In this issue, HCV Next asks five questions of Sammy Saab, MD, MPH, professor of Medicine and Surgery, assistant professor of nursing and head of Outcomes Research in Hepatology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
Saab began his education at UCLA, receiving his BS, MD and MPH from that institution. He then moved south to the University of California at San Diego Medical Center for a residency in internal medicine before heading back to the UCLA Center for Health Sciences for a fellowship in gastroenterology and hepatology. This background led him to board certifications in internal medicine, gastroenterology, and transplant hepatology.
A number of committees have called Saab a member, including the Medical Advisory Committee of the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Liver Foundation, Morbidity and Mortality Committee for the Department of Internal Medicine, the Liver Transplant Executive Committee of the UCLA Division of Transplantation, the Practice Guidelines Committee of the American Society of Transplantation and the Educational Committee of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.
Some of his achievements include a “Best Doctors in America” award along with the Distinguished Achievement Award from his Division of Digestive Diseases and an honorary fellowship degree from the American Gastroenterological Association.
What are your hobbies outside of practicing medicine?
My favorite activity is spending time with my family. I take pleasure in every opportunity I can be with them. I also enjoy raising animals such as a couple of hens. Another hobby I like is reading non-fictional books such as the histories of religion.
Who has had the greatest influence on your career?
Mercedes was an elderly dear friend of the family. As a kid I wanted to be a doctor so I can help care for her illnesses. She had all the complications of the metabolic disorder including diabetes, hypertension, elevated cholesterol and diabetes. The way these problems affected her life left a lasting impression that we all need a health advocate.
What was the defining moment that led you to your field?
During second year of my medical school, I attended a lecture on the diagnosis and treatment of liver cirrhosis complications. I found the discussion fascinating and intellectually stimulating. Twenty-years ago, viral hepatitis was in its infancy, and we had limited knowledge of non-A, non-B hepatitis. Treatment options were limited for liver disease and therapy revolved around supportive care.
What area of research in hepatology most interests you right now and why?
At the moment, I am most interested in the area of cost-effectiveness. I like the intersection of math, medicine, and social welfare. My interest was sparked by attending a medical seminar for GI fellows on outcomes research. The one-day seminar was the basis of many research projects and publications. I take enjoyment in teaching college and medical students tools in outcomes research which will be applicable to whatever field they enter.
What advice would you offer a student in medical school today?
I would encourage medical students today to understand that the mission of medicine is to improve the life of others. One day we all are going to look back and ask ourselves which lives have we touched and improved. Medicine provides the opportunity to help others on a daily basis.