Meet Our People – Joshua Poole, Dr. Michael Nduati, & Sarah Blevins

Joshua Poole

Joshua Poole, Class of '18.

Joshua Poole, Class of ’18.

Second year medical student and Redlands native Joshua Poole recently became the first UCR student to win the Beaver Medical Clinic Foundation scholarship, an honor given to outstanding medical students who intend to practice medicine in the Inland Empire.

Coming from a family of medical professionals, Poole always knew he was destined for the medical field. By the time he was in middle school, he had already begun preparing for his future as a doctor.

“The more I worked towards it, the more I found myself engrossed,” he said. “I could make my life about making other people’s lives better.”

He found out he had won the $5,000 scholarship at the UCR School of Medicine Clinical Faculty Recognition and Student Awards Ceremony last May. The award came as a surprise, as faculty had nominated him in secret.

“I was dumbfounded. I teared up a little, to be completely honest,” he said.

Poole, who also completed his undergraduate degree at UCR, said that the decision to pursue his studies at UCR’s medical school was a “no brainer,” given his affection for both the school and area.

He spends most of his time holed up in his room, studying. He joked that he once considered running off to become a perfumer when things got particularly hectic. “(But) I’d rather have people not have cancer than smell good,” he said.

“But smelling good is important! I’ll do that peripherally one day, maybe, as a hobby,” he joked.

Poole participates in several medical-related pursuits outside of the classroom, including a surgery interest group, a physician shadowing program and the Prisoner Education Project, a program that allows students to educate inmates in local prisons about medical issues.

He enjoys these opportunities to gain hands-on medical experience within the community, which is one of his favorite things about attending medical school at UCR.

“Because they have such a large focus on putting physicians back into the community, they get us exposed to the community pretty early on,” he said.

Interim Dean Neil L. Schiller expressed his support for Poole and the Beaver Medical Clinic Foundation’s mission.

“Joshua Poole is an outstanding representative of the School of Medicine for this scholarship,” he said. Schiller said that the School of Medicine, like the Beaver Medical Clinic, is working toward retaining physicians for the Inland Empire area.

Poole still doesn’t know who nominated him for the scholarship. “Whoever was responsible knows that I am extremely grateful,” he said. The scholarship money will go toward tuition and study materials for his board examinations.

While he isn’t sure what kind of medicine he wants to specialize in yet — he’ll decide during his third year clinical rotations — he is interested in oncology and cancer research. He initially planned to follow in his stepdad’s footsteps and become a surgeon, but thinks that oncology may be a better fit.

No matter what kind of doctor he chooses to become, there’s one thing he’s sure of, he said. “What I want is to be a great physician who makes people’s lives better.”

Written by Amy Zahn

Dr. Michael Nduati

On Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015, Dr. Michael Nduati (’01), associate dean for clinical affairs at the UCR School of Medicine, was presented with the university’s Outstanding Young Alumnus Award. The award is given annually to one UCR alumnus under the age of 35 who has a significant record of career and/or civic achievement and promise in their profession.

That Nduati won the award is not a surprise, though he admits that he cut it close, receiving the award just two weeks shy of his 35th birthday.

Michael N. Nduati

Dr. Michael N. Nduati

“I am very glad to have made it just under the wire,” Nduati said, smiling. “It is a tremendous honor and I feel blessed that former Dean Richard Olds and current Interim Dean Neal Schiller each nominated me. It really boosts my spirits and confidence knowing I have the approval and support of our exceptional senior leadership.”

Nduati, a native of nearby Upland, said that he knew at an early age that he wanted a career in medicine. He attended UC Riverside and graduated from the precursor of the UCR School of Medicine, the UCR/UCLA Thomas Haider Program in Biomedical Sciences. In fact, some of the same staff and faculty who knew him as a student are his colleagues today, including Schiller.

Nduati went on to UCLA to earn his M.D. and M.B.A. and began a career in family medicine. But he wasn’t done with his education, earning a Master’s of Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health.

He knew that he wanted to give back to his community and his alma mater and the founding of the UCR School of Medicine allowed him to utilize all aspects of his unique skill set. As associate dean for clinical affairs he has played a role in the creation of cost-neutral family medicine primary care outpatient clinics, which has helped to expand access throughout Inland Southern California. As director of hospital medicine, he helped create the program and recruited physicians for Riverside Community Hospital’s hospital medicine program, And finally, he is co-director of the Longitudinal Ambulatory Care Experience (LACE), an innovative curriculum that provides first-, second-, and third-year students with an opportunity to utilize the skills they have learned in the classroom in a clinical setting.

“I love the variety I have in my job,” he said. “Working at UCR allows me to use my business skills with the clinical enterprise, public health skills with LACE, leadership skills as an associate dean, teaching skills with the students, and of course clinical skills with direct patient care. I get to interact significantly with the students and the community. My day is never dull or monotonous and I like it that way.”

Nduati, who was recently named as a fellow for the 2015-17 Association of Departments of Family Medicine, said that having a work/life balance can overcome his hectic schedule.

“I’ve always said that people find a way to make time for things that are important to them,” Nduati said. “Even during medical school and residency, I still found time to interact with family and friends. It is always possible to find time.”

His family, wife Vida and children Kaila and Alana, also play a major role in that balance.

“My family is more important to me than anything else in this world, but they also are supportive of me doing positive things at work and progressing in my career, so their understanding is the key to my personal life balance,” he said.

And as grateful as he is for the award, Nduati makes it clear that he, and the UCR School of Medicine, still have a lot of work to do to continue to improve healthcare.

“The UCR School of Medicine has made significant progress in improving the health of the people of this region and, in doing so, has demonstrated itself to be a national leader in healthcare,” he said. “We deserve to have better health in Inland Southern California, and if we don’t carry on this mission ourselves, I guarantee nobody else outside will do it for us.”

Sarah Blevins

Sarah Blevins (right) with Peter Mayhew, the actor who played Chewbacca in the Star Wars movies.

Sarah Blevins (right) with Peter Mayhew, the actor who played Chewbacca in the Star Wars movies.

When you meet Sarah Blevins, the School of Medicine’s standardized patient educator, you might get the feeling that you’ve seen her somewhere before. Maybe it was her work as a stand-up comic, or perhaps one of her on-screen roles, either in films, commercials, or TV shows like HBO’s True Blood.

Or maybe it was from her name and likeness being used as a character in a comic book written by the iconic Stan Lee, the creator of Spiderman. But more on that later.

Standardized patients play a major role in the education of the first- and second-year medical students by portraying individuals with a variety of maladies in the school’s Clinical Skills Lab. Blevins is responsible for instructing and training the patients, assessing their performances and providing feedback.

“I prepare the standardized patients by instructing them on what they can expect to be asked and showing them the physical exam maneuvers they can expect to undergo. We also train them to provide feedback to our students,” Blevins said. “Afterwards, we review a video of their performance and provide feedback.”

The job of being a standardized patient can be challenging. The individuals, many of whom are professional actors, must memorize lengthy, fictionalized medical histories and back stories as well as a checklist that can be as long as 60 items in order to provide feedback on the student’s work in the lab. Ensuring consistency among the standardized patients can also be a challenge as there can be as many as 10 different actors in the lab at one time, all exhibiting the same symptoms and ailments to the medical students.

“Being a standardized patient requires you to be focused and to adhere to specific guidelines,” she said. “You can’t space out.”

Blevins said that she enjoys the opportunity to watch the students and standardized patients interact.

“I get the added benefit of watching both the SPs and students in some of their most vulnerable moments and I don’t take that lightly,” she said. “I love watching students step out of their comfort zone and try to ‘handle’ a screaming patient or emotionally console an SP playing a domestic violence victim. Some of the best things I’ve ever seen or heard are when a student was brave enough to jump all in and be in the moment of a particular encounter.”

Blevins graduated with honors from UC Riverside (’99) finishing as the top student in the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, then went on to study theater at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and at Rose Bruford in England. She began working as a standardized patient trainer in 1999 at Western University of Health Sciences and has worked at USC’s Keck School of Medicine as well as the medical schools at UCLA, UC Irvine and Loma Linda University.

“I have been in this field 16 years and it still fascinates and provides a lot of laughter every day,” she said. “It all comes down to human beings communicating with each other, just as it does when you are onstage in a play. I am over the moon to be working at my alma mater and I feel very fortunate that I am using my theatre degree for good.”

When she isn’t working, Blevins is a doting mother to her two children and continues to tweak a play she wrote during her undergraduate years. “I am re-writing it as a musical. It’s about shoplifting and crafting. I do one, but not the other,” she said.

And, of course, there is her acting. She continues to study the craft and has taken classes from actors Alfred Molina and Dan Butler and was in a class with Christina Applegate, and has done plays around Southern California. In 2014, she appeared in the independent film “Out West” and had a scene with Lord of the Rings and Rudy star Sean Astin. In 2008, she appeared in the HBO series True Blood and had a scene with Alexander Skaarsgard.

“I’ve also been in various commercials; scrubbing bubbles, orange juice, car repair, exercise supplements, and my favorite, a leave-in shampoo and conditioner,” she said. “It’s my favorite because I was cast as the girl with the ‘bad hair’ in the commercial. Nobody did my hair on-set. I just went on…with my own hair…as it was. Offense taken.”

Blevins also appeared in a film that was screened at the Cannes Film Festival, which she had the opportunity to attend. “It got me recognized on the street,” she said. “I can actually say, ‘I’m big in France.’”

Her stand-up career began on a dare when she told an acting teacher that she would “rather be naked on stage than try telling jokes to a crowd of people. “ She did her first set at the Ontario Improv, telling stories about her experiences as a “pelvic model” for medical students.

“People loved it – they couldn’t believe someone gets paid to do that, but they loved it,” she said. “I got asked to do the Boston Comedy Festival, made nice money roasting executives at corporate events around the country, and even got invited to senior citizen centers and AA meetings which consequently presented two of the hardest groups to try and make laugh.”

Now, about that comic book. In 2006, her then-husband, Matt Atherton was on the SciFi Network “reality” show “Who Wants to Be a Superhero,” which pit eight contestants against one another for the opportunity to have their superhero alter-ego appear in a comic book written by Lee. Blevins created the character of “Feedback” and, when Atherton won, her likeness appeared as a nurse in the Feedback comic.

“It is pretty righteous to be in a comic book and to be drawn as a bombshell is even cooler,” she said. But the biggest benefit was the opportunity to hang out with the legendary Stan Lee himself.

“He invited me to a screening of Spiderman III and it was awesome,” she said. “He would call me ‘Lady Feedback.’ One day, Lee mistakenly called the character ‘Feedbag’ and I just about died laughing. So henceforth, when he saw me, he would call me ‘Lady Feedbag.’ Stan Lee is just as cool as you would imagine him to be, but even funnier. He’s an amazing man.”

And he is has given Blevins some serious cred amongst pop culture fans. “I saw him at Comic-Con when he was being quickly escorted down the halls, and he recognized me and said hello. It’s like one of the gods reaches down and anoints you from the clouds. I saw more than a few geeks’ jaws drop open when he said, ‘Hey, Ms. Feedbag, how ya doing?’”

Recent Staff and Faculty Additions in the SOM

The UC Riverside School of Medicine continues to grow, especially in the clinical enterprise and clinical education areas of the school. Several clinical faculty members joined the SOM in the departments of neuroscience, obstetrics and gynecology and family medicine. The Center for Healthy Communities also welcomed new faculty members into their dynamic team.

New Staff and Faculty at the UCR School of Medicine

Recent Academic Appointments

  • Hilal Abu-Zahra, Assistant Clinical Professor, Pediatrics
  • Luanne Carlson, Assistant Clinical Professor, Urgent Care
  • Roberto Castanos, Assistant Clinical Professor, Psychiatry
  • Justin Diedrich, Assistant Clinical Professor, OB/GYN
  • Byron Ford, Professor, Biomedical Sciences
  • Howard Moss, HS Clinical Professor, Psychiatry
  • Susan Park, Assistant Clinical Professor, OB/GYN
  • Maurizio Pellecchia, Professor, Biomedical Sciences
  • Beri Ridgeway, Assistant Clinical Professor, OB/GYN
  • Andrew Subica, Assistant Professor, Psychiatry
  • Bich-Van Tran, Assistant Clinical Professor, OB/GYN
  • Shabnam Zargar, Assistant Clinical Professor, Pediatrics

Recent Staff Additions

  • Marlene Amaya, Clinical Affairs Analyst
  • Elisa Barile, Project Scientist
  • Caroline Brown, Physician Specialist, OB/GYN
  • Sarah Burge, Hospitalist Coordinator, Family Medicine
  • Menbere Dejenie, Education Research Analyst
  • Jessica Flores, Patient Care Coordinator, Neuroscience
  • Jessica Gonzalez, Patient Care Coordinator, OB/GYN
  • Crystal Hammon, Medical Assistant, Neuroscience
  • Alma Hernandez, Analyst
  • Rubie Herrera, Medical Assistant, OB/GYN
  • Susan Hollobaugh, Business Operations Assistant
  • Shawn Kelly, Information Security Officer
  • Deepa Khoday, Physician Specialist, OB/GYN
  • D’Arcee Krueger, Administrative Assistant
  • Yolandie McCoskey, Physician, Urgent Care
  • Joann Mendoza, Medical Assistant, OB/GYN
  • Polet Milian, Residency Application Coordinator
  • Wydette Morales, Senior Academic Affairs Analyst
  • Lori Munsie, Physician Specialist, OB/GYN
  • Ursula Prins, Senior Analyst, Contract & Grant Operations
  • Sophia Rodriguez, Program Coordinator
  • Tulin Sinjar, Physician Specialist, OB/GYN
  • Irene Tanaka, Senior Analyst, Contract & Grant Operations
  • Ivan Trang, Lab Assistant 2
  • Chimezie Ubbaonu, Hospitalist

Media Contact

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