The Spark: Medical Education Podcast


The Spark: Medical education for curious minds presents the people and stories behind medical education at UCSF and our community of learners. Through The Spark, we feature perspectives and insights from faculty, staff and students in the School of Medicine’s medical education community, delivered over each episode monthly. Available on Spotify and iTunes.

Podcast interviews with students and faculty will illustrate how our medical school’s curriculum supports and fosters core values of the UCSF physician.

The Nepal Episodes, Chapter 2: Creating Sustainable Impact


What are the similarities and differences in surgical training in Nepal versus the US? Chloe explores this question at the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology in Kathmandu, where expert physicians share their own training experiences from home and abroad.

In this second of three "Nepal Episodes," Chloe interviews Anu Manandhar, MBBS, MD, Head of the Tilganga Uveitis Department, about her training both in Nepal and at UCSF. Chloe also speaks with resident physicians Saksham Tamang, MD and Anu Amatya, MD about their journeys to ophthalmology, and how teaching and learning can create lasting change. 

The Nepal Episodes, Chapter One: By Hand or by Machine?


When it comes to surgery, is "technologically advanced" always superior? Last summer, Chloe Sales (MS3) had the opportunity to explore this question in Kathmandu, Nepal, at the world-renowned Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology – whose doctors pioneered the use of a low-cost, low-tech procedure that's saved the vision of countless patients.

In the first of three "Nepal Episodes," Chloe chats with UCSF ophthalmologists Neeti Parikh, MD and Madeline Yung, MD, about their experience in Nepal – including training in this surgical technique and expanding access to it in California. Chloe also chats with Nabin Kumar Rai, Director of Programs at Tilganga Institute, about lessons they can learn from each other.

Staying curious throughout your career with Chancellor Sam Hawgood


In the last episode of our season, Paul and Chloe sit down with UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS, to discuss the stages of his career, what's inspired him to stay at UCSF for over three decades, how keeping an open mind has led him to interesting places, and the importance of an inquisitive spirit as you take on new roles.

Leading from the middle with Dean Talmadge E. King, Jr.


In the penultimate episode of the season, Paul chats with Dr. Talmadge E. King, Jr., Dean of the School of Medicine & Vice Chancellor for Medical Affairs at UCSF, about how clinicians and specialties choose each other, the intentionality of truly collaborative environments, and how his career has steered him towards leadership.

Using every experience to become a better person & clinician with Dr. Lorriana Leard


Chloe chats with (then incoming) Associate Dean for Continuing Medical Education, Lorriana Leard, MD, about the value of physician coaching (for both coach and medical student), how AI tools like ChatGPT and Bard may change how students learn and physicians work, balancing personal and professional life goals, and what she's most looking forward to in her new role.

Following your heart down the winding road of medicine, with Dr. Valerie Gribben


Chloe chats with Valerie Gribben, MD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, about embracing the unknown throughout training, adopting a growth mindset, and the power of storytelling in medicine. 

Nurturing the mentor within with Dr. Peter Ureste


Paul chats with Dr. Peter Ureste, Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. Dr. Ureste has roles across campus that allow him to mentor the next generation of medical professionals, and he explains the journey that led him to that. Paul and Chloe also discuss what they look for in a mentor/mentee relationship.

Bringing love into clinical settings with Dr. Shieva Khayam-Bashi


"You will not always know enough, but you will always be enough." These are the words of wisdom that Dr. Khayam-Bashi shares with each new class, encouraging them to tap into useful emotions when caring for patients. Paul and Chloe talk about the perspective this lesson has given them in their medical education.

Dr. Justin Sewell (transcript)

Dr. Justin Sewell, Professor of Medicine, joins Paul and Chloe to discuss getting into med school on the first try (or not), maintaining boundaries between professional and personal lives, and the dream of living in the moment even as you look to the future. 

Dr. Andy Josephson (transcript)

Chloe and Paul are joined by Dr. Andy Josephson, Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurology. They discuss the importance of mentorship, how teaching is a skill that can be taught and learned, and the ways medical school offers opportunities to try new things, even for those on a straightforward path.

Dr. Anna Chang (transcript)

In the first episode of the season we meet our new hosts, Chloe Sales (MS2) and Paul Brandfonbrener (MS1). Chloe talks to Anna Chang, MD, a professor in the Department of Medicine's Division of Geriatrics. Dr, Chang also directs the School of Medicine's Bridges Curriculum Clinical Microsystems Clerkship, the integrated clinical skills and health systems curriculum for all first- and second-year medical students. They discuss Dr. Chang's career, finding and hanging onto meaning over the arc of a long and challenging career, and the importance of asking oneself, "have you done something that made you happy today?"

Special Episode - Dr. Lee Jones

In this episode, Mihir Joshi interviews Dr. Lee Jones, then-Associate Dean for Students at the UCSF School of Medicine. Dr. Jones will join Georgetown University’s School of Medicine as the Dean of Medical Education later this summer.   *Please excuse any background noises as our interviewers & interviewees are speaking remotely via video chat.

A Tale of Two Reopenings (Part 2) (transcript)

This episode is part 2 of 2 in our "Tale of Two Reopenings" miniseries. Dan Cummins first speaks with Drs. Alan Shindel, MD and Tami Rowen, MD, each faculty with UCSF, about what is has been like to be parents of young children and busy physicians during COVID-19, educational and broader inequalities underscored by the virus, and the prospect of returning to in-person schooling. Dan then speaks with Hyun "Honey" Kim, a teacher at East Side Union High School in San Jose, about the difficulties of remote education and the concerns many teachers have, both for remote education and returning to in-person classes. (Recorded in Fall 2020)

A Tale of Two Reopenings (Part 1) (transcript)

This episode is part 1 of 2 in our "Tale of Two Reopenings" mini-series. Dan Cummins speaks with Xavier 'Abe' Cortez, a third-year medical student reflecting on his experiences returning to the clinical wards after being removed during the Covid-19 pandemic. Then, Mihir Joshi speaks with Fiona Miller, a second-year medical student and mother of three, speaking on the process of stopping and starting school both for herself and her children.

"You're the doctor?" A Discussion of Gender in Medicine (transcript)

For much of medicine’s history as a profession, it was a crime for women to be doctors. While women gained the right to study and practice medicine in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, by 1965 less than 10% of medical school graduates were women. That changed dramatically in the 1970s with the Equal Rights Amendment and Title IX. Today, more women than men are enrolled in medical school but have we reached equity? And how do other identities such as race intersect with gender? Host Tessnim Ahmad (UCSF MD '20, Resident Physician, Ophthalmology) is joined by Dr. Urmimala Sarkar (Professor of Medicine) and Dr. LaMisha Hill (Director of the Multicultural Resource Center).

Climate and Health, A Busy Two-Way Street (transcript)

Host Tessnim Ahmad (MS4) discusses the health and health-system impacts of climate change with Dr. Katherine Gundling, Clinical Professor Emerita and former practice chief for the Allergy/Immunology faculty practice; Dr. Seema Gandhi, Associate Clinical Professor in the department of anesthesia; and MS3s Colin Baylen and Nuzhat Islam, who helped found the Human Health and Climate Change student group.

Part 1 (transcript)Part 2 (transcript)

Burnout is part of the American vernacular. It refers to the emotional exhaustion brought on by chronic work-related stress, and can manifest as cynicism and feeling like your work lacks meaning. While the term has been applied to other professions, burnout is particularly high in health care: a report released last month from the National Academy of Medicine describes rampant burnout, with up to half of doctors feeling it. There are many causes such as demanding work schedules and little autonomy. System changes have also created burdensome administrative tasks and new care models, leading some to feel the emphasis is on documentation billing and performance metrics instead of patient care.

Like clinicians, trainees also suffer burnout – an estimated 60%. The path to medical school and then residency and fellowship is long and challenging, and it's becoming more competitive. Host Tessnim Ahmad (MS4) is joined by Nikhil Rajapuram (MS4) and Dr. Lee Jones, Associate Dean for Students. 

The Opioid Epidemic (transcript)

Opioids are at the center of one of the largest public health crises. In 2017, more than 47,000 people died and overdosed and died on opioids and 11 million misused prescription opioids. In this episode, join your host Tessnim Ahmad (MS4) as she discusses UCSF research on the epidemic with Dr. Stephanie Kwan who graduated in May from UCSF, and UCSF Professor of Surgery Dr. Wen Shen. 

Gun Violence (transcript)

Gun violence is one of the biggest health & policy epidemics gripping the country right now. In 2017, nearly 40,000 people in the United States died from guns. Perhaps more surprising, in the United States of America, firearms are the second leading cause of death for children. In this episode, join your host Tessnim Ahmad (MS4) as she discusses the role of medical professionals in the firearm policy debate with Dr. Jahan Fahimi, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine and Board Member of SAFE: Scrubs Addressing the Firearm Epidemic, and fellow students Daniela Cordero and Mary Turocy.

Improving the Care of Dementias

In this episode, we showcase the latest research and patient care initiatives at UCSF and its School of Medicine focused on treating people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementias, including student work in this area.

Treating Chronic Pain

In this episode, we showcase the latest research and patient care initiatives at UCSF and its School of Medicine focused on treating people with chronic pain, including student work in this area.  We’ll hear from Dr. Mark Schumacher, MD, PhD, Professor and Chief of the Division of Pain Medicine in the Department of Anesthesia and Perioperative Care, as well as a third-year medical student.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

In this episode, we feature initiatives in the School of Medicine focused on diversity, equity and inclusion – both in approaches to patient care and research, as well as in medical education via the Bridges Curriculum.   We’ll hear from Dr. Michelle Guy, a professor of medicine and a dean’s diversity leader in the Differences Matter Initiative, as well as second year medical student Daniella Cordero, who has been instrumental in activism around gun violence prevention, White Coats for Black Lives, as well as gender and health equity.  Both interviews give context to how the School of Medicine is building the most equitable, inclusive medical school nationally.

Sleep Disorders

In this episode, we feature UCSF initiatives and research aimed at caring for people with sleep disorders. We’ll hear from Dr. David Claman, a sleep disorders specialist who directs the UCSF Sleep Disorders Center. Dr. Claman discusses advances in research and treatment for Bay Area residents struggling with disorders such as sleep apnea and breathing difficulties.  We also talk to fourth-year medical student Daniel Schwartz, who completed a research project in this area as part of his learning in the Bridges Curriculum.

Social Determinants of Health

In this episode, we feature UCSF initiatives aimed at incorporating the social determinants of health. We’ll hear from Dr. Dan Dohan, Professor of Health Policy and Social Medicine at UCSF. Dr. Dohan discusses advances in research, prevention, and treatment for Bay Area residents struggling with issues such as homelessness, mental illnesses, or inadequate nutrition.  We also talk to first-year medical student Hannah Borowski, who completed electives in the Bridges Curriculum Health and Society Block on the social determinants of health. 

Substance Use Disorders 

In this episode, we’ll hear from Dr. Scott Steiger, Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry, and Deputy Medical Director of the Opiate Treatment Outpatient Program at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital (ZSFG). Dr. Steiger will discuss his research and patient care initiatives in treating people with substance use disorders in some of the city’s most vulnerable communities. We also talk to a first-year medical student who shadowed Dr. Steiger at ZSFG, and who will be pursuing a summer research experience in addiction medicine for adolescents.

Professionalism and Respect 

This episode focuses on faculty excellence and professionalism in medical education. We’ll hear from Associate Professor of Medicine Dr. Stephanie Rennke, a recipient of this year’s Maxine Papadakis Awards for Professionalism and Respect. We also talk to a fourth-year medical student who nominated faculty for this year’s teaching excellence awards which were presented in October.

Reflections on Medical School

This episode is part 2 of a special edition to welcome this year’s incoming class of first-year UCSF medical students. We’ll hear from the School of Medicine Dean Dr. Talmadge King, as he reflects on medical career highlights, inspirations, and mentors such as Alvin Poussaint, MD. We also talk to first-year medical student Ryan Badiee with his thoughts on what’s most exciting embarking on medical school at UCSF.

New Developments in Breast Cancer Research and Patient Care

This month’s episode is devoted to breast cancer awareness month. We talked to second-year medical student April Liang about her research project on ‘deep learning’ about breast mammography data and how this may help improve breast cancer screening. April’s work is part of the Explore track of the Bridges Curriculum’s Inquiry program, and her work with mentors Dr. Dexter Hadley and Dr. Hari Trivedi. We also interviewed Dr. Hope Rugo, a UCSF medical oncology and hematologist, who directs the UCSF Breast Oncology Clinical Trials program. Dr. Rugo gives perspectives on the latest advances in breast cancer research and patient care at UCSF.

Program in Medical Education for the Urban Underserved

In this episode, we celebrating the 11-year anniversary of PRIME, the Program in Medical Education for the Urban Underserved. PRIME-US is a five-year track at the UCSF School of Medicine and the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program for students committed to working with urban underserved communities.

We talk to medical student Adali Martinez, who’s completing her final year of the PRIME program, and who completed community engagement work with the organization Mission Girls, an after-school program for girls in grades 3-8 in San Francisco’s mission district.

We’ll also hear about the program’s goals, mission and successes from Dr. Leigh Kimberg, PRIME program director for 3.5 years and UCSF Professor of Medicine; and Dr. Monica Hahn, who was a student in the very first PRIME class 11 years ago and who is now director of evaluation in inquiry, for PRIME, as well as assistant clinical professor at UCSF’s Women's Health Primary Care center.

The Deans Discuss Medical School Memories and Motivators

This episode is a special edition devoted to back-to-school week, and a welcome to this year’s incoming class of first-year medical students. We talk to three School of Medicine education deans as they reflect on their medical career highlights, plus their medical school mentors and inspirations.

Stay tuned for interviews with Vice Dean for Medical Education and Executive Vice Dean for the School of Medicine Dr. Catherine Lucey, Associate Dean for Students Dr. Lee Jones, and Associate Dean for Competency Assessment and Professional Standards Dr. Karen Hauer. Find out what topped their list of medical school memories and motivators.

Infectious Diseases Research and the Continually Curious Scientific Mind

In this episode, we hear from fourth-year medical student Christine Zachek, who explains her research on Chagas disease, a tropical parasitic illness, plus her upcoming research project in Brazil. We also talk to Professor of Medicine Dr. Peter Chin-Hong about his research into the detection and treatment of infectious diseases caused by the Zika virus, yellow fever, and dengue, how a continually curious scientific mind keeps pace with the rapid advances in this field

Spiral Learning and Innovations in Medical Education

In this episode, we talk to medical student Ogonna Nnamani, who explains the concept of spiral learning – a key part of the Bridges model – and how it impacts her training at UCSF and her work as a physician in training. We also interview Susan Masters, PhD, the School of Medicine's former Associate Dean for Curriculum, who retired last month and who helped develop the medical school’s Bridges curriculum. We’ll hear part of Susan’s journey over 30 years on faculty at UCSF, from pharmacology professor to curriculum architect, and what she found most inspiring and impactful during her career as an educator and leader at UCSF.

Transforming Medical Education for Better Health Care

We hear from John Davis, MD, PhD, the School of Medicine's Associate Dean for Curriculum who joined UCSF in July. In an interview with Associate Dean for Medical Education, Kevin H. Souza, MS, Dr. Davis tells us why and how he’s set to help lead the roll-out of the medical school’s Bridges curriculum. And you’ll learn about his unique expertise in LGBT issues in medicine, what the hot buttons are, and why it matters to health professionals. Building on the theme of healthcare equity and diversity, you’ll also hear from medical student Danielle Cipres, winner of this year’s Dean’s Prize in Health and Society, whose leadership in bringing more equitable care and women’s health resources to Latin Americans has set her on track to be another UCSF physician who cares without barriers.