UCSF Recognizes Exceptional Physicians

By Lisa Cisneros

Four outstanding physicians will be recognized today (May 17) for demonstrating UCSF Medical Center’s values—professionalism, respect, integrity, diversity and excellence. 

Recipients of the UCSF Medical Center Exceptional Physician Awards for 2010 are:

  • Maria Dall’Era, MD, Division of Rheumatology
  • Thierry Jahan, MD, Division of Hematology/Oncology
  • Isobel “Bel” Russell, MD, Anesthesia and Perioperative Care
  • Isaac Yang, MD, chief resident, Neurosurgery

The UCSF community is invited to congratulate these physicians as they receive their awards at the medical center’s Ninth Annual Honors and Awards Celebration today from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Cole Hall on the Parnassus campus.

The four physicians were selected for the awards by a committee that reviewed 71 nominations.

Maria Dall’Era

Dall’Era, an assistant professor of clinical medicine and director of the Clinical Trials Center, is recognized as a truly outstanding physician who demonstrates integrity, enthusiasm, responsibility, accountability and self motivation.

Specializing in treating patients with systemic lupus erythematosus, Dall’Era is known for sharing her extensive experience by advising and supporting rheumatology fellows and other attending physicians who care for very sick lupus patients.

An expert in her field, Dall’Era is pursuing clinical research into novel treatments for systemic lupus erythematosus and has published several articles on treatment for lupus. She is one of the “go-to” clinical experts in the rheumatology division for questions regarding lupus and is also involved in a Center for Disease Control and Prevention effort to track patients statewide.

Dall’Era is noted for her calm and consistently professional demeanor and for her clinical problem solving skills. She is committed to her own continuous learning, impressing colleagues by citing recent literature to highlight a point in a clinical debate or to shed light on a clinical problem.

She is respected for her thoughtful, non-judgmental attitude and ability to understand and accept her patients’ choices while sometimes disagreeing with them. “Dr. Dall’Era’s ability and willingness to see each patient as a person, rather than a collection of symptoms and lab [results], is the most important way in which she exemplifies the value of respect,” one of her nominators wrote.

Dall’Era is also known for exemplifying a warm and inviting attitude toward trainees who come to her with little or no knowledge about lupus and for her respectful interactions with staff.

As a successful academician, Dall’Era provides a much needed role model for women in training. “Her ability to balance research, clinical care, teaching and family is inspiring to those of us who follow in her footsteps,” said a nominator.

Thierry Jahan

Jahan, associate professor of medicine, the Bonnie J. and Anthony Addario Endowed Chair in Thoracic Oncology and director of Clinical Services in the Division of Hematology/Oncology, has been working for UCSF Medical Center since 1994. He is recognized as one of the region’s foremost and highly regarded thoracic oncologists.

Jahan is lauded for bringing a high level of professionalism, sincerity, initiative and salient commitment to research and for devoting his life to treating patients with lung cancer, mesothelioma and sarcoma.

Jahan is known by patients, their families and clinicians for his sense of professionalism, empathy and compassion. “His thoroughness and sincere commitment to patient care and clinical research set a standard for many here at Mount Zion medical center,” a nominator wrote.

When a patient is told that he or she has cancer, they are often stunned into silence. Jahan, however, has a way of delivering the news with hope and during a single visit, provides patients and their families with information regarding treatment options, clinical trials, emotional support and community resources.

“I’ve seen Dr. Jahan spend the entire day with patients, taking as much time as each one needs,” wrote a nominator. “He will work through lunch and dinner to give them the personal attention that would benefit them most, including taking time to review their scans, tests and treatment plan (even consulting with other physicians) to ensure the highest quality of care. He has a tender heart for those under his care and I’ve seen him struggle when their health begins to decline.”

Jahan has received numerous honors and awards, including the Medical House Staff Outstanding Teacher Award and Friend of the Palliative Care Service Award. He has authored or co-authored numerous peer-reviewed articles, book chapters and research abstracts and has lectured nationally and internationally on lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Isobel “Bel” Russell

An anesthesiologist who has worked for UCSF for more than 20 years, Russell is known for her uncompromising attention to detail.

She is an excellent clinician, known internationally as a superb pediatric cardiac anesthesiologist who demonstrates excellence and respect. “We care for the most critically ill infants and children yet at all times and in all situations, she deals with the members of the health care team and the family professionally.”

Russell is also a great teacher, as evident by winning resident teaching awards, which is regarded by many as the highest honor of any member of the Department of Anesthesia at UCSF.

Russell has defined the field of intraoperative echocardiography through her pioneering work with Mike Callahan, MD, and the members of the Cardiology division at UCSF. She was elected as a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology, in recognition for her contributions to the field, which is exceedingly rare for an anesthesiologist.

Russell is also lauded for her ability to show respect to physicians, nurses and administrative staff. Her little gestures are thoughtful and uplifting. For example, when she learned about UCSF staff being hit hard by furloughs and pay cuts, she and her sons baked cookies and brought them in for staff.

Russell personifies and values diversity having grown up in Malaysia as a child of an Indian father and a British mother with diverse religious backgrounds. “She is a woman who not only has achieved remarkable professional success, but has done so as an immigrant to this country,” a nominator wrote. “In support of these remarkable achievements, she received a Distinguished Women Faculty Award at UCSF in 2002.”

A mother of two, Russell is a role model to many. “She is the paragon of a woman who has succeeded at all levels of her professional career while being able delicately to balance family with her duties,” wrote a nominator.

Isaac Yang

A chief resident in neurosurgery, Yang is known for exuding confidence as he leads the surgical team and “his level of professionalism is considered the gold standard by everyone” on that team, wrote a nominator.

Yang demonstrates incredible leadership, teamwork and professionalism in treating and managing complex neurosurgery patients who are often among the most sick patients in the hospital.

His ability to connect with all patients and their families is evident in the pre-operative area each morning. When Korean patients arrive, they feel comfortable knowing Yang can communicate with them in their language without having to struggle with English. But he surprises his colleagues when he speaks Tagalog or Spanish, depending on the patients he’s treating.

“This helps to create the interpersonal relationships that not many surgeons go out of their way to do,” wrote one of his nominators. “Isaac is a diverse individual with an interest in others’ cultures as well, an attribute that adds to his very likable character, and is equally beneficial in the workplace.”

Yang makes himself available to medical students in a variety of ways. He has run a neurosurgery interest group for first- and second-year medical students to talk about life as a neurosurgeon, how to be competitive and how to survive on the wards. He also mentors students sharing his passion and enthusiasm for medicine and teaching. “He just radiates positivity and really gives you as a student the confidence to ask questions, to participate and to get the most out of any learning environment,” wrote a nominator.

A 2004 graduate of the UCLA School of Medicine, Yang has received several medical student awards, including the American Medical Students Association’s Distinguished Mentor Award in 2005. He has already won several teaching and research awards and has authored more than 25 peer-reviewed journal articles.

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