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List of Available Mentors for the MSP Program

Shlomit Radom Aizik, PhD

Executive Director

Pediatric Exercise and Genomics Research Center (PERC)


The UC Irvine Health Pediatric Exercise and Genomics Research Center (PERC) is dedicated to unleashing the healing power of exercise. We know that improving health outcomes for children starts with research.

Our nationally renowned clinicians, exercise physiologists and researchers are driven to learn what type of exercise, how much and for how long, produces the most predictable, effective outcomes to improve childhood health. They also seek the biological mechanisms that trigger specific physiological responses to exercise.

PERC is one of the few centers in the nation exploring the connection between exercise and the epigenome (the intermediary between genes and the environment causing changes in how genes express themselves). Simply put, we’re gaining new knowledge about the human body’s response to exercise at the cellular level.

Our belief is that exercise is good medicine for all children, and especially for those with health challenges such as asthma, cerebral palsy and spina bifida. Our results are proving it. Large-scale and innovative investigations underway at our center are already helping kids move forward with their lives, despite the effects of their disabilities, illnesses or injuries.

Based within UC Irvine Health School of Medicine — one of the nation’s top medical schools for research — PERC is engaged in an array of pioneering exercise-science studies that can lead to breakthrough results for the next generation.

Our mission:

• To advance pediatric exercise medicine through clinical and laboratory research

• To provide an exercise plan for infants, children and young adults

• To provide preventive and rehabilitative exercise programs

• To promote and foster community partnerships to encourage physical activity in children

For more info, visit perc.uci.edu





Alpesh Amin, MD

Thomas & Mary Cesario Chair of Medicine

Department of Medicine


Throughout his career, Dr. Amin has been innovative in clinical, quality and educational program development. He has advised the Hamad Medical Corporation in Doha, Qatar on Quality Improvement efforts across 8 hospitals under the national health ministry council. He has developed processes to improve patient care delivery looking at ways to reduce readmission and avoidable admissions, as well as improvements in length of stay, mortality and customer service. Dr. Amin is an expert in implementation science and measuring outcomes to improve sustainable long lasting results. He has also applied information technology to improve the delivery of care through development of projects such as NHCPlus, eConsults, and others.  During the course of his career, Dr. Amin has served as principal investigator, co-investigator, and faculty sponsor on clinical trials and research projects focusing on clinical topics such as VTE, pneumonia, and heart failure. His research interest is in health outcomes related to patient safety & quality improvement and medical education.




Ruth Benca, MD, PhD

Professor and Department Chair

Psychiatry & Human Behavior


Dr. Benca’s research focuses on the interface between sleep and psychiatric disorders.  Her work has spanned basic research studies in animal models to clinical research studies and clinical trials in humans. Her current studies focus on the use of high-density EEG, actigraphy and home sleep testing to assess sleep and brain function in obstructive sleep apnea.  She also uses high-density EEG as a brain imaging tool to assess brain activity in normal and pathological aging, including in patients with mild cognitive impairment and cognitively intact subjects at increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. Other research areas include studying whether the addition of hypnotic medication to antidepressant therapy in patients with suicidal ideation leads to faster antidepressant response and reduction in suicidal ideation, using actigraphy to measure activity patterns and high-density EEG to assess brain activity during sleep in patients with insomnia, and using high-density EEG to study sleep in major depression, including the effects of sleep interventions on mood in depression.




Steve Cramer, MD




My research focuses on neural repair in human patients, with an emphasis on stroke and on recovery of movement after stroke. A major emphasis is on translating new drugs and devices to reduce disability after stroke, and on individualizing therapy for each person’s needs.   Treatments examined in the past have included robotic, stem cell, brain stimulation, pharmacologic, and telehealth methods.  Our current phase II trial examines the utility of telerehabilitation to improve arm motor function. A major research program in the lab currently involves use of dense array EEG to measure function of individual brain circuits, data that we hope to use to target function of these circuits in order to improve clinical outcomes.




Anand Ganesan, MD

Associate Professor



My laboratory and clinical practice focus on understanding how melanocytes in the skin respond to UV to produce melanin, how UV stimulates melanocytes to migrate from the hair to the skin during vitiligo repigmentation, and how UV stimulates melanocytes migrate out of the skin or the hair to form nevi or melanoma.    In the laboratory, we have developed in vivo animal models to study the process of pigmentation, melanocyte migration, and melanoma formation, which have been instrumental in increasing our understanding of melanocyte migration.   In addition, we have recently developed novel imaging approaches and single cell genomics approaches to understand what melanocytes migrate out of the hair into the epidermis during vitiligo pigmentation in humans, and also are using animal models to identify genes that control the growth of melanocytic nevi and prevent them from transforming to melanoma.   Medical students involved in our research will have the opportunity to participate in translational studies to better understand how vitiligo skin repigments in response to UV or in histopathologic correlation/ genomic studies to determine what differentiates a normal nevus from an evolving melanoma.




Shruti Gohil, MD,  MPH

Assistant Professor of Medicine

Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases


Dr. Gohil’s research focuses on the clinical epidemiology of preventable infections, including quantifying patient risks for healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) and evaluating preventative measures across the continuum of care.  Dr. Gohil has led two state-wide population studies using large administrative datasets to examine potentially modifiable risk factors associated with infection-related readmissions and sepsis.  Her current research focuses on initiatives to decrease in central line associated bloodstream infections, decrease multi-drug resistant organism acquisition and transmission, and promote optimal use of antibiotics to minimize patient risk for developing drug resistance.




Michelle Khine, PhD


Biomedical engineering


The Khine Lab in Biomedical Engineering focuses on developing nano and micro-fabricated point of care diagnostics and health monitoring tools. These tools range from molecular diagnostics to conformal wearable electronics to machine learning and data analytics. We are interested in integrating these technologies and applying them to create robust and pervasive sports monitoring and medical grade wearable electronics.




Natasha Mesinkovska, MD, PhD

H.S. Clinical Assistant Professor



Natasha Mesinkovska MD.PhD. is a Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic trained dermatologist and dermatopathologist. She is a recent addition to the UC Irvine department of dermatology, and was already voted Teacher of the Year 2016 by the UCI Dermatology residents. Her research interests lie in studying skin diseases and closely understanding the structure and function of skin layers and appendages in healthy and disease states. Dr. Mesinkovska is particularly interested in hair loss diseases ( alopecia ) and works in close association with engineers at the Beckman institute on identifying optimal visualization tools. As a Director of the Dermatology Clnical Research Center, located in Hewitt Hall, she is involved in clinical research in psoriasis, eczema, acne and alopecia areata. She also oversees the UCI Clinical Research fellowship and has served as a close mentor to many dermatologists-in-training. Dr. Mesinkovska believes in the significance of having a close mentor relationship, and credits her personal growth and achievements to these close relationships with her mentors.




Hamid Moradi, MD

Assistant Clinical Professor



Cardiovascular disease (CV) continues to be the major cause of death in the developed and developing world. Awareness of risk factors such as smoking and hypertension has led to lifestyle and pharmacologic interventions which have reduced tobacco use and better blood pressure control. Hence the leading risk factor for CV disease and mortality is now dyslipidemia. While in the general population, elevated serum cholesterol are associated with poor outcomes and increasing high density lipoprotein (HDL) levels are associated with improved outcomes, in patients with end stage renal disease these observations are not replicated. If anything, there are paradoxical associations such that elevated serum cholesterol levels are associated with better outcomes. In addition, higher serum HDL has not been found to be protective. My research is aimed at further elucidating association of dyslipidemia with outcomes in patients with ESRD using clinical studies. These observations are subsequently taken to the lab to try to uncover the mechanisms responsible for them as well as come up with potential therapeutic targets. My main area of focus has been HDL cholerstrol structure and function in ESRD and its potential impact on outcomes, mainly CV mortality.




Edward Nelson, MD., FACP

Chief Hematology, Associate Professor

Division of Hematology/Oncology, Dept. of Medicine, School of Medicine and Dept. of Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, School of Biological Sciences



My laboratory and research interests are best categorized as “tumor immunology” however, within this domain, we have several different lines of research.  First, we have a collaborative project with our engineering colleagues focused on a platform that allows us to interrogate specific cellular subsets within a tumor, such as putative cancer stem cells, and molecularly characterize them at the single cell level.  This platform has been developed to the point of proof of principle for breast cancers with other tumor types in process.  Second, we collaborate with our behavioral scientists in biobehavioral clinical/translational research.  This line of research originated with the conceptual framework that a diagnosis and treatment of cancer imparts chronic psychological stress.  Chronic psychological stress is associated with a shift in immunological stance away from the class of immune response believed to be most effective for anti-tumor immunity.  We have shown that mitigating that chronic psychological stress response is associated with a reversal of that change in immunological stance.  We continue to expand and investigate the biobehavioral paradigm of cancer survivorship.  Finally, we have an earl feasibility study the Pathway Analyses for Individualized Network Therapeutics for Cancer (PAINT Cancer) that is evaluating the use of a relatively new molecular expression profiling platform (nanoString) and pathway analysis program (Ingenuity Pathway Analysis) to explore and identify targetable nodes in patient’s tumors, so called individualized or precision medicine.




Margaret Schnieder, Ph.D.

Research Professor, Director of Evaluation

School of Social Ecology, Institute for Clinical and Translational Science


My research focuses on multi-factorial models of health behavior, with a primary focus on physical activity among adolescents. I am interested in moving beyond simple psychosocial models of health behavior to incorporate both physiological and environmental factors that may interact with psychosocial variables to shape behavior. Recent areas of investigation include the role of personality and frontal cortical brain asymmetry as factors that influence the affective response to exercise and the association between affective response to exercise and physical activity participation among adolescents. In addition, I maintain a strong interest and involvement in process evaluation of multi-factorial intervention research.




Heike Thiel de Bocanegra, Ph.D., MPH

Associate Professor

UCSF Bixby Center, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences


I am interested in evaluating the Affordable Care Act implementation on access to and quality of reproductive health services. My current studies include a chart review of  family planning services in Medi-Cal managed care plans and an internet-based survey of immigrant high school students’ awareness of Medi-Cal eligibility, enrollment, and health care use. I lead or participate in mixed method assessments of  reproductive health needs of women who had a preterm birth or pregnancy loss; are in abusive relationships or experienced sexual trauma.   https://bixbycenter.ucsf.edu/heike-thiel-de-bocanegra-phd-mph




Alan Widgerow, MBBCh, Mmed, FCS, FACS

Professor Plastic Surgery; Director Center for Tissue Engineering

Plastic Surgery


CTE has 4 major projects underway:

• Working with the Musculoskeletal transplant foundation (MTF) we are investigating cadaver derived fat tissue that has been converted to decellularized matrix powder through a sequence of steps. We are investigating the protein content of various components and researching a possible reconstituted injectable that will convert to fat in vivo. This has multiple reconstructive and aesthetic applications

• Working with the Plastic Surgical Foundation and MTF we are researching a combination of adipose derived stem cells, chondrocytes and adipose decellularized matrix that has been fashioned into an ear shaped framework. The purpose is to utilize the stem cells to initiate conversion to cartilage producing chondrocytes that will then deposit cartilage onto this adipose framework to produce a tissue engineered cartilaginous framework for ear reconstruction.

• Working with Biomedical Engineering Dept. we have developed a micro/nanobubble solution that can sequester, store and deliver oxygen to tissues. We are investigating this solution to be used as an irrigation solution in wound healing.

• Working with biomedical engineers (Start-up company Syntr) we have developed a device that subjects lipoaspirate (fat tissue from liposuction) to mechanical shear and stress, producing a potent collection of progenitor cells. The purpose will be to use these cells as a therapeutic in diabetic patients or as an enrichment for fat grafting reconstructive indications