San Francisco VA Health Care System announces 2021 Grunfeld Scholars

SAN FRANCISCO – The San Francisco VA Health Care System (SFVAHCS) has selected four promising medical researchers for the Grunfeld Scholars Research Development Initiative. This initiative, currently in its second year, invests in early-career clinician-scientists to grow the pipeline of future leaders in medical research related to the health of Veterans, and preserve SFVAHCS’ legacy as a pre-eminent medical research institution.

The Grunfeld Scholars Research Development Initiative is named for Carl Grunfeld, M.D., Ph.D., SFVAHCS’s associate chief of staff for research and development. Dr. Grunfeld is a renowned clinician-scientist who has contributed over four decades of research excellence to the SFVAHCS.

“I am exceedingly proud of this second class of Grunfeld Scholars,” said Dr. Grunfeld. “Their commitment to improving the lives of Veteran patients through research shows a true dedication to the profession of healing.”

The scholarship program was open to clinician-scientists who:

  • Have completed, or will soon complete, a research fellowship with at least three first-author original publications in peer review journals.
  • Are currently eligible to apply for VA or National Institutes of Health (NIH) Career Development Awards (CDA), VA Merit Review, the NIH Research Project Grant Program, or other comparable funding.

Applicants were subject to a competitive selection process that included a review of their application by two SFVAHCS research committees. The selected Grunfeld Scholars will receive dedicated, protected time outside of their existing clinical work to pursue their research goals. They will receive this protected time for a duration of two years as they apply for grants, with the possibility of an extension. The program does not provide monetary funding for research. Of last year’s four selected Grunfeld Scholars, three have already received a Career Development Award, and one received a permanent research position.

The 2021 Grunfeld Scholars are below:

Samantha Abram, PhD

Dr. Samantha Abram is a research fellow and clinical psychologist at the SFVAMC. Dr. Abram’s research concerns why people with severe mental illness (SMI) struggle to initiate or sustain goal-directed behaviors. She integrates multiple neuroscientific tools to characterize decision behaviors, with a keen interest in mechanisms that track across species. She hopes to identify such mechanisms and develop ways to improve goal pursuit and functioning among those with psychotic-spectrum disorders. Outside of her research and clinical interests, Dr. Abram explores the many parks in California with her husband, Keith.

Franklin Huang, MD, PhD

Dr. Franklin Huang is a physician-scientist, an Assistant Professor in UCSF’s Division of Hematology and Oncology in the Department of Medicine, and a medical oncologist who cares for advanced prostate cancer patients at the SFVAHCS. Dr. Huang is working to reduce cancer health disparities through molecular and genomic approaches. His research lab is focused on understanding the molecular determinants of cancer disparities with a focus in prostate cancer in African American men. His lab also studies mechanisms of carcinogenesis and cellular immortality. Dr. Huang is a St. Louis, MO native who now lives in San Francisco with his wife, Dr. Rebecca Berman, and three children. He is the co-founder of a non-profit organization, Global Oncology, that is working to improve cancer care in underserved patients worldwide that recently launched an oncology unit in Belize.

Alison Rustagi, MD, PhD

Dr. Alison Rustagi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Medicine at UCSF and internal medicine physician at the SFVAHCS. Dr. Rustagi’s research focuses on the epidemiology of screening for lung cancer, a disease for which veterans have a uniquely increased risk. The goals of her research are to maximize the benefits of lung cancer screening, minimize its harms, and improve equitable access to screening, as well as to harmonize best practices for lung cancer screening implementation within the VA system. Dr. Bauer is an alumnus of the UCSF School of Medicine. Outside of work, Dr. Rustagi enjoys spending time with her husband and their two young daughters, exploring San Francisco parks, and baking.

Samuel Washington, MD, MAS

Dr. Samuel Washington is staff urological surgeon at the SFVAHCS and an Assistant Professor in Urology and Epidemiology & Biostatistics at UCSF. His research has focused on prostate cancer outcomes with current research focusing on health services and cancer outcome disparities in patients with genitourinary malignancies. His ongoing research efforts continue to mirror his passion to expand our depth of knowledge in medicine into how variations in care at the local level drive differences in treatment and survival for patients with genitourinary cancers. He has always had a love for Classics, and enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters, Julianna and Savannah.

On June 28, 2021, from 12 – 1 p.m., the four 2021 Grunfeld Scholars will be giving web-based presentations of their ongoing research work.

To attend, use the information below:

Meeting number (access code): Meeting number (access code): 199 867 8449

Meeting password: hJQAmuC$434

+14043971596,,1998678449## USA Toll Number


About San Francisco VA Health Care System

The San Francisco VA Health Care System (SFVAHCS) is a comprehensive network that provides health services to Veterans through the San Francisco VA Medical Center (SFVAMC) and six community-based outpatient clinics in Santa Rosa, Eureka, Ukiah, Clearlake, San Bruno and downtown San Francisco. The SFVAHCS has a long history of conducting cutting-edge research, establishing innovative medical programs, and providing compassionate care to Veterans. SFVAMC has several National Centers of Excellence in the areas of epilepsy treatment, cardiac surgery, post-traumatic stress disorder, HIV and renal dialysis. SFVAMC’s $81 million research program is one of the largest in the Veterans Health Administration. SFVAMC has been affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), School of Medicine for more than 50 years.

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