Discoveries Magazine


Compassion Is Critical

Patients coming to the pulmonary and critical care unit at Cedars-Sinai often present the most harrowing symptoms.

“We see patients who are really sick, and it can be frightening for them,” says Jeremy Falk, MD, associate director of Cedars-Sinai’s Lung Transplant Program. Such situations require a physician who is calm, compassionate, and confident. Quynh Hoang, MD, is among those who rise to the task.


Dr. Quynh Hoang at her new post as head of the intensive care unit at Scripps Mercy Hospital San Diego. Photo: Ted Catanzaro

“She does a very good job of reassuring and calming the patients, who are often in high-stress, high-anxiety situations,” Falk, her former mentor, says. Hoang’s time as a pulmonary and critical care medicine fellow at Cedars-Sinai leads Falk to use words like “superstar” and “brilliant” to describe her.

The opportunity to work in a well-respected clinical setting drew Hoang to a Cedars-Sinai fellowship before she headed to Scripps Mercy Hospital San Diego, where she now teaches residents and cares for vulnerable patients as head of the intensive care unit. It’s a long way from where she started life.

Hoang was born in Vietnam, one of seven children. “During the Vietnam War, my father fought for the South Vietnamese Army and was placed in a reeducation camp as a prisoner after the war,” she says. As part of the United Nations’ Humanitarian Operation immigration program, her family came to the United States in 1990 as refugees. Hoang was 6.

“It was definitely scary but exciting at the same time,” she recalls.

She says the deep sense of empathy she feels when working with extremely sick patients comes from her background as a refugee.

“It gives me perspective,” she says. “I think it’s helped me be a more compassionate physician knowing how difficult it is for some of my patients to navigate English and the healthcare system — because the healthcare system is difficult for anyone to navigate, even without a language barrier.”

Her family settled in Syracuse, New York, where her mother worked as a housekeeper in a hotel and her father was a factory worker.

Hoang attended Cornell University, initially interested in studying to be a teacher until she got hooked on a neurobiology class and decided to go to medical school and attend the State University of New York Upstate Medical University. Afterward, she was accepted to the renowned Yale New Haven Hospital residency program.

When Hoang arrived as a fellow at Cedars-Sinai in 2014, she thought her focus would be on clinical care. However, she found herself drawn to research on pulmonary hypertension, a critical condition in which blood pressure in the lungs rises to dangerous levels and can ultimately lead to fatal heart failure.

According to Hoang, while new medications can lower blood pressure in the lungs and improve survival and patients’ quality of life, too many patients fail to respond to such treatments and must undergo heart and lung transplants.

With the help of the significant patient care resources at Cedars-Sinai, she set about investigating why this happens, hoping to discover factors that would lead to improved survival. She currently is finalizing her findings for publication.

Meanwhile, not a day goes by that her background doesn’t inform her interactions with critical care patients. “They are vulnerable in a different way than my family was,” she says. “But the feelings of fear and being scared of the unknown are similar.”

Ali Azizzadeh, MD, a renowned specialist in minimally invasive treatment of vascular disease, has been appointed associate director of Vascular Therapeutics at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, division director of Vascular Surgery, and vice chair of Programmatic Development in the Department of Surgery. He previously served as professor and chief of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery at the University of Texas Health Science Center’s McGovern Medical School and the Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute in Houston.

George Berci, MD, received the inaugural Cedars-Sinai Lifetime Achievement Award during the fifth annual commencement of the Cedars-Sinai Graduate Programs in Biomedical Science and Translational Medicine in June. He joined the Department of Surgery in 1970 and pioneered the modern laparoscopic surgical platform.

Eugenio Cingolani, MD, director of the Cardiogenetics-Familial Arrhythmia Clinic at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, is principal investigator on a project using gene therapy to develop a biological pacemaker that has been awarded a $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. Co-principal investigators are Heart Institute Director Eduardo Marbán, MD, PhD, and the institute’s Director of Basic Research Joshua Goldhaber, MD, the Dorothy and E. Phillip Lyon Chair in Laser Research.

Raymond S. Douglas, MD, PhD,, has joined Cedars-Sinai to lead the new International Orbital and Thyroid Eye Disease Center. An oculoplastic surgeon, he was most recently professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and director of the Thyroid Eye Disease Center at the University of Michigan Health System.

Maurice Garcia, MD, has been appointed to lead Cedars-Sinai’s new Transgender Surgery and Health Program, which will offer care for patients seeking gender-affirming surgery and hormone therapy. A board-certified urologist, he previously served at the University of California, San Francisco, and is an adviser on transgender surgery and care to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Robert Haile, DrPH, has joined the faculty of the Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology-Oncology, at the Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute. An accomplished cancer epidemiologist, he also will serve as associate director for Translational Population Science. He was previously a professor in the Department of Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine.

Stanley C. Jordan, MD, director of the Division of Nephrology and medical director of the Cedars-Sinai Kidney Transplant Program, received the Jean Hamburger Award from the International Society of Nephrology. Presented at the World Congress of Nephrology, the award is the society’s highest honor. He also was lauded by the American Society of Transplantation with its Senior Achievement Award in Clinical Transplantation.

Shlomo Melmed, MD, executive vice president of Academic Affairs, dean of the Medical Faculty, and the Helene A. and Philip E. Hixon Distinguished Chair in Investigative Medicine, has won the 2018 Outstanding Scholarly Physician Award from the Endocrine Society, the largest membership organization representing professionals in endocrinology. The annual award recognizes outstanding contributions to the practice of clinical endocrinology in academic settings.

Zab Mosenifar, MD, executive vice chair of the Department of Medicine, medical director of the Women’s Guild Lung Institute, and the Geri and Richard Brawerman Chair in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, received the 2016 Barlow Respiratory Hospital’s Medical Excellence Award for outstanding service to patients and the healthcare community.

William Parks, PhD, scientific director of the Women’s Guild Lung Institute, vice chair of research in the Department of Medicine, director of the Biomedical Sciences and Translational Medicine Graduate Program, and professor of Medicine, received the Recognition Award for Scientific Accomplishments from the American Thoracic Society. He also was named deputy editor of the American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology and associate editor of The American Journal of Pathology.

Steven Piantadosi, MD, PhD, PHASE ONE Foundation Distinguished Chair, is stepping down after 10 years as director of the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute to direct the recently established Cedars-Sinai Clinical Trials Design Research Center. Howard Sandler, MD — chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at the cancer institute and the Ronald H. Bloom Family Chair in Cancer Therapeutics — will serve as interim director of the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute. Sandler also has been named a fellow of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Ueli Rutishauser, PhD, associate professor of Neurosurgery, Neurology, and Biomedical Sciences, received the 2017 Prize for Research in Scientific Medicine (PRISM), which honors Cedars-Sinai scientists for achieving an exemplary scientific breakthrough or critical medical insight. The PRISM prize committee cited Rutishauser’s “seminal and paradigm-shifting observations regarding the circuit mechanisms underlying human memory formation.”

Brennan Spiegel, MD, director of Health Services Research, heads a Cedars-Sinai team that has earned a $2 million grant to study methods to reduce opioid addiction by exploring the most effective ways for physicians to discuss treatments with chronic pain patients. He also received a $1 million grant from the University of California, San Francisco to study digestive and liver diseases.

Ravi Thadhani, MD, MPH, has been appointed vice dean of Research and Education. He is currently a professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief of the Division of Nephrology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He is an internationally renowned clinical and translational leader in nephrology and expert on vitamin D metabolism, kidney dialysis, and preeclampsia. Thadhani has been principal investigator on more than 30 grants, many funded by the National Institutes of Health. He received an MD degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a master of public health in epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Mark Vrahas, MD, has been named the Levin/Gordon Distinguished Chair in Orthopaedics in Honor of Myles Cohen, MD. Vrahas, founding chair of the Cedars-Sinai Department of Orthopaedics, joined Cedars-Sinai in 2016 from Harvard Medical School, where he served as vice chair for Population Health and OR Operations at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, and as chief of Partners Orthopaedic Trauma Program at Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

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