2019 Academic Debates Opening Remarks

Opening Remarks: Catherine Frenette, MD – Scripps Center for Organ Transplantation

Dr. Catherine Frenette, medical director of the liver transplantation program at Scripps Green Hospital, was named Physician of the Year by the American Liver Foundation’s Pacific Coast Division, which includes San Diego and Imperial counties.  The foundation’s medical advisory committee, composed of leading liver disease specialists, selected Dr. Frenette for the honor based on her extraordinary dedication to the fields of liver disease treatment, research and education.  Dr. Frenette’s clinical practice focuses on providing comprehensive care to patients with all stages of liver disorders. She has a special clinical expertise in liver transplantation to treat cirrhosis, hepatitis, liver cancer, acute liver failure and end-stage liver disease.  In addition to her medical practice, Dr. Frenette leads several active research trials and teaches residents and fellows at Scripps Clinic. Her research has been published in more than 40 peer-reviewed medical journal articles and she has made more than 100 presentations at national medical conferences, universities and health care centers.  Additionally, Dr. Frenette serves as an editorial board member for several publications, including the Journal of Clinical and Translational Hepatology and Translational Cancer Research. She was recently awarded fellow status by the American Gastroenterology Association and the American Society of Transplantation.  Dr. Frenette earned her medical degree from Rush Medical College in Chicago. She completed her residency at Scripps Mercy Hospital San Diego and her two fellowships at Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, Calif.

2019 Academic Debates Moderator

Moderator: Jeffrey Kahn, MD – Keck School of Medicine of USC

Dr. Kahn received fellowship training in gastroenterology and transplant hepatology from the Keck School of Medicine and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.  He is board certified in internal medicine, gastroenterology and transplant hepatology.  He is the Medical Director of the liver transplant program at USC. Dr. Kahn’s primary research interests are in liver transplantation, hepatocellular carcinoma and viral hepatitis.  He has written and co-authored several abstracts and peer-reviewed articles on various topics such as chronic hepatitis C and liver transplantation.  He is also a distinguished lecturer.

2019 Academic Debates Judges

Tarek Hassanein, MD, Southern California Liver Centers
Anders H. Nyberg, MD, Kaiser Permanente
Lisa Nyberg, MD, Kaiser Permanente
John Person, MD, Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group

2019 Academic Debates Mentors, NP/PAs, Fellows

Debate 1:  Hepatitis B

(Family Health Centers vs. University of California Health)

Topic: All patients with immune tolerant Hepatitis B should be treated

PRO: All patients with immune tolerant Hepatitis B should be treated

Mentor: Christian Ramers, MD – Family Health Centers


Dr. Ramers is a Clinical Associate Professor at UCSD and the Assistant Medical Director for Research and Special Populations at the Family Health Centers of San Diego, a large Federally Qualified Health Center serving medically underserved individuals.  He serves as a consultant for patients living with HIV, HBV, and HCV, and Tuberculosis and for homeless patients and those struggling with substance abuse disorders. Dr. Ramers has led several initiatives bringing HIV and HCV care to the primary care setting.  He has consulted for the CDC and several non-governmental organizations supporting HIV/HBV/HCV programs in many countries throughout Asia and Africa including Vietnam, Myanmar, Indonesia, Angola, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Namibia.

CON:  All patients with immune tolerated Hepatitis B do not need to be treated

Mentor: Irine Vodkin, MD – University of California Health


Irine Vodkin, MD is a board-certified gastroenterologist with a focus on end-stage liver disease and transplantation.

Dr. Vodkin’s main research interests are fatty liver disease and HIV-related liver disease. She has received several honors and awards over the years, including the San Diego GI Society Fellows Research award and the Johnson & Johnson International Fellowship. She has been published in several peer-reviewed journals for her work in HIV-associated nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and the management of hepatitis B infection during pregnancy.

Dr. Vodkin received her medical degree from University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine. She completed her internal medicine residency at Stanford University Hospital and went on to complete gastroenterology and transplant hepatology fellowship training at University of California, San Diego.

Dr. Vodkin is a member of several professional organizations including the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases and the American College of Gastroenterology. Dr. Vodkin is board-certified in internal medicine, gastroenterology and transplant hepatology.

PA/NPs: Pamela M Conner, FNP-BC & Melanie Swan, DNP, FNP-BC


Pamela Conner is a Family Nurse Practitioner with Family Health Centers of San Diego. She has worked in community health for 15 years and has special interests in liver disease and diabetes. Ms. Conner treats Hepatitis C and other liver disease in addition to providing primary care services in City Heights. She is part of a pilot project to improve access to Hepatitis C treatment through treatment in primary care settings.  She also facilitated diabetes education classes for 6 years. She completed her Nurse Practitioner training at the MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston, MA as a National Health Service Corps Scholar Recipient and received her undergraduate degree from Seattle University.


Melanie Swan has a bachelor’s degree from UCSD with a major in human biology.  She received her nursing degrees from Columbia University in New York City (where she continues to mentor students as a doctoral student portfolio advisor), and also did a portion of her clinical training in the Dominican Republic.  Melanie’s career in community health was driven by an interest in combatting health disparities and social determinates of health.  She has worked for Family Health Centers of San Diego for four years.  Currently, she provides primary care services as well as Hepatitis C and HIV treatment in El Cajon and also provides community care throughout San Diego on FHCSD’s mobile medical units.

PA/NPs: Barbara Andrews, FNP-BC, & Lisa Richards, MSN, FNP-BC


Barbara Andrews is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner.  She received her Master’s in Science of Nursing from University of San Diego in 1997.  Barbara’s career has been at the University of California San Diego Medical Health System for the past 25 years.  In 2008 Barbara joined the Hepatology and Liver Transplant Department as a clinical nurse practitioner.

She is actively engaged in professional organizations including the American Association of Liver Disease (AASLD), American Liver Foundation Pacific Coast Division and chairs a local SD Hepatology Associate Group.


Lisa Richards, FNP-BC, MSN is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with the University of California San Diego Health System. She received her bachelor and master’s of science degree in nursing, magna cum laude, from the University of San Diego.  She practices in hepatology and has over 18 years of experience.  She is a member of the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease and has served on many committees and is currently co-chair of the Hepatology Associate Special Interest Group.  Additionally, she is the chair of the local American Liver Foundation Associate Medical Advisory Committee.  She is very active in the field of Hepatology and is an international and national speaker.

Debate 2:  NASH

(Naval Medical Center vs. UC San Diego Health vs. Scripps Health)

Topic: All NASH patients should be treated with medical therapies regardless of fibrosis level

PRO: All medical therapies should be used for any patient with NASH regardless of fibrosis level.

Mentor: Adam Deising, DO – Naval Medical Center


Dr. Adam Deising is an active duty Navy physician board certified in gastroenterology and transplant hepatology who is currently serving as the department head of Gastroenterology at Naval Medical Center San Diego. Born and raised on the east coast, he graduated from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2005. He did his internal medicine training at NMCSD, followed by a tour as a general internist for 2 years. In 2009 he deployed to Afghanistan for six months as the internist and critical care specialist assigned to a Forward Surgical Team.  He completed his gastroenterology fellowship at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD and his transplant hepatology fellowship at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC.  Dr. Deising moved back to San Diego in 2014 to start his tour as a staff gastroenterologist, primarily serving as the department’s chief hepatologist.

CON:  Obetacholic acid and other medical therapies should be only used in patients with biopsy proven NASH with greater than F2 fibrosis

Mentor: Paul Pockros, MD

Paul J. Pockros, MD, has been Director of the Liver Disease Center of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Scrips Clinic, La Jolla, CA since 1990, and the Director of Clinical Research of the Scripps Translational Science Institute since 2011.  Since he joined Scripps Clinic in 1985, Dr. Pockros has held multiple leadership positions including Head of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology (1996-2012), Medical Director of the Liver Transplantation Program (1990-98) and Chief of Staff, Scripps Green Hospital 2009-2011.  Dr. Pockros is also President of the SC Liver Research Consortium, a clinical research site network of 98 liver centers in the US and Canada which he founded in 1998.  His academic appointments include research and clinical teaching positions at The Scripps Research Institute, Scripps Clinic and the Naval Medical Center San Diego.  In addition to his active practice in hepatology and clinical research duties as a principal investigator, Dr. Pockros has over 165 PubMed-verified published manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals covering areas such as chronic viral hepatitis, liver transplantation, complication of cirrhosis, alcoholic, metabolic and fatty liver diseases, and diagnostic tests for liver disorders (H score=66).  He has delivered numerous lectures and presentations at universities as well as national and international conferences and has served as an editorial board member and reviewer for several prestigious scientific journals.  Dr. Pockros is Board certified in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology.  He received his medical degree from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, where he also completed his internship and residency in internal medicine.  He completed a fellowship in gastroenterology at Scripps Clinic, La Jolla, CA, followed by a second fellowship in hepatology at the USC Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center Liver Unit.  He is a Fellow of the American Association for The Study of Liver Disease, the American Gastroenterological Association, the American College of Physicians and the American College of Gastroenterology.

Fellow: LT Michael Skaret, MD


LT Michael “Mickey” Skaret if originally from Florida, where he attended Florida State for undergraduate school and received his MD from the FIU Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine in Miami.  After commissioning as a medical officer in the Navy, he completed internship and residency training in internal medicine at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outside of Washington, DC.  He was promoted to Assistant Professor at the Uniformed Services University and worked as a hospitalist at Walter Reed Bethesda prior to moving to San Diego for fellowship in gastroenterology at the Naval Medical Center.  In his free time, Mickey enjoys travelling and trying out new restaurants with his wife Becca (a native San Diegan).  He’s also the proud father of a grumpy Siamese cat and a precocious French bulldog.

Fellow: Behnam Moein Jahromi, MD


Dr. Jahromi received his medical education at Shiraz University of Medical Sciences Iran from 2004 to 2011.  He did his ACGME Residency at Scripps Clinic/Green Hospital, La Jolla CA from 06/2016 to 06/ 2019, Discipline Internal Medicine, and was a Resident Researcher at Scripps Clinic/Green Hospital from 07/2017 -07/2018.  He is presently a fellow at Scripps Health, La Jolla CA.  He is a member of the American College of Gastroenterology, American College of Physicians, American Medical Association and a holder of certificate in Quality and Safety from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

Debate 3:  Variceal Bleed
(Scripps Health vs UC San Diego Health)

Topic: Patients with first variceal bleed should go for early TIPS vs. Endoscopy

PRO: Early TIPS for first variceal bleed

Mentor: Catherine Frenette, MD – Scripps Center for Organ Transplantation

Fellow:  Alexander Hooper, MD

Dr. Alexander Hooper graduated from the Ohio State University College of Medicine Medical School and did his Residency at Scripps Mercy Hospital.  He is presently a fellow with Scripps Health, La Jolla, CA.  He is Board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine.

 CON: No TIPS for first variceal bleed

Mentor: Irine Vodkin, MD – University of California Health

Fellow: Abbey Barnard, MD

Dr. Barnard completed her undergraduate education at Carleton College in Minnesota after which she joined Teach for America where she taught eighth grade science in Oakland, California.  She attended Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans. Louisiana and subsequently she completed her internal medicine residency at UCLA in Los Angeles, California.  She is currently a second year gastroenterology fellow at UCSD interested in transplant hepatology.

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