By Douglas R. Hegstad ’80-A, chair, Department of Medicine, LLUSM
“No one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again… Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” John 3:3,6 (NIV).
In his book “Fundamentals: Ten Keys to Reality,” 2004 Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek says, “To appreciate the physical universe properly, one must be ‘born again.’ If we once again open ourselves up to the world, curious and without preconceptions—if we allow ourselves to be born again—we come to understand the world differently. Some things, we must learn. Some things, we must unlearn. The process of being born again can be disorienting. To those who are born again, in the way of science, the world comes to seem fresh, lucid, wonderfully abundant.” Physicians born again “in the way of science” reap a reward distinguished professor of medicine David J. Baylink ’57 captures with the phrase, “Elegance of understanding.”
Continuous rebirth hints at the nature of the 2021 department of medicine. A diverse faculty (of over 500 members) has published more than 300 peer-reviewed articles in the past two years. The department includes 10 clinical divisions and two research divisions. Our faculty are actively involved in leadership with three physicians elected as governors or presidents of national medical societies and six serving as deans in the School of Medicine.
Our internal medicine residency and six fellowships have received full and continuing accreditation, and record numbers of Loma Linda University (LLU) medical students are applying to internal medicine. In addition to 89 categorical internal medicine residents, the department of medicine faculty provide R-1 education for 18 residents preparing for training in other fields. Combined internal medicine/pediatrics residents, internal medicine/anesthesia residents, and 117 residents from other disciplines rotate through the internal medicine and specialty services each year.
As of January 2021, the department has National Institutes of Health grant funding (Activ-2, Jennifer Veltman, MD), participates in more than 100 industry-sponsored clinical trials, and has grant funding for the new HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) clinic in San Bernardino. Its faculty provides general and tertiary specialty services at LLU Medical Center and linked faculty clinics. Faculty members reach into the community, providing most medicine specialty services at Riverside University Health and cardiology services at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, the county hospitals for San Bernardino and Riverside, California.
The faculty has adapted to the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic, adjusting to phone and video visits and donning and doffing protective gear. Department critical care physicians have borne the stress and pain of daily COVID-19 deaths in the medical ICU. With collaborations that included surgeons, anesthesiologists, cardiologists, family physicians, and redeployed residents and fellows, the division of hospital medicine expanded to provide care to a census of over 200 COVID-19 patients while continuing to care for patients with usual ailments.
Daring to hope and poised for a post COVID-19 crisis era, faculty members know that education and practice will not go back to the “old ways.” Going forward, some work will be remote. Some lectures will remain online. Certain patient complaints will be addressed through video conferences. Faculty and learner identities reflect service during a time of epochal challenge. They embrace change, and they hold steady on things that count.
The LLU mission, “…to continue the teaching and healing ministry of Jesus Christ ‘to make man whole’” resonates with an increasingly diverse faculty. Their written reflections express the mission statement in their own words, memes, metaphors, and behaviors. Their actions testify to renewal and reinvention of the mission. Here is an example:
“Loma Linda’s mission statement has always resonated with me. As physicians, we are taught to overcome humanity’s physical ailments. Every so often, we are reminded of our limits in fixing that which is broken. We are reminded that humanity is more than just bone and flesh—there is a mind, a consciousness. We are one of the few species on Earth that can contemplate its own existence. And such a mind does not take a back seat to the physical vessel. If we wish to be physicians, healers of such humanity, we can only do so by acknowledging all the parts of our patients (and the very human physician) that make us whole,” shared one faculty member.
Born and reborn, department of medicine faculty members embrace an old mission and an emerging and fresh identity. They embrace basic and tertiary clinical services on the main campus while reaching out to the community. They assure the experience of next generation students, residents, fellows, and patients.
Dr. Hegstad worked for 25 years at Riverside General Hospital and Riverside County Regional Medical Center before coming to Loma Linda University in 2009 to serve as chair of the department of medicine.
MEDICINE FACULTY SPOTLIGHTS:
Jennifer Veltman, MD
Jennifer Veltman, MD, is a graduate of Wayne State University School of Medicine (WSUSM). Upon earning her medical degree, she stayed at WSUSM to complete an internal medicine and pediatric residency before transitioning to UCLA/David Geffen School of Medicine for an infectious diseases fellowship. Dr. Veltman joined the Loma Linda University (LLU) department of medicine in October 2019.
In August 2020, she was appointed head of the division of infectious diseases (ID). Since taking the helm, Dr. Veltman has been proactive in expanding the division of ID, adding four faculty members. In a demanding year for all ID physicians, she obtained grant funding for a new HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis clinic and acquired National Institutes of Health funding as a co-investigator of COVID-19 clinical treatment trials. In partnership with the San Bernardino Department of Public Health, Dr. Veltman lent her expertise to advance protocols for elementary COVID-19 testing to safely reopen schools. Her latest adventures include organizing mobile vaccine clinics to reach the most vulnerable populations in our community. Dr. Veltman’s enthusiasm for collaboration and entrepreneurialism are evident in her efforts to tangibly meet the ID needs of our hospital system and the broader population of the Inland Empire.
Dr. Veltman and her husband, Chris Veltman, live in Redlands. They have two children, and in her limited free time, she and her family enjoy hiking, camping, and having quarantined, home-based dance parties to Twenty One Pilots songs.
Michael J. Matus ’11
After obtaining his medical degree and master’s of business administration at Loma Linda University (LLU), Dr. Matus stayed on to complete his internship and residency in internal medicine and then served as chief medical resident at Riverside County Medical Center. He later joined the division of hospital medicine at Loma Linda University Medical Center (LLUMC) as associate director and in 2019 assumed his current position as head of the division.
During his tenure the division of hospital medicine has grown to include over 40 faculty members. The division currently provides care to more than half the inpatients at LLUMC with over 59,000 patient encounters per year.
Throughout 2020, Dr. Matus led the acute care response to the influx of COVID-19 patients. He matriculated surgeons, cardiologists, family physicians, and volunteer residents who successfully met the challenge of caring for over 2,000 adult patients with acute COVID-19 infection with a daily peak census of over 215. The department of medicine is fortunate to have his leadership within the division of hospital medicine.
Moving forward, Dr. Matus has many goals for the division, which include opening a 24/7 observation unit, formalizing surgical co-management services, embedding ultrasound into daily rounds, and starting a hospitalist fellowship program.
Dr. Matus resides in Loma Linda with his wife, Sara, and his two daughters, Margaux and Geneva.