLA. She completed her geriatric fellowship training at UCLA in 2017 and earned her master of science in clinical research from UCLA. In July 2019, she will become a hematology and oncology fellow physician at Mayo Clinic.
Her primary research interests have been on using bioinformatics and machine learning technologies to optimize cancer treatment in older cancer patients using big data derived from analyzing the underlying biology of the cancer as well as the functional assessment and clinical factors. She is part of a team using a remote sensor and smart watch based system for analysis of near real-time patient activities and symptoms tracking.
Dr. Xie believes that Geriatric Oncology requires a personalized care or Precision Medicine approach that combines host factors with their tumor specific factors is essential for cancer patients. She loves her profession and will continually be humbled to give back to the academic community that has given her so much.
Alia Tuqan, MD, is the Chief of the Division of Geriatrics at the University of Nevada, Reno, School of Medicine. In 2015, she joined the Department of Medicine at UNR Med as the sole geriatrician outside of the VA System; prior to joining UNR Med, she was faculty in the Division of Geriatrics at UCLA for five years. In 2017, UNR Med’s Department of Medicine re-activated the Division of Geriatrics, which has expanded to six geriatricians. With the expansion of the division, two of her colleagues and she developed an inpatient geriatrics consult service at Renown Medical Center, the largest hospital in Northern Nevada.
Dr. Tuqan has an interest in medical education. In 2017, Ming Lee, PhD, Nancy Weintraub, MD, David Reuben, MD, and she published an article entitled, “Development and Validation of a Geriatrics Knowledge Test to Evaluate Geriatrics Fellowship Programs,” which, to their knowledge was the first validated instrument specifically for geriatrics fellows, in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. She is the Renown Medical Center Site Director for UNR Med’s Geriatrics Fellowship and oversees the geriatrics fellows’ outpatient continuity clinic.
Dr. Tuqan sees patients in her own geriatrics primary care clinic and does outpatient geriatrics consults at UNR Med’s Sanford Center for Aging, the only center of its kind helping to promote the health and well-being of older adults in Northern Nevada. In addition to working with geriatrics fellows, she also supervises internal medicine residents in outpatient and inpatient settings.
She is board-certified in board-certified in internal medicine, geriatric medicine, and hospice and palliative medicine.
She is currently an Assistant Professor and will be promoted to Associate Professor July 2019.
Wynnelena Canlas Canio, MD, CMD, is the Chief of outpatient Geriatric Medicine at Kaiser Permanente (KP) in Santa Rosa, California. In 2012, she joined Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa to create a comprehensive care program for older adults and their caregivers, developing the KP Santa Rosa Dementia Care Program, the first program of its kind in Northern California that supports patients with memory issues and their caregivers from Sonoma, Marin, Napa, Solano, and Mendocino counties, and beyond. Recently, she added evaluation and support for additional geriatric syndromes, including but not limited to frailty and polypharmacy. She is continuing to advocate for implementing other geriatric models of care in the continuum, including emergency department, hospital, primary care, community, and home. Dr. Canio was a recipient of the North Bay 40 under 40 award in 2018, selected based on career success and community involvement among young professional leaders, and the 2018-2019 Tideswell, AGS, and ADGAP Emerging Leaders in Aging Program.
In addition to her administrative and clinical roles, she is the Clinical Rotation Director in Geriatrics for the new KP Santa Rosa Family Medicine Residency program. Due to the limited number of geriatricians and growing number of seniors in the area, she has also started conducting monthly education about management of geriatric syndromes for practicing non-geriatric clinicians in KP Santa Rosa to improve the care in older adults, which she hopes to expand to the Northern Kaiser Permanente region.
Dr. Nicole Lawrence is a co-owner of a concierge internal medicine and geriatric practice in Torrance called Skypark Preferred Family Care. As a concierge physician, she is available directly 24/7 to members of the practice. She provides care across the spectrum, including in the primary care office setting, in the hospital, and in the home. The concierge model allows her to take on a lower patient load, which in turn allows for a great work-life balance and an ability to create meaningful long-term relationships with her patients. Dr. Lawrence loves that she has time with her patients. She can be available virtually all of the time without feeling overwhelmed because there are far fewer patients in her practice. Being available to her patients 24/7 is not a burden.
Dr. Lawrence wants her patients, who she considers extended family, to be able to reach her when they need her without barriers like phone trees or an answering service. When one of her patients calls, she already know their medical problems, medication list, and social situation, so it is easy to answer questions and triage the issue. Dr. Lawrence works hard to keep her patients out of urgent cares and emergency room and same day appointments are always available. If her patients require hospitalization, she cares for them, not a hospitalist. If a nursing home is required, she continues to see them in the nursing home. When her patients transition to hospice, she remain their attending. Dr. Lawrence truly believes she is practicing the kind of geriatric care that complicated seniors need, and she is thankful to the UCLA-VA Geriatric Fellowship for giving her the tools to do so. "Off the clock," Dr. Lawrence loves spending time with her two sons and her husband.
Hiroshi Gotanda, MD, is a VA Advanced Fellow in Geriatrics at VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System (VAGLA). He is also a PhD student in Health Policy and Management at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, with an expected graduation date of June 2019. His primary research interests have been in geriatrics, quality of care, and health policy.
He was born and raised in Japan, earned a medical degree from University of Tokyo School of Medicine, and completed his post-graduate training in Japan. He decided to move to the U.S. in 2012 to learn about structured geriatric training and health services research. After his completion of an Internal Medicine residency at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York, he completed a Geriatric Medicine fellowship at UCLA/VAGLA when he came to believe that clinicians should provide individualized care that suits best each patient’s needs rather than just following professional guidelines, especially in the care of older adults. To enhance his ability to contribute to implementation of this concept, he started his research training as a VA Advanced Fellow in Geriatrics as well as a PhD student in Health Policy and Management.
Dr. Gotanda recently assessed the relationship between burden of illness and measured quality of care in older adults with the supervision of Dr. David Ganz, MD, PhD, a geriatrician and health services researcher at UCLA and VAGLA, and Dr. Neil Wenger, MD, MPH, a general internist and health services researcher at UCLA. The results of this study were published in Journal of American Geriatrics Society in August 2018. His next research question is whether measured quality of care is truly associated with health outcomes relevant to older adults.
Congratulations to our recent Geriatric Medicine and Palliative Fellowship Alumni who have recently joined us as UCLA faculty! We are thrilled to have you as a part of our team and are excited to watch you thrive in your careers as superlative Geriatricians!