Thanks to a generous commitment from Executive Advisory Board member Lauren Leichtman and her husband Arthur Levine, in 2018 the Iris Cantor-UCLA Women’s Health Center began to offer mentored summer research opportunities for students at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. This program will enhance the Center’s ability to perform research as well as provide guidance to the next generation of women’s health researchers. Students will receive support to complete research, present their results, and network regionally and nationally with experts in women’s health. Summer research positions are available for first-year medical students at the David Geffen School of Medicine. The student experience includes:
Applications for 2021 are CLOSED
Bethlehem Michael is a medical student at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine in the dual-degree Program in Medical Education-Leadership and Advocacy (PRIME-LA). She was born and raised in the Inland Empire. Her parents immigrated to the US from a country in East Africa called Eritrea in search of a better life for themselves and their families. Bethlehem graduated from UCLA in 2019 with a major in Biochemistry and a minor in Global Health. During her time in undergrad, she was involved in organizations such as UCLA’s Academic Advancement Program and the undergraduate division of the American Medical Women’s Association. Additionally, she took part in many community service opportunities, such as working with foster youth through Project Maryvale, and supported a research project in birth control education under the guidance of a physician in UCLA’s Department of OB/GYN. She is passionate about health justice and achieving health equity for vulnerable and under-resourced communities, particularly in the realm of women’s health. Bethlehem is looking forward to participating in the Leichtman-Levine-TEM Summer Mentorship program to further develop her research skillset, specifically in dataset analysis, to better serve the needs of her future patients and her local community.
Grace Riley is from La Crosse, Wisconsin and attended Kenyon College in Ohio. Her motivation to study medicine and conduct research with the Iris Cantor-UCLA Women’s Health Center stems from an interest in understanding the proximate factors that influence health disparities, in particular at the intersection of gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. She hopes that by gaining a greater appreciation for what contributes to unequal health outcomes, we can identify and take action on modifiable barriers. Grace looks forward to receiving structured mentorship and gaining skills in research design and data analysis this summer. Currently she is considering a career in Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Lara is a first-year medical student in the Class of 2024, originally from Connecticut. She first became interested in understanding women’s health as a Human Evolutionary Biology major at Harvard College, where she had the opportunity to focus her studies in reproductive endocrinology. Lara also served as a volunteer yoga instructor at all-women shelters for the unhoused in college and prior to matriculating to UCLA, opportunities in which she became passionate about addressing systemic barriers to healthcare access, specifically in women’s health. As one of the student leaders of DGSOM’s OB/GYN Interest Group and local chapter of Medical Students For Choice, Lara hopes to combine her interests in women’s reproductive health and understanding structural barriers to obstetric and maternal healthcare in her summer research project and beyond.
Ope Akerele, born in Lagos, Nigeria, immigrated to the United States with her family as a child. Growing up in the South Bay, she became very familiar with health disparities and the social determinants of health in this region. She witnessed widely disparate health outcomes for family members back home in Nigeria, but also in communities throughout South Los Angeles. As Ope completed her degree in Science, Technology, and Society with a concentration in Life Sciences and Healthcare at Stanford University, she became better equipped to view healthcare and medicine through an interdisciplinary, critical lens. Her sustained service in health education in free clinics in San Jose, health advocacy in the Stanford Emergency Department, and extended honors thesis research and publications on West African mental health systems and health-seeking behavior cultivated her desire to become a socially accountable physician leader. After graduating from Stanford University with honors, Ope worked as a Public Finance Housing analyst in New York City and helped raise capital for government agencies to build affordable housing for low-income families. She also volunteered for Harlem Grown, a local garden turning food desert injustices into food forests and education for youth. Ope is pursuing a Doctor of Medicine degree from Charles R Drew University/UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine and is expected to graduate from medical school in 2024. She desires to become an integrative physician who will be part of the solution to ending generational health systems issues in the Los Angeles underserved communities she grew up in and beyond.
Aishwarya Karlapudi is a medical student, in the Class of 2023, at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, she is an alumna of the University of Arizona. Aishwarya first became interested in women’s health after witnessing a loved one navigate the unique health disparities that women face when it comes to post-operative pain perception, assessment, and treatment. After working with Population Connection Action Fund on the Fight4HER campaign for women's reproductive rights for two years, Aishwarya seeks to explore research as another way to contribute to the health and well-being of women in her community. Through the Leichtman-Levine-TEM Summer Mentorship program, Aishwarya hopes to develop skills in project design, big data-set analysis, and critical thinking. She is interested in specialties that involve longitudinal relationships such as OB/GYN and primary care, and she looks forward to this opportunity to learn more about women's health. With mentorship throughout the project, Aishwarya hopes to gain the necessary skills to become the physician, researcher, and advocate she envisions for herself and her community.
Rocio grew up in Los Angeles and expressed a strong interest in medicine at a young age. She is motivated to work with underserved communities and is passionate about diversity in healthcare leadership. She is pursuing a Doctor of Medicine degree from Charles R Drew University/UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. She is expected to graduate from medical school in 2023. Prior to attending medical school, Rocio completed the RAP Program at UCLA DGSOM in 2018. She received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from California State University Northridge in 2014 and graduated from Grant High School in the San Fernando Valley. In college, Rocio expressed an interest in education and gained teaching experience by partnering with Peer Health Exchange and Keep Youth Doing Something. While completing her post-baccalaureate program, she worked full-time as a middle school teacher at The Valley Schools in the San Fernando Valley. This experience emphasized her interest in utilizing education to improve the health of underserved communities. From a young age, Rocio demonstrated a passion for the performing arts and continues to attend dance lessons. She is a member of Cheer Los Angeles, a non-profit organization in Culver City that raises funds and resources for LGBTQ+ communities.
Sedina Dzodzomenyo is a student in the Class of 2023, originally from Columbus, Ohio. Her interest in women's health stems from questions about the ways in which socially constructed, gendered expectations and behaviors affect providers' communication of health information to their female patients, those patients' understanding of and receptiveness towards that information, and their overall health outcomes. This summer, she is looking forward to learning how to develop a rigorous framework for asking and answering questions relevant to women's health. Additionally, she is excited to gain valuable technical skills in data analysis that will be transferable to future research. She is currently considering specialties with a strong focus on women's health, including urogynecology, OB-GYN, and internal medicine.
Yadira Bribiesca is a first year medical student in the UCLA PRIME-LA (MD/Masters) Program. Yadira’s commitment to medicine stems from her family’s and her personal struggle to access equitable health care in South Los Angeles. As part of the PRIME-LA program, she along with her peers, have partnered up with the Department of Public Health to understand the barriers to exercise for women in SPA 6, and use this information to help implement the Parks Rx Program in LA County. Mentorship has been pivotal in her journey to medical school and thus Yadira hopes to pay it forward. She is part of the mentorship team with the Latino Medical Student Association. As a DACA recipient and first-generation college student, Yadira aspires to use her dual degree to engage in policy change and conduct research in underserved communities to fervently fight against health inequities. She is looking forward to gaining skills in statistically analyzing and manipulating big data sets in hopes of finding correlates that can potentially affect positive change in underserved women’s health.
Karen Bryan is a rising second year medical student at UCLA, originally from the Bay Area, California. Karen was drawn to this focused research and mentorship program because she is passionate about women’s healthcare and is excited to explore those interests further through research and clinical exposure. She was lucky to grow up surrounded by strong female role models like her mother and grandmother, who instilled in her a value for advocating for women. Karen is interested in pursuing a career in OBGyn or Internal Medicine, and she looks forward to this opportunity to delve deeper into important topics in women’s health. She hopes to gain valuable research experience, which will aid in her future practice to help her better understand the pressing issues facing women’s health today and how to address them as a clinician.
Aloukika is a rising second-year medical student at UCLA, originally from Northern California. Aloukika’s interest in women’s health was piqued after witnessing a loved one’s challenging experience though the menopausal transition. Understanding how truly unique women’s healthcare must be in order to meet the multidimensional needs of women, makes this a patient population she hopes to one day serve. Prior to medical school, Aloukika served as an AmeriCorps Health Fellow at a federally qualified health center where she witnessed the pervasive role of nutrition among many other lifestyle components underlying chronic disease. Her experience managing her clinic’s wellness center and leading classes in cooking and chronic disease management inspires her to pursue a career with longitudinal care of patients such as internal medicine. Aloukika looks forward to this targeted research mentorship as a valuable opportunity to build a foundation for both clinical research and critical thinking, two skills that she will continue to develop through her medical training and beyond.
Originally from Richmond, California, Alex first became interested in nutrition and health after volunteering as an undergraduate tutor with the Yale Undergraduate Prison Project. While teaching in correctional facilities, Alex saw firsthand the effects nutrition can have on the health of different populations; this experience sparked an interest that has continued at UCLA DGSOM, and is one of the reasons why he applied to the LL TEM Summer Research Fellowship. In the future, Alex hopes to pursue an academic career in general internal medicine. Part of that goal is providing the best possible clinical care, something that he believes this fellowship will be crucial for – in terms of building a better academic and clinical understanding of 50% of his future patients, in terms of building a foundation of clinical research skills, and in terms of fostering the curiosity and critical thinking it takes to go from research questions to patient decision-making.
Eden is a first year medical student in the UCLA/ CDU and PRIME (MD/ Masters) Program. She was inspired to get into medicine after watching her mother struggle to receive appropriate quality healthcare due to their rural location. By obtaining a dual degree, her goal is to create and advocate for policy change that improves healthcare access for women in underserved communities. Eden looks forward to the research and mentorship she will be receiving under Iris Cantor to learn how to most effectively obtain and quantify information that can be instrumental in benefiting women’s healthcare.