Meet Our People — Rita Lis, Louise Borda, & Dr. Ramdas Pai

From left, Louise Borda, Rita Lis and Ramdas Pai.

Rita Lis

Rita Lis

Rita Lis

“Things can be better than what they are.”

This is the core of what motivates Rita Lis, a second year student at the UC Riverside School of Medicine, through the challenges of pursuing a medical degree.

“I feel that there is no greater opportunity to better the lives of others than through medicine,” Lis said. “Because of this interest in medicine and an interest to help the underserved, I did a year of post-grad service at Christ House, a medical center for the homeless in Washington, D.C. I would definitely say this is where I really saw what medicine could do in improving the lives of those who need it most.”

While volunteering at Christ House, Lis had nowhere to live. But her drive and the company of kind-hearted individuals there pushed her through the experience that changed her perspective on the medical career field.

“What I learned from that experience was that the relationships physicians had with their patients held so much weight in their outcomes,” Lis said. “And caring even in the slightest for the underserved can have a huge effect on this population.”

“But medicine cannot have this effect alone. That year showed me above all else that in order to affect real change, medicine must work in concert with the other elements of a person’s life, including housing and insurance resources, education, addiction counseling, spiritual encouragement, community, and recreational activities,” Lis said. “I learned that all of these elements are weaved together in each person, and that each one can have a profound impact on the individual.”

“Not only did that year solidify that I want to become a physician, but it also showed me that the scientific education in medical school will not be enough to make a big difference.”

Though she is no longer serving at Christ House, she finds a similar experience at the Riverside Free Clinic (RFC).

“RFC is the greatest thing about this school,” said Lis. “Not only does it allow the medical student to learn an incredible amount, but it does so in a way that fosters personal and professional growth in a setting where the volunteers feel like they are doing something that matters – truly connecting with people to help them as best I can.”

Despite being buried by work and stress in between visits, Lis’s time at RFC reminds her about why her efforts matter, and that she truly can make an impact on others.

But her impact on others goes far beyond her hours at RFC clinics. Lis is also the editor-in-chief of The Scope, the UCR School of Medicine student-produced newsletter, with staff writers Deema Akari, Rennie Burke, Khoa Nguyen, Sumedha Sinha, and Tri Tran. The Scope also features guest writers and is advised by Dr. Emma Simmons, M.D., M.P.H., associate dean of student affairs and clinical professor of family medicine.

“It is my belief that by taking something ordinary and making it fun and a bit more connected to the school,” Lis said, “we can hopefully allow people to feel more like they are a part of a strong community. That they have something worth sharing with their peers. That medical school can be a fun way to build relationships. And if The Scope does not have this effect on readers, then hopefully it has this effect on me.”

“My first year in medical school, I felt that I put too much of an emphasis on scientific study, on memorizing, on straight facts,” Lis explained. “I felt that the community and creative aspects of my life were lacking. School was not enough. This year, I wanted to write and edit for The Scope because I think it is a creative way to connect the medical school community.”

“Rita is a student who is a really hard worker, but doesn’t feel the need to be in the spotlight,” Simmons said. “When I started the Scope five years ago, I did the writing for it primarily until the students took ownership of the paper and raised it to a whole new level.  When Rita became editor of the Scope earlier this year, my role as advisor became extremely easy.  Rita is so detail-oriented with the material and content, format and layout that when I review it prior to it being sent out to the listserv, I find myself simply enjoying the content. It’s nice to have someone so engaged & very passionate. I also love her collaborative spirit; she’s independent but collaborative. On top of this, she’s just so nice and humble – what else can you ask for in a person?”

“In addition to editing the Scope,” Simmons continued, “Rita is one of our elected class representatives. She handles all of her responsibilities like they are second nature, but you obviously know that she works hard. She is approachable and congenial. She’s the kind of person that you would want as a friend.”

Louise Borda

Louise Borda

Louise Borda

Louise Borda was already working in health-focused administration when she found herself in a Boston emergency room in 1994, when it was discovered that Borda had an early stage of cervical cancer. The treatment she experienced inspired her to remain in the field.

“It was purely convenience that I was working in healthcare at the time,” said Borda, UC Riverside School of Medicine chief financial and administrative officer.

“I was admitted to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital [in Boston] and was treated by an amazing team of faculty and residents. I spent much of the year in the hospital, and when I got out, I decided as a way to give back for the great care I received I would go back to school, and devote the remainder of my career to helping create the best environment possible for physicians to take care of patients.”

Borda added that she reevaluates her devotion to her personal career mission every November, the anniversary of her diagnosis, and she found an interesting challenge in the opportunity to join UCR’s growing medical school.

“I was particularly interested in the school’s mission to build a diverse physician workforce and improve the health of the medically underserved,” Borda said, adding that the School of Medicine’s purpose resembles that of the Heller School for Social Policy at Brandeis University, where she completed her M.B.A. “One of the key tenets for health-focused M.B.A.s such as myself is to improve health equity for vulnerable populations. I chose Brandeis because of its commitment to social justice, and am excited that UCR SoM’s mission so closely mirrors that of Brandeis’.”

Through her career, Borda experienced many encounters that continue to reinforce her passion in this field. Borda recalls a time when she created a program to introduce STEM students to the possibility of becoming a surgeon.

“The cohort was about a dozen high-performing culturally diverse students,” Borda said. “Some of the older guard physicians were not very supportive at the time, but once they actually met the students and saw their drive, interest, and intelligence, the attitudes changed.”

“That experience fostered a personal commitment within me, even as an administrator, to find ways to introduce students who could not otherwise — for reasons outside their control — be able to pursue a career in medicine.”

Though she is new at the School of Medicine, she is no stranger to the challenges of a health-focused administrative position.

“As an administrator, one of the great challenges — and dangers — is that we can become isolated from the actual work of the school,” said Borda. “We can become so entrenched in the process of administration that we forget that our true work is to support education, research, and clinical care, and not perform administration for the sake of administration.”

Borda plans to meet this challenge the same way she has in the past: by making a point to attend lectures by faculty, meet with physicians in their work environments, and walk the halls of hospitals where residents and students rotate.

“I am hopeful that I will find avenues to learn about the real work we are doing so that I can be a better administrator,” Borda said, “and I am very excited to delve into my work to support Dean Deas and the school build a strong financial base so that we can better serve our mission.”

Ramdas Pai

mug shot of Ramdas Pai, M.D.

Ramdas Pai, M.D.

When Dr. Ramdas G. Pai, M.D., first assisted with the development of the School of Medicine’s cardiovascular training program at the St. Bernardine Medical Center, he did not know it would eventually lead him to his leadership appointments as the chair of the Division of Clinical Sciences and Department of Internal Medicine.

This invitation from the St. Bernardine Medical Center to help expand the cardiovascular service center opened the door for the cardiovascular training program, a fellowship program sponsored by the School of Medicine.

“I think this led to more people knowing me at UCR,” Pai said. “I was more in tune with advancing the cardiovascular medicine and research and I was focusing most of my energy in that direction, rather than being a chair of medicine. I devoted my attention more to cardiology, clinical practice, teaching, and research. And when they asked me if I was interested in being the chair of medicine, I was excited because it was an opportunity to help build a strong medicine department with the goals of serving the underserved, educating the next generation of physicians and contributing to science. I want to take care of the sick, I want to teach, I want to help create knowledge, and at the same time help build various services for the School of Medicine.”

As a resident of the area for about 30 years, he was a staff and faculty member at the Loma Linda University (LLU) Medical Center, where he helped conceive and build the LLU Heart and Imaging Center. When the School of Medicine first opened at UC Riverside, Pai was already interested in being involved.

Pai is particularly excited about taking part in the School of Medicine’s early stage of growth, especially because its mission is in line with his personal philosophy as well: serving the underserved and educating people.

“The main mechanism to working with the mission is to increase the number of primary care physicians in this community by expanding educational programs,” Pai said. “My hope is to expand the graduate medical education programs with subspecialty training programs in this area so that we can impart education down to the medical students and increase the capacity for various affiliates to accommodate students, residents, and fellows that will stay in this area.”

“I want to develop robust research in the department of medicine and build more divisions in internal medicine so that our departments can collaborate with all scientists in UCR, including biomedical engineering and a variety of other areas, as well as collaborating with translational multidisciplinary research programs,” Pai said.

“I see this being a very strong school of medicine – strong in clinical affairs, teaching, and research and with a large physician presence,” said Pai. “There is a need in this area for trained physicians, and there is a need for education. I am excited to be here and I really appreciate the opportunity to be here, thanks to Dean Deas who called me and offered me this position. There are so many things to do, and I look forward to being a strong collaborator in all the exciting developments that are happening in the School of Medicine.”

New Staff and Faculty at the UCR School of Medicine

Appointments since August 2016.

Recent Staff Appointments

  • Louise Borda, Associate Dean, Chief Financial & Administrative Officer, SOM Finance & Administration
  • Michael Bullock, SOM Finance & Administration
  • Lisa Carter, Residency & Fellowship Programs
  • Srita Chakka, SOM Student Affairs
  • Sonja Elston, Human Resources Generalist, SOM Finance & Administration
  • Joshua Fan, SOM Student Affairs
  • Francisco Farias, SOM Student Affairs
  • Eleana Guardado, Biomedical Sciences
  • James Hackland, Biomedical Sciences
  • Allen Jankeel, Junior Specialist, Biomedical Sciences
  • Shellee Kreuter, Financial Services Analyst, SOM Strategic Resource Center
  • Rebekah Le, Postdoctoral Scholar, Biomedical Sciences
  • Janice Lenzer, Postdoctoral Scholar, Biomedical Sciences
  • Gambini Luca, Postdoctoral Scholar, Biomedical Sciences
  • Norma Mendoza, Junior Specialist, Biomedical Sciences
  • Jessica Noll, Biomedical Sciences
  • Dao Quach, Administrative Supervisor, Clinical Affairs
  • Kelly Radecki, Biomedical Sciences
  • Angela Reyes, Insitutional Research Analyst, Undergraduate Medical Education
  • Parima Udompholkul, Biomedical Sciences
  • Erin Walch, Biomedical Sciences

Recent Academic Appointments

  • Carolina Abkarian, Clinical Instructor, Neuroscience
  • Lama Al-Khoury, Associate Clinical Professor, Neuroscience
  • Kelley Atkinson, Biomedical Sciences
  • James Bartley, Associate Clinical Professor, Medicine
  • Daniel Camarillo, Assistant Clinical Professor, Dept. of Family Medicine
  • Kathryn DeFea, Professor Emeritus, Biomedical Sciences
  • David Dinicola, Clinical Instructor, Dept. of Family Medicine
  • Sungjin John, Asst. Clinical Professor, Dept. of Family Medicine
  • Mohammad Kanakriyeh, Clinical Professor, Internal Medicine
  • Noel Nepomuceno, Asst. Clinical Professor, Dept. of Family Medicine
  • Ramdas Pai, Chair of Clinical Sciences and Division of Internal Medicine, Internal Medicine
  • James Pratty, Asst. Clinical Professor, Neuroscience
  • Mary Jane San Antonio, Asst. Clinical Professor, Neuroscience
  • David Song, Clinical Professor, Neuroscience

Media Contact


Tel: (951) 827-2969
E-mail: ross.french@ucr.edu

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