Drs. Joachim Ix, Davey Smith Elected to American Society for Clinical Investigation

Two Department of Medicine physician-scientists have been elected to the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI) this year.

Dr. Joachim Ix

Dr. Joachim Ix

Joachim H. Ix, MD, MAS, FASN, a nephrologist and epidemiologist, is professor and chief of the Division of Nephrology-Hypertension. He holds a secondary appointment in the Division of Preventive Medicine, Department of Family and Preventive Medicine.

Dr. Davey Smith

Dr. Davey Smith

Translational research virologist Davey M. Smith, MD, MAS, professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases, directs the Center for AIDS Research Translational Virology Core and is medical director of the Early Intervention Program at the UC San Diego Antiviral Research Center.

ASCI membership is a distinction that recognizes the nation’s most outstanding physician-scientists.

Dr. Helen King and Dr. Philipp Wiesner Present Mentored Research Study Results at Grand Rounds

Dr. Helen King

Dr. Helen King.

Dr. Philipp Wiesner

Dr. Philipp Wiesner.

Helen King, MD, and Philipp Wiesner, MD, junior residents in the categorical track of the UCSD Internal Medicine Residency Program, presented results of their elective mentored research projects at Medicine Grand Rounds on May 15.

The Internal Medicine Residency Training program offers trainees two months of elective time during their second or third year to undertake a research project under the guidance of a faculty mentor.

Dr. Helen King

Helen King, MD, Mercer University

King’s research project was “HIV Preexposure Prophylaxis: Barriers to Access for Men Who Have Sex With Men.” |  Watch the video (UCSD only)

“I have been interested in HIV medicine for some time now,” King said, “and since being a resident at UCSD have had the opportunity to have more exposure.

“I went to Dr. Davey Smith knowing that he might have some interesting projects, and he helped me get involved with the PrEPARE Study.”

Davey Smith, MD, MAS

Davey M. Smith, MD, MAS

Smith (at right), a translational research virologist, directs the Translational Virology Core of the UC San Diego Center for AIDS Research and is medical director of the Antiviral Research Center’s Early Intervention Program.

He is associate professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases.

The PrEPARE study evaluates preexposure prophylaxis for HIV in men who have sex with men, an approach in which an HIV-negative individual who is at high risk for HIV infection takes a daily HIV medication to lower his risk of infection.

“It has been proven effective in high-risk men who have sex with men,” King said. “Our study was aimed at identifying real-life barriers to accessing the medication, such as cost.”

The study pinpointed several barriers including cost and concern about side effects.

Of her research experience, King said, “I was lucky enough to work on a project that was interesting to me and to work with a great mentor.”

Dr. Philipp Wiesner

Philipp Wiesner
MD, Universität Regensburg

Philipp Wiesner presented the project “Oxidized Phospholipids in Inflammation and Atherosclerosis.” |  Watch the video (UCSD only)

“I started to work in the field of atherosclerosis in medical school,” Wiesner said. “I spent 2 years as a postdoctoral fellow and continued to work in this area during residency.

“My topic was a perfect fit, as I could continue to work in the same area in which I already had experience as well as continue to work with my previous mentors.”

Dr. Joseph Witztum

Joseph Witztum, MD

Wiesner’s primary mentor is Joseph Witztum, MD, professor of medicine in the Division of Endocrinology & Metabolism. Witztum leads the renowned atherosclerosis research laboratory that was established at UCSD by Dr. Daniel Steinberg.

Steinberg, emeritus professor of medicine and pioneering lipid researcher, was the founding head of the Division of Metabolic Diseases.

Dr. Yury Miller

Yury Miller, MD, PhD

Wiesner’s other mentors are lab members Yury Miller, MD, PhD, and Sotirios “Sam” Tsimikas, MD. Miller is associate professor of medicine in the Division of Endocrinology & Metabolism and Tsimikas is professor of clinical medicine and director of vascular medicine in the Division of Cardiology.

Dr. Sotirios "Sam" Tsimikas

Sotirios “Sam” Tsimikas, MD

Some of Wiesner’s research work, not included in his Grand Rounds presentation, recently has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Lipid Research.

Said Wiesner, “I am really glad our program gives us the opportunity to take two months off to do research. Residency is busy as it is and without this, many residents would not have the chance to get exposed to clinical or laboratory based research.”

Wiesner said it has always been his plan to have a career as an academic physician-scientist.

Presenting Grand Rounds on May 15: Dr. Helen King and Dr. Philipp Wiesner

Dr. Helen King

Dr. Helen King
MD, Mercer University

Dr. Philipp Wiesner

Dr. Philipp Wiesner
MD, Universität Regensburg

Helen King, MD, and Philipp Wiesner, MD, junior residents in the categorical track of the UCSD Internal Medicine Residency Program, will present results of their elective mentored research projects at Medicine Grand Rounds on May 15.

King’s research project is “HIV Preexposure Prophylaxis: Barriers to Access for Men Who Have Sex With Men.”  Philipp Wiesner will present the project “Oxidized Phospholipids in Inflammation and Atherosclerosis.”

The Internal Medicine Residency Training program offers trainees two months of elective time during their second or third year to undertake a research project under the guidance of a faculty mentor.

UC San Diego Researcher Receives $2.5 million Award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse

Davey Smith, MD, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the VA San Diego Health System is one of three recipients of the 2012 Avant-Garde Award for HIV/AIDS research. This prestigious award, announced today by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, is intended to stimulate high-impact research that may lead to groundbreaking opportunities for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS in drug abusers. … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom


David M. Smith, MD, MASDavey M. Smith, MD, MAS, is a physician-scientist specializing in the study of HIV transmission. He directs the Translational Virology Core at the Center for AIDS Research and the Early Intervention Program at the Antiviral Research Center at UCSD.Dr. Smith received his internal medicine residency training, including a year as chief medical resident, and his fellowship training in infectious diseases at UCSD. He earned his Masters of Advanced Studies (MAS) degree in clinical research at UCSD as well.

More about Dr. Smith’s work:

More about the award:

New 5-Year Grant Is a Boon for Major UCSD Study on HIV and the Brain

Why does HIV infection cause dementia in some patients and not in others?

With help from a new 5-year, $3.7 million federal grant, UC San Diego clinician-researcher Dr. Davey M. Smith is looking for the answer.

He and his coworkers will study HIV in a total of 1000 HIV-infected patients in Brazil, China, India, Romania, and the U.S.

In these five countries, three major subtypes of the HIV virus are found.

Dr. Davey Smith

His latest study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, will look for the causes of AIDS dementia in HIV subtypes from five countries (in red on the map above).

Dr. Smith hopes to find out which HIV subtypes, or clades, are more likely to cause neurological damage, and why the affected individuals are susceptible.

Dr. Smith is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases. He joined the faculty in 2003 as a clinician and translational researcher.

He learned in January that the National Institute of Mental Health had decided to fund his study. The title is “A Multi-site Investigation into the Effect of HIV Clade on Neurocognitive Impairment.”

It’s the first study of its kind.

“There’s a need to compare the HIV subtypes in their genetic makeup and their effect on the brain,” Dr. Smith says. “Most of it is still an open question.”


The HIV found in the rest of the world
is very different from that
in the U.S. and Europe.


“Everything we know about the way HIV affects the brain is based on the HIV virus that’s found in the United States and Europe,” he says. “The HIV found in the rest of the world is very different.”

HIV mutates rapidly as it enters new environments, both in the world and in the human body. Not only is HIV in China different from HIV in Romania; HIV in an individual’s brain is different from the HIV in his or her blood.

“HIV is one of the most diverse organisms, if not the most diverse organism we have,” Dr. Smith says. “It’s a hundred times more diverse than influenza.”

Researchers are just beginning to understand the genetic variations of HIV and how they affect the way the virus is transmitted.

Dr. Smith has developed a way to inspect the HIV virus for its genetic signature, a pattern of mutations in the HIV gene.

In the new project, he and his team will use that technique to compare the genetic makeup of HIV in blood versus brain, in individuals with and without neurological damage, in the five countries.


Researchers will look at
the “genetic signature” of HIV
across the world.


The study is an example of translational research, which is a high priority at UC San Diego and in the Department of Medicine.

“UCSD is a great place for doing translational research, applying basic science to clinical problems,” Dr. Smith says. “There’s very strong support for it here.”

“The HIV research team,” he adds, “is a really great group of people.”

Dr. Smith joined the faculty in 2003 after training at UC San Diego in both internal medicine and basic and clinical research. After his internal medicine residency training and a term as Chief Resident, he completed a fellowship in Infectious Diseases and a Masters of Advanced Studies (M.A.S.) in Clinical Research here.

He is Medical Director of the San Diego County Early Intervention Program at the Antiviral Research Center (AVRC).

He directs two co-infection clinics at the Veterans Administration San Diego Healthcare System (VASDHS), one for HIV/Hepatitis C and one for HIV/HPV infection.

He conducts his clinical research at the AVRC and his basic science studies in his UC San Diego campus laboratory.


“UCSD is a great place
for doing translational research.”


His advisor and mentor is Dr. Douglas D. Richman, Professor of Pathology and Medicine and the Florence Seeley Riford Chair in AIDS Research.

Dr. Richman is Director of the UC San Diego Center for AIDS Research (CFAR).

Another HIV researcher whom Dr. Smith considers a mentor is Dr. Joseph K. Wong, now Associate Professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at UC San Francisco and a staff physician at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

As both a clinician and a translational research virologist, Dr. Smith divides his time between the laboratory and the patient clinic.

“It means a lot to me,” he says, “to be able to do both patient care and research.”

His goal, both in the laboratory and in his clinics, is to provide better care for individuals who are infected with HIV.


“It’s good to see people getting better
and going on in their lives.”


On a recent trip to Ethiopia, Dr. Smith saw HIV-infected patients who had not had access to the antiretroviral treatments we have here in the U.S. and Europe.

“Seeing them reminded me of where we were in the early 90’s here,” he said. “It was heartbreaking; HIV is so destructive. We have got to do better in getting our antiretroviral therapy out there.

“But we’re getting there,” he says. “It’s good to see people getting better and going on in their lives. It’s good to see things change.

“That perspective, I think, makes me a better researcher,” he says. “I get to see the why. Why this research is so important.”

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