Dr. Victoria Ojeda Receives UCGHI Junior Faculty Fellowship Award

Dr. Victoria OjedaVictoria Ojeda, MPH, PhD, public health researcher and assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Global Public Health, has received a Junior Faculty Fellowship Program award for 2013-2014 from the University of California Global Health Institute (UCGHI).

The UCGHI Junior Faculty Fellowship Program, funded by a private donor, supports global health investigators in focused, multidisciplinary projects to develop their skills in investigation, training and leadership.

The award will support Ojeda’s ongoing work with deportees in Tijuana, Baja California, funding her project, “Tijuana Business Attitudes Toward Deportees and the Acceptability of an Employment Opportunities Program.”

Ojeda’s related Tijuana study, “Social incorporation following deportation and implications for health status and access to care,” is supported by a UCGHI GloCal Health Fellowship award she received in 2012. The GloCal Fellowship, a one-year mentored research fellowship, is a program of the National Institutes of Health Fogarty International Center and a UCGHI consortium.

Ojeda focuses her research on substance use, HIV/AIDS infection, and mental health co-morbidities in migrant populations, including injection drug users and female sex workers. Through a number of studies in Tijuana and elsewhere, she is examining how patterns of population movement, including migration and deportation, affect the transmission of HIV/AIDS and other blood-borne infections in the United States-Mexico border region.

Ojeda earned her MPH and PhD in Community Health Sciences at the School of Public Health at UCLA and completed a NIMH Post-doctoral fellowship in Mental Health Policy at the Department of Health Care Policy at the Harvard Medical School.

She is principal investigator of a five-year, NIDA-funded K01 career development project Mexican Female Migration, Substance Use, Sex work, and HIV Risks in Tijuana (Mujer Migrante). She is a research associate of the UCSD Center for Comparative Immigration Studies and a faculty member in the UCSD-SDSU Joint Doctoral Program in Global Public Health.

More Information:

Four Common Antipsychotic Drugs Found to Lack Safety and Effectiveness in Older Adults

In older adults, antipsychotic drugs are commonly prescribed off-label for a number of disorders outside of their Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved indications – schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The largest number of antipsychotic prescriptions in older adults is for behavioral disturbances associated with dementia, some of which carry FDA warnings on prescription information for these drugs.

In a new study – led by researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, Stanford University and the University of Iowa, and funded by the National Institute of Mental Health – four of the antipsychotics most commonly prescribed off label for use in patients over 40 were found to lack both safety and effectiveness. … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom


Department of Medicine endocrinology and metabolism researchers Robert R. Henry, MD, and Sunder Mudaliar, MD, are coinvestigators in the study of the antipsychotic drugs.Dr. Robert R. Henry

Robert R. Henry, MD, is professor of medicine in the Division of Endocrinology & Metabolism at UC San Diego. At the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System (VASDHS), he is Chief of the Section of Endocrinology, Metabolism & Diabetes and Director of the Center for Metabolic Research.

Sunder Mudaliar, MD, is health sciences clinical professor in the Division of Endocrinology & Metabolism at UCSD. He is extensively involved in medical teaching and clinical care at the VASDHS. As an investigator in the Center for Metabolic Research, he performs clinical research focused on the prevention and treatment of diabetes.

More information:

Citation for the study report: Jin H, Shih PB,Golshan S, Mudaliar S, Henry R, Glorioso DK, Arndt S, Kraemer HC, Jeste DV. Comparison of Longer-Term Safety and Effectiveness of 4 Atypical Antipsychotics in Patients Over Age 40: A Trial Using Equipoise-Stratified Randomization. E-pub ahead of print, November 27, 2012, The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Dr. Ajay Bharti Receives NIMH Grant for HIV/Malaria Co-Infection Study

Dr. Ajay R. BhartiInfectious diseases researcher Ajay R. Bharti, MD, has received a four-year K23 career development grant from the National Institute of Mental Health.The grant will fund his mentored, patient-oriented research study, “Impact of Malaria Co-Infection on HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Disorders.”

Dr. Bharti is an investigator at the UCSD HIV Neurobehavioral Research Center and Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases. He completed a fellowship in infectious diseases at UCSD in 2007.

In the project, Dr. Bharti will determine the impact of malaria co-infection and malaria treatment on HIV-associated neurocognitive impairment in a population of HIV-infected adults.  |  Read the abstract of Dr. Bharti’s grant

It is known that malaria and HIV infection occur together in significant numbers of people, but their combined effect on the brain has not been investigated.

Dr. Bharti will conduct the study in Taramani, Chennai, in southern India, where there is a high prevalence of both HIV and malaria. The Y.R. Gaitonde Center for AIDS Research and Education in Taramani is a clinical research site of the UCSD unit of the AIDS Clinical Trials Group.

The long-term goal of Dr. Bharti’s research is to develop better means of detecting, assessing, and treating HIV- and malaria-associated neurobehavioral deficits in adults.

Dr. Bharti’s co-mentors in the project are Scott Letendre, MD, and Davey Smith, MD, MAS, in the Division of Infectious Diseases.

Dr. Letendre, Associate Professor of Medicine, is an investigator in the UCSD unit of the AIDS Clinical Trials Group. Dr. Smith, Associate Professor of Medicine, directs the Viral Pathogenesis Core of the UCSD Center for AIDS Research.

Both are investigators at the UCSD Antiviral Research Center and HIV Neurobehavioral Research Center.

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.”

More Information:

UC San Diego Links

Other Links