The results are in

Meet your newly elected Alumni Council members

  • Personal Statement

    The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the best and worst of American health care. Public health and medical systems pivoted in just weeks, transforming spaces, roles, and priorities. Scientists developed highly effective vaccines and treatments in record time. Yet, the most medically and socially vulnerable Americans were further disadvantaged by systems oblivious to their own well-documented failings. Poorer, often black and brown people worked high-risk jobs without adequate access to PPE or testing, bringing the virus back to their communities, then dying in disproportionate numbers at low-performing hospitals. Despite their elevated risk, older people were neither prioritized nor provided evidence-based care as the CDC and medical centers focused on children and adults, blaming age itself for the situation they helped create. That our health care system is flawed is not news, but that it can adapt so rapidly and profoundly is—and that gives me hope for what an institution with the influence and resources of HMS might do to improve health care and human lives.

    In 1987, when I called my HMS admissions interviewer from Grand Central Station (using a phone attached to the wall…) concerned by how much I had loved the school, he said I shouldn’t worry; the wonder of HMS was its people. The next fall, I learned how right he was, a finding reinforced again and again by my interactions with students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Serving as president at this critical historical moment is an opportunity to consider how best to harness this abundance of talent for the greater good. That starts with asking tough questions: As the top medical school in the U.S., what is Harvard’s role in moving our health care system toward lower costs and better health outcomes? Does our definition of excellence reinforce existing inequities in admissions? How do we train students for 21st-century practice and demographics and other developments that are changing the foundation of diagnosis, treatment, and the “care” portion of health services?

    It would be my honor to help HMS ensure its continued excellence, support its students and alumni, and advance human health.

  • Biography

    Louise Aronson, MD ’92, MFA, is a leading geriatrician, writer, educator, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and the author of the New York Times bestseller and Pulitzer Prize finalist “Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, and Reimagining Life.” Her medical training has included a primary care internal medicine residency, general medicine, medical education research, and geriatrics fellowships, all at UCSF. She has worked in a variety of clinical settings, from community to academia and from home to clinic to hospital and long-term care.

    A fifth-generation San Franciscan, Aronson graduated from three East Coast schools: Brown University, where she received her BA magna cum laude, with honors in history and medical anthropology; Harvard Medical School, where she was in the second class of the original New Pathway; the Warren Wilson College Program for Writers, where she earned an MFA in fiction writing. In her work, Aronson combines her doctor’s scientific knowledge and clinical expertise with the wide-angle perspective of the social sciences and a writer’s craft and imaginative empathy. The result is a passionate dedication to activism on behalf of marginalized and underserved populations and toward creating a health care system that is more evidence-based, compassionate, effective, cost-effective, and just.

    At UCSF, Aronson has served as director of UCSF-Stanford Home Care, the Pathways to Discovery scholarly concentration program, the Northern California Geriatrics Education Center, the Optimizing Aging Project, and as chief of geriatrics education. She founded the Housecalls Program for homebound older adults, the first geriatrics teaching programs, UCSF Medical Humanities, the Integrative Aging practice, and the AGE SELF CARE program. Recognition of her work has included a Gold Professorship in Humanism in Medicine, the California Homecare Physician of the Year award, the AOA Edward D. Harris Professionalism Award, a Geriatrics Academic Career Award, election to the prestigious Academy of Medical Educators, and the American Geriatrics Society mid-career Clinician-Teacher of the Year award. She currently has a busy outpatient practice, runs two community-based aging programs, and serves as a consultant to the state of California on COVID-19 in older adults and eldercare.

    Aronson is also a prolific writer and public speaker who has spoken to various HMS audiences in recent years. Her talks and articles about medicine and health care, aging, and ageism appear in publications including The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, JAMA, Health Affairs, and The New England Journal of Medicine. In addition to “Elderhood,” she is the author of the PEN America debut fiction award finalist, “A History of the Present Illness.” She was named a Next Avenue 2019 Influencer in Aging, gave a 2020 TEDMed talk on embracing elderhood as a stage of life, and her work has been widely featured in the media, including on NPR’s “Fresh Air” and “Morning Edition,” “TODAY,” “CBS This Morning,” “NBC News,” and in The New Yorker.

  • Personal Statement

    I graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1995, gifted with not only a degree that would allow me to fulfill my dreams but also positive memories and friendships with people I knew were destined for amazing accomplishments. I met and married my husband, Dr. Felix Nunez, at HMS. Life-changing is a phrase I hear often, and our medical degrees truly allow us to change the lives of our patients, communities, and in the case of some Harvard alumni, literally, the world. I intended to stay in touch with my classmates, return for reunions, and maintain the close bonds that medical school fostered, but after moving to California, life after graduation was a constant juggling of priorities. Family, career, and local community involvement filled my days over the next 10 years. I donated to HMS, maintained ties with our closest friends from school, and celebrated as our lives evolved personally and professionally. I stayed in touch with cherished faculty like Dr. Ronald Arky, who was there when Felix and I got married, and enjoyed the validation and privilege that a Harvard degree imparts. It was 10 years before I attended the first reunion. In 2020, I was the co-chair for our 25th Reunion Committee. That reunion marked a pivotal time that mirrored the lives of so many of my classmates.

    If I am chosen as a member of the HMS Alumni Council, I hope to help our group to meet alumni where they are in life. The Alumni Council must be willing to not only reach out but should expect to go more than halfway in many cases to increase participation. I am eager and honored at the possibility of being a part of this group.

  • Biography

    Chasity D. Jennings-Nuñez, MD ’95, is a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist in Los Angeles County, California. She is also a site director for OB Hospitalist Group Inc., overseeing the obstetrical hospitalist program at Adventist Health-Glendale. Prior to accepting this position in January 2020, she was a partner with the White Memorial Gyn/Ob Medical Group and a full-time faculty member with the Adventist Health-White Memorial Ob/Gyn Residency Program. She continues her appointment as assistant clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology with Loma Linda University School of Medicine.

    Jennings-Nunez earned a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and biology from Tulane University in 1991, graduating cum laude, and earned a Doctor of Medicine degree from Harvard Medical School in 1995. In 1999, she completed her residency in the specialty of obstetrics and gynecology at Adventist Health-White Memorial and was invited to join the faculty and primary women’s health medical group. During her tenure at White Memorial, she was responsible for the direct supervision and teaching of 16 Ob/Gyn residents as well as rotating family medicine residents. She received the CREOG National Faculty Award for Excellence in Resident Education. Jennings-Nunez also maintained a busy clinical practice serving an under-resourced, mostly Latinx community in East Los Angeles. She has been an active member of the American College of Ob/Gyn (ACOG) since 1991 and has been a Diplomat of the American Board of Ob/Gyn (ABOG) since 2002. Cultivating leadership is very important to Jennings-Nunez, and she completed a Professional Leadership fellowship in 2016 through LA Care. She is the vice chair of District IX, Section 5 of ACOG, representing Los Angeles area obstetricians and gynecologists, and was a delegate at the 2020 ACOG Congressional Leadership Conference, lobbying for important protections for women’s health.

    Outside of her medical career, she is very active in her local community. She served on the board of directors for the San Gabriel Educational Foundation (SEF) for three years and then was elected president of SEF for three additional years. Under her leadership, programs such as San Gabriel’s First Annual Youth Fitness Expo and after-school programs in coding, cooking and nutrition, and Future Doctors of America were instituted. She contributes regular articles to a local newspaper, Colorado Boulevard.net. She participates in local city government as the chair of San Gabriel’s first commission on equity, the Human Equity, Access and Relations Commission.

    Following her 25th medical school Reunion, Jennings-Nunez worked with other alumni to establish the HMS ’95 Anti-Racism Task Force and chairs this group. They have collaborated with the Office of Recruitment and Multicultural Affairs (ORMA) at Harvard Medical School to offer mentorship opportunities to underrepresented in medicine (URiM) students, financial support of ORMA, and outreach to fellow alumni to continue the conversation about bias and equity in medicine. Jennings-Nunez identifies as she/her, African-American, and was raised in Houston, Texas. She has two children, Cecilia, who graduated from Harvard College in 2020, and Christopher, a sophomore at Arizona State University.

  • Personal Statement

    By far, the most impressive things about Harvard Medical School were not the award-winning professors who taught our pre-clinical classes or the towering marble façade of Gordon Hall, but my classmates. I have helped plan the last two big Reunions, and reconnecting with these individuals is both humbling and inspiring. Even though I have moved to other states and even across the border, I remain very close with my HMS friends and see them yearly (even if it’s just virtual). So many of my fellow grads have already made advances in research, won large grants, spearheaded companies, and even been on TV. These are the individuals that are changing medicine; it is what HMS prepared us for. Even more so than that, my classmates were diverse, not only in terms of race or ethnicity but also in where they had grown up and their accomplishments outside of medicine. It is important that the medical field reflects the diversity of the population it serves, and I hope that HMS continues to focus on the recruitment of students that bring unique experiences and backgrounds. Many students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds may feel that HMS is financially out of reach. One of my goals as a member of the Alumni Council would be to work with HMS leadership on strategies to continue to improve aid to students. I am also interested in strengthening the connection between alumni and students by building more formal mentorship and networking programs. Other universities I am affiliated with have such mechanisms in place and could be a tremendous benefit to students. I would be honored to serve on the Alumni Council, and I hope to use the experience I have had on other national committees to effect change. 

  • Biography

    Kristy L. Rialon, MD ’08, is an assistant professor of surgery at Baylor College of Medicine and a pediatric surgeon at Texas Children’s Hospital. A native of central California, she graduated magna cum laude from Rice University with a degree in biochemistry. After graduating from Harvard Medical School, she completed a general surgery residency at Duke University Medical Center and a pediatric surgery fellowship at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. During her residency, she was awarded a research grant from the National Institutes of Health to study pancreatic cancer. She also subsequently completed a research fellowship in vascular anomalies at Boston Children’s Hospital.   

    Rialon has long been involved with medical education and was recently named the associate program director for the pediatric surgery fellowship at Texas Children’s Hospital. She teaches several embryology lectures to the first-year medical students at Baylor College of Medicine and is a frequent lecturer to the third-year students. As a resident and fellow, she served on the Surgery Residency Review Committee at the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). She was then elected chair of the Council of Review Committee Residents at the ACGME, representing the residents on the board of directors. During her tenure, she was actively involved in issues regarding wellness, participating in a special funding program for resident projects geared toward fostering meaning in work. As the resident representative, she advocated for more progressive parental leave policies for trainees to the board of directors, who then approved a task force to address this. Working alongside a parallel task force with the American Board of Medical Specialties, she helped plan a workshop of stakeholders in graduate medical education that eventually produced recommendations for each organization’s board of directors. Each has now made changes to their parental leave policies in the last year due to these efforts. 

    Rialon’s clinical interests within pediatric surgery include anorectal malformations, Hirschsprung disease, and vascular anomalies. She is part of several multidisciplinary clinics at Texas Children’s Hospital that provide specialty care for these issues. She is actively involved in outcomes-based research and mentors several residents and medical students. For the last two years, she has traveled to a remote region of Guatemala to provide surgical care to children who do not have access to a pediatric surgeon.

    Outside of the hospital, Rialon’s hobbies include running, hiking, and playing with her dog Scout. She and her husband enjoy concerts at the Houston Symphony and cooking classes.

  • Personal Statement

    My HMS Class of 1996 recently held its 25th Reunion, which was a great opportunity to reflect on how HMS influenced our careers and how medicine has changed. In 1992, we started medical school during the HIV epidemic, when HIV was not yet a chronic disease. At the same time, the US health system had major deficiencies, with a large proportion of the population uninsured, while we also had the highest spending per capita of any nation in the world. Fast forward to 2021, and many of the same challenges in medicine and health care are present. We are still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has demonstrated both the remarkable capabilities of our scientific community as well as the weaknesses of our public health system. We have been able to expand insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act in 2010, but we continue to have gaps in insurance coverage.

    Given the recurring nature of these challenges, it is clear to me that HMS needs to continue to train physicians who will take the lead in the realms of basic and clinical investigation, health care systems, and health care policy. But this COVID-19 pandemic and the current political divide in the US are signals that we must do more to prepare our students to engage in a world that may not be immediately receptive to doctors trained in elite schools such as Harvard. HMS needs to find ways to enroll students from diverse backgrounds to reflect the diversity of the country. Not only underrepresented racial/ethnic minorities but students coming from rural and more politically conservative areas. And in the spirit of promoting geographic diversity, I also want to encourage HMS to increase regional club activities to ensure that as many of us stay connected with our incredible alumni network.

  • Biography

    Elbert S. Huang, AB ’92, MD ’96, MPH ’01, is currently professor of medicine and public health sciences at the University of Chicago, where he practices general internal medicine while also directing the Center for Chronic Disease Research and Policy.

    After graduating from Harvard Medical School in 1996, Huang completed an internal medicine residency at Stanford University in 1999 and a general medicine fellowship in 2001. Following fellowship, he returned to the Midwest, where he grew up and has now been at the University of Chicago for the past 20 years. Huang has been a clinical investigator with a focus on diabetes in older adults. His research program includes a mix of clinical epidemiology, pragmatic clinical trials, health services research, and decision analysis/cost-effectiveness analysis. The central question of his research has been how do we best personalize care for the oldest and sickest patients when they are not represented in clinical trials.

    During the midst of his career, Huang has had the good fortune of directly experiencing applied health care policy. From 2010 to 2011, he served as a senior advisor in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) during the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. He worked on multiple policy areas, including the primary care workforce, alternative payment reform, and the multiple chronic disease strategic framework.

    Building on the experience he gained while at ASPE, Huang founded the Center for Chronic Disease Research and Policy at the University of Chicago in 2012. The Center provides support for researchers who need help with statistics, health economics, claims data research, and practice-based research. The Center investigators are engaged in policy-related research in health disparities, the primary care safety net, behavioral health, and long-term care. He also oversees the MD/MPH track for the new MPH program at the University of Chicago.

    Along with his research, Huang has always maintained a general medicine practice. Many of his patients have been with him for well over a decade. As a primary care doctor on the South Side of Chicago, Huang routinely sees how gaps in the patchwork of safety net policies lead to critical deficiencies in care over a lifetime from young adulthood, middle age, to old age. This inspires his work to strengthen the primary care safety net in order to improve the health of vulnerable populations.

  • Personal Statement

    I am honored to be considered for membership in the HMS Alumni Council. Dickens’ opening lines resonate: “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times…” Medicine’s hallowed three-tiered foundation of education, research, and patient care is being challenged on multiple fronts, perhaps as never before, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic—climate, and social media changes—along with international conflicts, mandating the need for representation and dialogue among all health care participants.

    Medical education is costly, creating over $200,000 average graduation debt, which can influence professional choices to higher-paying specialties, avoiding primary care, for example. Rapid medical advances generating new information can overwhelm young learners and compete with multiple topics, frequently ignoring important issues such as ethics, hospice care, addiction, mental health, sex/race/age, and socioeconomic disparities. Scientific research support is difficult to obtain, and much time must be devoted to grant-writing, often discouraging young scientists from this exciting and creative endeavor. Clinicians face the stress of generating clinical dollars, keeping up with new information, electronic medical records, telemedicine and virtual learning, artificial intelligence, devices, workplace inequalities, and long working hours. Burnout is a major problem, as is a growing public distrust of science and physicians. Clinical demands often relegate research and medical education to secondary roles.

    Now is a time to reflect on who we are, where we are, and where we are going by listening to students and alumni, faculty, and HMS leadership, to address these and other issues. We need always remember that what we do focuses on the patient. As Peabody said, “the secret of the care of the patient is caring for the patient.” Since its founding, HMS has been a bastion in teaching students to do this and must continue to be on the forefront, attentive to the needs of all participants.

  • Biography

    Douglas P. Zipes, MD ’64, graduated from Dartmouth College (1961) and Harvard Medical School (1964), both cum laude, and trained at Duke University Medical Center in medicine (1964–1966) and cardiology (1966–1968). After the U.S. Navy (1968–1970), he joined Indiana University School of Medicine (IUSM), starting with a basic science research sabbatical at the Masonic Medical Research Laboratory (1970–1971). He became Professor of Medicine (1976), distinguished professor (1994), and director of cardiology (1995–2004), where he is now emeritus. He is past president of the Indianapolis Citizen’s Academy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Indianapolis Opera; Cardiac Electrophysiology Society; Association of University Cardiologists; Heart Rhythm Society (HRS); American College of Cardiology (ACC); and past chairman of the American Board of Internal Medicine. He is founding editor of the Journal of Cardiovascular Electrophysiology, Cardiology in Review, Contemporary Treatments in Cardiology, Heart Rhythm, and Practice Update Cardiology. He is past editor of Progress in Cardiology and present editor of Trends in Cardiovascular Medicine and Practice Update Cardiology, which has 90,000 subscribers worldwide.

    Memberships include fellow of the American Heart Association (AHA), European Society of Cardiology and HRS; Master of the American College of Physicians and ACC; member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians; and honorary member of the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand, Argentine Society of Cardiology, Hungarian Society of Cardiology, and Israel Heart Society.

    Awards include the Distinguished Achievement Award, Herrick Award, and Cor Vitae Award from the AHA; Distinguished Scientist Award from both the HRS and the ACC; Sagamore of the Wabash, highest civilian honor from the Indiana governor; tribute in the U.S. Congressional Record by the Hon. Baron P. Hill, House of Representatives; Distinguished Alumnus Award, Duke University Medical Alumni Association; Presidential Citation, ACC; President’s Medal, IUSM; President’s Award, HRS; Gold Medal, European Society of Cardiology; Pioneer in Pacing and Electrophysiology, HRS; Distinguished Career Achievement Award, Geisel Dartmouth Medical School; Gold Medal, German Cardiac Society; Distinguished Achievement Award, European Cardiac Arrhythmia Society; Bicentennial Medal, IUSM; and J.O. Ritchey Society Award, IUSM.

    Endowed are the Douglas P. Zipes Research Prize, and the Joan and Douglas Zipes 1961 Scholarship Fund, Geisel Dartmouth Medical School; Zipes Medtronic Chair in Cardiology, IUSM; Joan and Douglas Zipes Visiting Professorship and Joan and Douglas Zipes Scholarship, IUSM; Douglas P. Zipes, MD Lectureship, and the Joan and Douglas Zipes Publication of the Year Award, HRS; Douglas P. Zipes Distinguished Young Scientist Award, ACC; and Douglas P. and M. Joan Zipes Scholarship at Harvard Medical School.

    Editorial boards include The Saturday Evening Post and multiple cardiology and electrophysiology journals. Publications include a bi-weekly health column for The Saturday Evening Post; over 900 medical articles and 16 textbooks with multiple editions; a short story, “Stolen Hearts”; a travel story, “Into Africa”; five thriller novels, “The Black Widows,” “Ripples in Opperman’s Pond,” “Not Just a Game,” “Bear’s Promise,” and “Ari’s Spoon”; and a memoir, “Damn the Naysayers.”

    He married his life’s partner, Joan, 61 years ago. They have three children and five grandchildren.

  • Personal Statement

    Doctors are some of the most creative problem solvers in the world. Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear path for a doctor with years of clinical experience to bring a great idea for a medical product to life. The process of actually creating the product and bringing it to market can seem too daunting, too costly, and not worth the pivot away from clinical medicine. I often wonder how many life-saving, life-changing products could have been developed by smart, curious, tinkering doctors if the process were easier and had a lower barrier to entry.

    Harvard Medical School taught us that we could master anything. Even now, 30 years after graduating and after a long career in radiology, I credit HMS’s cross-functional, practical education with giving me the confidence to start a pharmaceutical company and develop a COVID-19 preventative intranasal gel. I also credit the HMS-Merck summer internship, coordinated by Dr. Michael Rosenblatt, MD ’73, with further enriching my education. It exposed me to pharmaceutical research and started my life-long interest in the pharmaceutical industry. Yet, despite that confidence and my interest, it was difficult and time-consuming for me to find and connect to all the people whose help I needed to develop my product. At first, I didn’t know where to start. At times, it seemed impossible.

    My hope is that the Alumni Council can be a hub for meaningful connections between entrepreneurial alumni, especially women, and the people and businesses needed to execute a great idea: research scientists, pharmaceutical experts, manufacturers, grant writers, venture capitalists, business leaders, and government leaders, to name a few. These connections could prove vital to empowering the HMS physician entrepreneurs of the present, and those of the future, to think big and create the products that will ease suffering and extend life for generations to come.

  • Biography

    Michelle L. Rivera, MD ’92, is the CEO and founder of Phenom Pharmaceuticals, a North Carolina-based startup. Since the company’s founding in late 2019, she has successfully coordinated formulation, virology, regulatory, legal, and grant writing teams to develop the company’s first product, an intranasal COVID-19 preventative gel. The gel shows excellent invitro SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV-1 inhibition. The National Science Foundation has invited Phenom Pharmaceuticals to submit a grant proposal because of its disruptive delivery technology. The company is pursuing a BARDA research grant because of the gel’s military implications, an FDA Investigational New Drug Application, and is raising Series A financing.

    Prior to founding Phenom, Rivera was an adjunct associate professor of radiology at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she enjoyed teaching all aspects of breast imaging. She spent the majority of her career in private practice breast imaging in Charlotte, North Carolina. She chose radiology because there would always be something new to learn, and it didn’t disappoint. She saw the advent of digital mammography, tomosynthesis, the evolution of breast ultrasound and MRI, and learned new ways of marking small tumors for surgical excision. Breast imaging afforded Rivera the privilege of direct patient care, often at the most stressful time of a patient’s life.

    Rivera is a staunch advocate of annual screening mammography beginning at age 40, and she has worked to ensure that women continue to have access to this simple, life-saving examination. She founded American Women Unite for Breast Cancer Screening, a movement with over 14,500 organic followers, for the purpose of informing women about the data supporting annual screening examinations beginning at 40. American Women Unite for Breast Cancer Screening has cosigned many iterations of the Protecting Access to Lifesaving Screenings Act since 2015. Rivera has met with members of Congress on multiple occasions to inform them of the need for timely screening, the need to update the USPSTF’s recommendations to include current modalities, and the utility of tomosynthesis. Rivera is also the creator of “Every Woman Needs to Know,” a short documentary featuring three female physicians whose breast cancers were detected by screening mammography. The piece was featured at the Society of Breast Imaging Annual Meeting and has been viewed over 22,000 times.

    Rivera graduated from Columbia University in 1988 with a Bachelor of Arts in biology. After graduating from Harvard Medical School, she completed a transitional internship at Hackensack Medical Center and a diagnostic radiology residency and breast imaging fellowship at Duke University Medical Center. Rivera is also an artist whose reproductions are sold at Walmart.com, Homedepot.com, Houzz, and Wayfair.

    Rivera and her husband, Dr. Frank Kosarek, live in Charlotte, North Carolina, and have three children: Frankie, a venture capitalist; Mia, a junior at New York University; and Alexander, a freshman at Columbia University. Rivera is the current vice chair of her HMS 30th Reunion Report, and she was an active member of her 25th HMS Reunion Committee.