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Research Resident Profile-Audrey Brown, MD MAS

1. How did you get interested in your research topic?

I got really interested in the multidisciplinary nature of treating hepatobiliary malignancies in medical school and wanted to focus my research years on a topic in that space.  I was also particularly interested in learning how to manage and analyze large-scale datasets, particularly those involving genomics data.  With the help of my primary mentor, Dr. Stock, I put together a project focused on identifying patterns of differential gene expression in cirrhotic liver parenchyma that are associated with Hepatocellular Carcinoma development, which provided the perfect opportunity to marry both of those interests.

2. How did you select your research mentorship team?

I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with truly excellent mentors from multiple different departments at UCSF.  My mentorship team included Dr. Peter Stock (Transplant Surgery), Dr. John Roberts (Transplant Surgery)., Dr. Zoltan Laszik (Pathology), Dr. Neil Mehta (Hepatology), and Dr. Emanuela Zacco (Laboratory for Cellular Analysis).  While completing a Masters degree in Biostatistics, I was also connected with Dr. Adam Olshen, who specializes in complex transcriptomics analyses and was extremely helpful in guiding my own analysis for this project.  

3. How will you incorporate your research into your future career goals?

In my future career, I hope to continue to focus on the applied use of transcriptomic analyses in clinical practice.  Several prognostic gene signatures are commonly used in treating patients with breast cancer and colon cancer and I would love to contribute to the devlopment of a similar test for patients with hepatobiliary malignancies.

Naffziger Announces Jennifer Wang, MD, is the Society’s New Vice President

The Naffziger Society is pleased to announce that Jenny Wang, MD is the society’s new Vice President. Dr. Wang completed medical school at Yale School of Medicine & during her residency at UCSF she received a Master’s Degree in Clinical Research, with a focus on outcomes in colorectal surgery. After residency she completed a colorectal surgery fellowship at the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Wang said, “I spent my first 8 years in practice developing the colorectal surgery subspecialty at Kaiser Permanente San Jose and robotic colorectal surgery at Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara”. Read her spotlight questions below:

1. How did you get interested in colorectal surgery?

I had first become  interested in IBD following a medical student experience taking care of a very ill teenage girl with UC . I saw her remarkable turnaround after having a total proctocolectomy and J pouch and became interested in surgery and Gi diseases.   Colorectal was one of my earliest rotations as an intern at UCSF and I really enjoyed everyone I worked with—they were kind, wonderful people and clearly excited about their work. As I worked more closely with Dr Varma as my research and career mentor, I met other colorectal surgeons at meetings and appreciated the great collegiality within this subspeciality.

2. How you achieved that interest and then evolved it into your current position & Diversity , among other roles?

I worked with Dr. Varma during my research with a focus on pelvic floor diseases and also patient quality of life related to colorectal disease, leading me to pursue fellowship training for colorectal. What I enjoyed most about this subspecialty was the variety of cases (anorectal disease to abdominal operations, open and minimally invasive cases) and also the variety of patients young and old, healthy and sick. I appreciated that most colorectal disease was curable, even earlier stage cancers, and also many surgical treatments could bring signficant improvement in quality of life to patients.

3.  Advice to Naffziger members who may want to pursue hospital or medical school leadership positions?

My advice is to continue throughout your career to stay actively involved, not only in patient care but also finding opportunities within your medical system to participate in or lead projects, small or large. Whether you are in academics, community hospital, or group practice, find projects that excite you—whether it is at the local or national level to improve patient care, education, or enhancing relationships among colleagues. It can be easy to fall into a routine of just getting the day to day done, so look beyond the everyday tasks to see the broader picture.

Kelli Bullard Dunn MD FACS

1. How did you get interested in colorectal surgery?

When I was a resident, I loved everything about General Surgery, from Trauma to Transplant. Mentorship was probably the biggest part of my specialty choice of Colon and Rectal Surgery. At CPMC, Drs. Tom Russell, Peter Volpe, Yanek Chiu, and Laurence Yee (who was also a resident ahead of me), and at UCSF Drs. Ted Schrock and Mark Welton really inspired me. Dr. Mika Varma, who was a couple of years ahead of me in residency and then also in fellowship at U of Minnesota was another very positive influence.  These individuals showed me that Colorectal Surgery was fun, varied, and (somewhat) controllable in terms of balancing elective vs. urgent/emergent cases. In addition, the specialty allows me to do really big cases and really small cases (and sometimes the small ones can be the most satisfying – like draining a perirectal abscess and seeing a patient feel immediate relief). I also really liked endoscopy, which is a plus. Disease ranges from cancer to benign to functional. CR allowed me to do either basic science research, clinical trials, or outcomes. Finally, it allows me to teach at all levels – medical students (who doesn’t need to learn about hemorrhoids? Yes, we ALL have them!), to residents and fellows, to junior faculty.

2. How you achieved that interest and then evolved into your current position as the Vice Dean of Community Engagement & Diversity, among other roles?

I have been privileged to have worked in all aspects of academic surgery over the course of my career. Early on, I was following the traditional path of a busy clinical practice, leadership in teaching, and running a basic science cancer cell biology lab. I enjoyed all of this tremendously and envisioned myself continuing in this direction for the duration of my professional life. In 2011, I moved to Louisville, KY, and my career changed. In Kentucky, I was immediately struck by the burden of disease and extreme health disparities across the Commonwealth.  As such, I approached the Dean of the University of Louisville School of Medicine about creating an office of Community Engagement and Diversity as a way to focus on our stated mission of advancing the health and well-being of our community. I was able to create and grow this office to include both rural and urban health initiatives, workforce “pipeline” programs, and University wide DEI activities. I also began working with community organizations and nonprofits and now hold leadership positions in several. These positions have also given me more opportunities to teach at all levels, from high school students to community leaders, and to raise the profile of the School of Medicine in our region. Finally, I have had the opportunity to serve on a number of University committees and to work with leaders from other schools and colleges, giving me experience in university administration and the “inner workings” of higher education. As a surgeon, I like to work with smart people who are all focused on making things better, whether it is a patient in the trauma room or the learning environment for students. My administrative roles allow me to have influence, and hopefully positive impact, on a wide range of people across my community.

3.  Advice to Naffziger members who may want to pursue hospital or medical school leadership positions?

First and foremost, get involved. It is critical that surgeons have a voice in administrative decisions and institutional mission. One of the characteristics of surgeons is the ability to build and lead teams, and to make hard decisions with incomplete information. These qualities are invaluable in hospital and medical school leadership. Early on, I served as a course director and then on a number of hospital committees, including the Scientific Review Committee, Faculty Development Committee, and in Cancer Center leadership. Later I took on more formal administrative roles, first as a Senior Associate Dean and now as a Vice Dean. That said, it is difficult to maintain a busy clinical practice, especially one that is productivity driven, and fulfill myriad administrative responsibilities. It is critical to find a practice that values your administrative time and to have supportive clinical partners. Finally, mentors are crucial throughout your career. Reach out to people in your institution and across the country that are doing what you want to do (or think you might want to do). Figure out what leaves you feeling fulfilled and do that. Take your innate surgical leadership skills to where they are really needed!

Naffziger New Member Picnic

We welcomed the graduating 2022-2023 Chiefs into the Naffziger Society on Saturday, June 10, 2023, 12-3p in Golden Gate Park. The location this year was the Strawberry Hill Top.

Research Resident Spotlight-Simon Chu

How did you get interested in your research topic?

My interest in the field of genome editing dovetails with my passion for surgery as both disciplines allow me to think critically about problems and how to fix them, be it modifying the DNA code or mending tissues. I was amazed by the ability of genome editing and engineering to precisely alter specific genes, be it to cure disease-causing mutations or to impart new functions to cells. My current research focus applies these techniques in finding a cure for Alpha-thalassemia major, a rare blood disorder resulting from deletion of the alpha-globin gene, and in improving the safety and efficacy of stem-cell derived islet transplants.

How did you select your research mentorship team?

During my research time, I was really interested in linking up with surgeon-scientists and PhD scientists in the department that I felt were doing exciting and novel work. I am fortunate to have a mentorship team with Dr. Tippi MacKenzie and Dr. Kyle Cromer, who are both experts in the field of gene editing and offer me invaluable guidance and support. I have benefited greatly by having mentorship by both surgeons and PhD scientists, who have taught me the unique and varied skillset needed to be be a successful surgeon-scientist.

How will you incorporate your research into your future career goals?

My dream is to combine the fields of genome engineering and transplantation towards an independent career as a solid organ transplant surgeon-scientist. I see incredible opportunities in applying genome engineering technology in transplant surgery – from developing stem-cell derived beta cell therapies that could one day replace the need for pancreas transplants, to genetically engineering immune cells to impart precision immunosuppression and supplant the need for morbid immunosupressive agents, the sky’s really the limit!

First Annual Lawrence W. Way Lectureship

On Wednesday, June 21, 2023, the UCSF GRAND ROUNDS honored Larry Way. The lectureship featured speakers Carlos Pellegrini, MD Chair Emeritus, University of Washington, Department of Surgery and Past President of the American College of Surgeons.

Watch the recording here:


How did you get interested in your research topic? 

Medical and surgical training require a huge amount of effort and a very long time. I am interested in optimizing feedback and coaching in operative and simulation settings to make the training process as effective and efficient as possible. This has led me to pursue a Master’s in Education at UC Berkeley this year and to work on projects in surgical simulation, curriculum development, and assessment tool validation.

How did you select your research mentorship team? 

I have a truly spectacular group of mentors! Among my mentors, Dr. Chern and Dr. Syed lead our surgical skills lab and have invaluable insight on simulation-based education for surgical trainees. Dr. Alseidi is our Vice Chair of Education, and has fantastic ideas about designing meaningful, impactful educational research studies. Dr. O’Sullivan is our Endowed Chair in Surgical Education and has seemingly infinite wisdom about education in the health professions. I was connected with these mentors as an intern because of my interest in surgical education.

How will you incorporate your research into your future career goals? 

I hope to continue teaching and conducting education research throughout my career. Given the ever-changing landscape of surgery, I know there will always be a need to tweak and improve surgical training programs.

Riley and his colleagues: Natalie Rodriguez, Virginia Schuler & Hueylan Chern at the American College of Surgeons Surgical Simulation Summit in Chicago.

Hannah Decker-Resident of the Month

Hannah is a fourth year general surgery resident and a current research fellow in the National Clinician Scholar program.

How did you get interested in your research topic? 

My research focus is on how we might improve access to high quality surgical care in vulnerable populations, specifically those that are unhoused. Homelessness is such a huge problem in San Francisco and throughout residency I have had the opportunity to care for unhoused individuals. These experiences – and feeling like our systems were failing these patients – were what led me to focus on this area. 

How did you select your research mentorship team? 

I am lucky to have a phenomenal, multi-disciplinary mentorship team. It includes Dr. Elizabeth Wick, from the Department of Surgery, Dr. Margot Kushel, who leads the Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative (BHHI), and Dr. Hemal Kanzaria, an emergency medicine physician at San Francisco general and a faculty member at the BHHI. I actually read a fantastic opinion piece about housing first policy by Dr. Kushel in the New York Times as an intern and was thrilled to learn she worked at UCSF. Dr. Wick helped me make the connection and build this wonderful, supportive mentorship team. 

How will you incorporate your research into your future career goals? 

In my future career, I hope to work in a safety-net setting and serve underserved patients. I want my research to be practical and impact-oriented so that I can directly apply what I study to what I practice. 

February Featured Member

Eileen Natuzzi, MD, MS, MPH, FACS

Dr. Eileen Natuzzi has worked on health capacity building in the Solomon islands for 18 years. The featured picture is of Dr. Natuzzi in South Africa circa 1989.

How you got interested in global surgery 

From the time I decided to go to medical school I knew I wanted to do international medical work. My first experience was as a 4th year medical student when I spent 2 months working in Soweto, South Africa at Baragwanath Hospital. It was an amazing experience in treating trauma and general surgery in a politically volatile and resource limited environment. When I graduated from UCSF general surgery I committed to regular working visits to hospitals in the Pacific Islands. I found myself drawn to Solomon Islands as one of the least developed countries in the Pacific Region. 

How you achieved that interest

For me, in order to achieve a global health career, I had to focus on one country in order to get to know that country and let them get to know me. That allowed for the building of trust and sharing information. Global surgery work for me was a growth from the initial fascination of seeing fantastic diseases and injuries to placing them within the context of the social and political environment of the country. It was not enough to go and do surgery, it had to be going and sustainably building capacity through skills transfer. 

Advice to Naffziger members who may want to pursue global surgery

Do not be afraid to approach other surgeons who are working in global surgery. Call and talk with us to see if the work is a fit for you. I highly recommend you develop a relationship with one country so you learn what is needed and what works or does not work. Learn the local language and become a fierce advocate for the people of that country. 

Ward rounds at National Referral Hospital (NRH) with the Cuban educated Solomon Islands doctors
Dr. Wore working in the newly established endoscopy unit
Dinner with the NRH endoscopy team