2018 Academic Debates Opening Remarks

Rohit Loomba, MD, MHSc – NAFLD Research Center @ University of California at San Diego

Dr. Rohit Loomba is an expert in the clinical management of chronic liver diseases and holds a joint appointment in the Division of Gastroenterology in the Department of Medicine and the Division of Epidemiology in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of California at San Diego School of Medicine.

His research focuses on all aspects of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease including aging, epidemiology, genetic and environmental predisposition, natural history, and treatment of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Dr. Loomba is the Principal Investigator for the adult hepatology for the NIDDK-sponsored NASH-CRN (2009-14) and serves on its steering committee. This work is performed in close collaboration with investigators in the Department of Pediatrics and Radiology at UCSD.

Dr. Loomba is the recipient of the American Gastroenterological Association Foundation-Sucampo-ASP Designated Research Award in Geriatric Gastroenterology and the T. Franklin Williams Scholarship Award for 2009-12. This research in liver and aging epidemiology is conducted with strong support from his mentor Drs. Elizabeth Barrett-Connor and David Brenner. He also participates in teaching in the Cardiovascular Epidemiology T32 training program that is run by Drs. Michael Criqui and Mathew Allison. Dr. Loomba’s vision is to establish a comprehensive center of excellence in clinical research and epidemiology of liver disease at UCSD.


2018 Academic Debates Moderator

Norah Terrault, MD – University of California San Francisco 

Dr. Norah Terrault is the Professor of Medicine and the Director of the Viral Hepatitis Center at the University of California San Francisco. She is recognized nationally and internationally for her work related to viral hepatitis, especially in the setting of liver transplantation.  She has authored more than 290 original articles, reviews and book chapters on viral hepatitis, including the recent AASLD Hepatitis B Treatment Guidelines. She has served as associate editor for Hepatology, is current Associate Editor for Hepatology Communications and a member of the AASLD HCV Guidance Committee. She is an investigator on several NIH-funded clinical studies in hepatitis B and C, as well as NASH and is an investigator on several ongoing clinical trials of novel therapies for patients with chronic liver diseases.


2018 Academic Debates Judges

Robert Gish, MD – La Maestra Clinic, City Heights
Tarek Hassanein, MD – Southern California Liver Centers
Anders H. Nyberg, MD – Kaiser Permanente
John Person, MD – Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group
Javaid Shad, MD – North County Gastroenterology


2018 Academic Debates Mentors, NP/PAs, Fellows & Residents

Hepatitis C

(Family Health Centers vs. University of California Health)

Possibility of eliminating Hepatitis C by 2030

PRO:  Hepatitis C will be eliminated by 2030

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.

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

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.

CON: Hepatitis C will not be eliminated

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: Summer Collier, MSN, FNP-BC, AAHIVS & Robin Soto, MSN, FNP-BC, AAHIVS

Summer Collier is a hepatology nurse practitioner at UCSD. She has over 12 years of experience working as a RN and NP, beginning her advanced practice career in community medicine at FHCSD. She completed a fellowship in HIV/HCV medicine under the mentorship of Dr. Christian Ramers in 2015. Summer transitioned her focus to hepatology in late 2016.

While at UCSD, Summer has completed research on decreasing readmission rates in patients with cirrhosis. She is also involved with the NAFLD Research Center under the direction of Dr. Rohit Loomba. She was awarded UCSD’s Advanced Practice Nurse of the Year in 2018.

Summer is a member of AASLD’s Hepatology Associates and the Membership & Mentorship Subcommittee. She is a member of the American Liver Foundation, Pacific Coast Division’s Associate Medical Advisory Committee. She is also a member of the American Academy of HIV Medicine.

Summer holds a Master’s degree in Nursing from the University of San Diego and attended the University of Iowa and Mount Mercy College for her undergraduate studies. She is a board certified family nurse practitioner and is a board certified HIV specialist.

Robin Soto is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner in outpatient Hepatology at UC San Diego Health, which she joined following 14 years as a primary care provider at one of the largest community clinic systems on the West Coast. She was a fellow for HRSA Small Projects of National Significance Grant in HIV and Chronic Hepatitis C management plus is an AANC-certified Nurse Practitioner and an American Academy of HIV Medicine Specialist. She is a member of the Associate Medical Advisory Board for the American Liver Foundation and Medical Director for Bike the Bay, an annual community bike ride across the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge. Robin earned her MSN at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing after serving as Peace Corps Volunteer in Guinea, West Africa. She is an avid traveler and enjoys spending time with her husband, Onell, and her black lab mix, Gloria.


Fibrosis in Patients with NAFLD

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

Identifying the “Gold Standard” to evaluate fibrosis in patients with NAFLD

POSITION 1:  Serum markers for fibrosis

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.

Fellow: Tom Mellor, DO

Dr. Thomas Mellor is a current first year Gastroenterology Fellow and Lieutenant in the United States Navy.  He is a native of Brooklyn, NY and attended college at Binghamton University.  He earned a Master of Science from Drexel University and went on to graduate from medical school at the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine.  Thomas completed his Internal Medicine residency at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD and was fortunate to serve there as Chief Resident. He most recently began fellowship training in Gastroenterology at Naval Medical Center San Diego.

POSITION 2:  MR Elastography

 Mentor: Veeral Ajmera, MD – UC San Diego Health

Dr. Veeral Ajmera is a board-certified gastroenterologist who treats patients with chronic liver disease. He has expertise with fatty liver disease and liver transplantation.

As an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego, Dr. Ajmera conducts research on the non-invasive assessment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and risk factors for disease progression. His work has been published widely in peer-reviewed journals.

Dr. Ajmera completed fellowships in gastroenterology and transplant hepatology at UC San Francisco (UCSF) and did an internal medicine residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. He earned his medical degree from University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and a master’s degree in clinical research from UCSF. He is board certified in internal medicine and gastroenterology.

Dr. Ajmera is a member of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, the American College of Gastroenterology, the American Gastroenterological Association, and the American Society of Transplantation.

Fellow: Shravan Dave, MD

Dr. Shravan Dave was born in Mumbai and raised in central New Jersey. After obtaining his undergraduate degree at Rutgers University, he completed medical school at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He then trained in internal medicine at the University of California – San Francisco, and is currently a second-year fellow in Gastroenterology at the University of California – San Diego. He has a particular interest in the study of liver diseases.

POSITION 3:  Biopsy

Mentor: Catherine Frenette, MD – Scripps Health

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.

Fellows:  Ali Fakhreddine, MD & Quan Nhu, MD, PhD

Dr. Ali Fakhreddine is a second-year gastroenterology fellow at Scripps Clinic.  He grew up in Austin, Texas and attended the University of Texas in Austin where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Biology.  He earned his MD at UT Southwestern before matching at Harbor-UCLA for internal medicine residency.  At the completion of his residency he was recruited for an additional year as chief resident at Harbor-UCLA.

Dr. Quan Nhu is a Gastroenterology Fellow at Scripps Clinic, La Jolla, CA, where he also trained in the ABIM Physician-Scientist Internal Medicine Program, with appointment as a KL2 Clinical Scholar at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI).  He is also a Visiting Scholar at UCSD School of Medicine, where he works on GI Immunopathology.  Quan trained previously in Autoimmunity/Immunopathology with Noel Rose, MD, PhD at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.  His current research has been funded by an NIH KL2 Pilot Grant and several Scripps Clinic intramural grants.  Quan has been mentored by Catherine Frenette, MD, and was an AASLD Emerging Liver Scholar in 2018.



(Scripps Health vs. University of California, San Diego School of Medicine)

Waiting periods for transplanting patients with alcohol-induced liver disease

PRO:  The abstinence period should be the same for all patients

Mentors: Christopher L Marsh, MD – FACS, FAST & Catherine Frenette, MD – Scripps Health

Dr. Christopher Marsh is the Vice President for Surgical, Radiologic, and OB/GYN Services at Scripps Clinic.  He is division chief of the Organ Transplantation and Director of the Center for Organ and Cell Transplantation at Scripps Green Hospital. Previously, Dr. Marsh was associate professor of surgery and urology, Director of the Kidney/ Pancreas Transplantation Program and associate head of the Division of Organ Transplantation at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. Dr. Marsh attended medical school and completed a residency at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, California, followed by a transplantation fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Dr. Marsh is board certified and is an American Society of Transplant Surgeons trained multi-organ transplant surgeon and is UNOS qualified transplant surgeon. He is a member of the American College of Surgeons, American Society of Transplant Surgeons, International Pancreas and Islet Transplant Association, and American and International Liver Transplant Societies. He has written numerous articles and chapters and holds positions on national and regional transplantation and organ procurement committees. He is a member of the UNOS liver and intestine and pancreas islet committees. Dr. Marsh’s active research activity includes clinical trials using new immunosuppressive drug regimens in liver, pancreas and kidney transplants, pioneered steroid-free immunosuppression in organ transplantation and helped initiate new protocols in islet transplantation for the treatment of insulin requiring diabetes. He has expertise in liver, kidney, pancreas, pancreatic islet transplantation, adrenal and renal surgery.

Resident:  Faizi Hai, MD

Dr. Faizi Hai is a current 2nd year internal medicine resident at Scripps Clinic/Scripps Green Hospital. He is originally from Buffalo, NY and received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He continued on and received his medical doctorate at the State University of New York at Buffalo as well. He completed a one year internship in pediatrics at The Children’s Hospital of Buffalo and then transitioned into internal medicine at Scripps Health. He is interested in pursuing a career in gastroenterology and hepatology.

CON: The abstinence period should be determined on a case-by-case basis

Mentor: Jennifer Berumen, MD – University of California, San Diego School of Medicine

Dr. Jennifer Berumen is a surgeon specializing in abdominal transplantation and hepatobiliary (liver and bile duct) surgery. She performs kidney, liver and pancreas transplantations.  Dr. Berumen’s research is focused on kidney and liver transplantation in adults and children. Her research has been published in a variety of journals including Digestive Disease Sciences and she is the co-author of a chapter on artificial hearts in Textbook of Organ Transplantation. She has presented her work involving transplantation in autosomal recessive kidney disease and pediatric liver transplantation at national meetings.  Dr. Berumen completed her two-year fellowship training in abdominal transplant surgery at Stanford University with a focus on pediatric liver and kidney transplantation, and her general surgery residency training at UC San Diego. She earned her medical degree and her undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering from Tulane University.  Dr. Berumen is a member of the American Society of Transplant Surgeons.

Resident: Joseph Meserve, MD

Dr. Joseph Meserve is currently a chief medical resident at UC San Diego.


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