The UCLA Samueli School of Engineering has received a $1 million gift from longtime UCLA health care practitioner and philanthropist Manizheh Yomtoubian.
The gift establishes the Neria and Manizheh Yomtoubian Endowed Chair in Cancer and Risk Sciences, and it triggered an additional $1 million from a matching fund established in 2016 by the Samueli Foundation to spur the creation of endowed chairs for UCLA Engineering faculty.
Yomtoubian is active in raising awareness and philanthropic support for health issues among the Iranian American community in Los Angeles. Born and raised in Shiraz, Iran, she worked as a nurse and clinical nurse specialist at UCLA for nearly two decades. Her late husband, Neria, was an accomplished electrical engineer who worked at Mater Specialties, an aerospace company in Costa Mesa, California. With his business partner, Neria developed a voice-warning system for aircrafts, and later used the technology to make the first talking calculators and a talking multimeter for measuring voltage, current and resistance for visually impaired engineers and technicians.
In honor of Neria’s memory, Manizheh Yomtoubian established a foundation and the Neria and Manizheh Yomtoubian Sanctuary in Orange County, California.
The Neria and Manizheh Yomtoubian Endowed Chair in Cancer and Risk Sciences is intended to support a UCLA faculty member whose specialty lies at the intersection of engineering, medicine and cancer research, and who is actively involved in the community.
UCLA has appointed Dr. Arash Naeim as the first professor to hold the new position. An accomplished oncologist and bioengineer, Naeim specializes in health services, informatics, health policy and quality-of-care issues. His primary focus is on integrating new technologies and data analytics to reduce the risk for cancer and complications through personalized treatment for vulnerable populations.
“I am truly humbled to be selected as the first holder of the Yomtoubian Endowed Chair,” Naeim said. “I have been fortunate to witness the many ways in which Manizheh supports the cancer patients both at UCLA and in the Iranian American community in Los Angeles, and I hope to support her vision by using technology and data analytics to reduce risk and advance precision medicine.”
Naeim has faculty appointments in bioengineering at UCLA Engineering and in the divisions of hematology-oncology and geriatric medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He is a co-director of the UCLA Center for SMART Health, a collaboration among the B. John Garrick Institute for the Risk Sciences, the Clinical and Translational Science Institute and the Institute for Precision Medicine. In addition, he is a senior leader and director of informatics at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“Dr. Naeim was instrumental in forming the UCLA Center for SMART Health in line with the Garrick Institute’s mission to enhance the scientific foundations of health care risk assessment and management,” said Ali Mosleh, director of the institute and UCLA’s Evalyn Knight Professor of Engineering. “Naeim’s success in establishing the center as a vehicle for collaborative risk research between the engineering and medical schools is a testament to his unique expertise in both medicine and technology.”
In 2009, Naeim was selected as one of the lead investigators of the University of California–wide Athena Breast Health Network, which was designed to improve the accuracy of risk assessment for breast cancer during patient screenings.
Naeim, who earned an M.D. from UCLA and his doctorate in public policy from the RAND Corporation, has also led several other large initiatives in risk sciences. As principal investigator at UCLA for a UC–wide program funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, he examined whether genomics and imaging could be combined with personal and family risk factors to provide personalized breast cancer screening recommendations.
Now, in light of COVID-19, Naeim is working with PCORI to determine the effect of the pandemic on the perception of the risk for breast cancer and patients’ willingness to undergo cancer screening and routine medical care.
“Dr. Naeim has fostered an atmosphere of collaboration at UCLA, bringing together brilliant minds from across campus, with the shared goal of reducing cancer risk and improving treatment outcomes for patients," said Jayathi Murthy, the Ronald and Valerie Sugar Dean of UCLA Engineering. “He has made a true difference in the lives of many. In particular, his research in breast cancer has highlighted the importance of individualized treatment for patients in different communities.”
Over the past five years, Naeim has explored remote monitoring technologies to help older, at-risk populations, such as those undergoing chemotherapy treatments. He was also principal investigator of a project funded by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality that sought to increase outreach to rehabilitative populations and people with cancer who are part of UCLA’s Population Health Program.
“I am excited by the appointment of Dr. Naeim to this important new chair, made possible by substantial support from Mrs. Yomtoubian, a long-standing board member of the UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation,” said Michael Teitell, director of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Dr. Naeim is a talented and dedicated researcher whose work improves the care and outcomes for people with cancer. He is a trusted member of our senior leadership team, and his studies that advance cancer risk reduction and improve treatments for patients are invaluable to our community.”
Naeim has received numerous honors for his research, including a young investigator award from the American Society of Clinical Oncology, a mentored research award from the National Institutes of Health, a UC Multicampus Research Programs and Initiatives award, and accolades from the California Breast Cancer Research Foundation and Stop Cancer.
The Yomtoubian chair is one of 35 endowed chairs at the engineering school.