The UCLA Center for Obesity and METabolic health center uses a team approach to provide the most comprehensive resources possible for the patient. Team members are involved in the patient's care from screening through follow-up.
Erik Dutson, MD, FACS Surgical Director, Center for Obesity and METabolic Health (COMET)
Executive Medical Director, Center for Advanced Surgical & Interventional Technology (CASIT)
Clinical Professor of Surgery
Dr. Erik Dutson is the Surgical Director of the Center for Obesity and Metabolic Health (COMET Program) at UCLA, and has been a part of the multidisciplinary approach to the clinical management of obesity at UCLA for twelve years. He has been actively involved in the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, the American College of Surgeons and the Society for American Gastrointestinal Endoscopic Surgeons, where he serves on several committees and presents research on an a regular basis. He has been the Director of the Minimally Invasive/Bariatric Fellowship training program at UCLA since 2006, and provided the structure necessary to properly train minimally-invasive (MIS) bariatric surgeons in a multidisciplinary fashion according to the requirements of the MIS Fellowship Council. He has multiple scientific publications on clinical management of obesity, and his role as a patient and clinician educator has required him to maintain active working knowledge of global research on obesity mechanisms and treatment. More >
Yijun Chen, MDAssistant Professor of Surgery
Dr. Yijun Chen grew up in Hunan, China and attended Fourth Military Medical School in Xi'an, China. He came to the United States to do cancer research, and did his postdoctoral training in cancer biology at Stanford University. Dr. Chen completed his surgical residency training at Stanford University, where he found his passion to become a bariatric and minimally invasive surgeon. After finishing his bariatric fellowship at Duke University, he joined the UCLA Department of Surgery. He enjoys connecting with patients and developing long-lasting partnerships with patients. Dr. Chen used his own weight loss experience to help him develop great empathy for his patients struggling with weight issues. Seeing many happy patients during his bariatric surgery rotation at Stanford, Dr. Chen decided to become a bariatric surgeon because he truly believes that this type of surgery can make a huge difference for obese patients. More >
Digestive Diseases and Pfleger Liver Institute
Simon Beaven, MD, PhDResearch and Medical Director, Center for Obesity and METabolic Health (COMET) Assistant Professor of Medicine
Dr. Beaven is the director of the Metabolic Syndrome Program within the Division of Digestive Diseases and has created a cross-disciplinary program (COMET) along with Dr. Erik Dutson for studying how metabolic pathways influence liver and gastrointestinal diseases. Dr. Beaven was a Named New Investigator in the UCLA Center for Ulcer Research and Education (CURE) and has received awards from the UCLA Department of Medicine Research Day Competition. He is an active peer reviewer for several scientific journals, including Diabetes, Molecular & Cellular Biology, Hepatology, Gastroenterology, and the Journal of Lipid Research. Dr. Beaven teaches in the medical school at all levels and lectures to medical residents and fellows on issues related to liver and gastrointestinal disease. Dr. Beaven is funded both by NIH grants and philanthropic gifts. He primarily sees patients with liver diseases, as well as patients enrolled in the research protocols related to COMET. More >
Rabindra Watson, MDAssistant Clinical Professor of Medicine
Dr. Watson's research interests include endoscopic therapies for obesity, treatment of post-surgical complications, natural orifice surgery, endoscopic suturing, to name a few. Within COMET, Dr. Watson focuses primarily on endoscopic suturing for post operative patients that may need revision after bariatric surgery. Dr. Watson completed his residency in Internal Medicine and fellowship in Gastroenterology at the University of California, San Francisco. He then went on to complete an advanced endoscopy fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital. He is board-certified in Gastroenterology and Internal Medicine, and is a member of the American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, the American College of Gastroenterology, and American Gastroenterological Association. More >
Medical Weight Loss Management
Zhaoping Li, MD Professor of Medicine, Physician Nutrition Specialist
Dr. Li is a Professor of Medicine and the Chief of the Division of Clinical Nutrition at the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Li completed her MD and Ph.D in Physiology at Bejing University. Her residency training was completed at the UCLA-VA Internal Medicine program in 1996 where she also served as Chief Medical resident. Dr. Li has been a faculty member at UCLA and VA Greater Los Angeles Health Care System since 1997. Dr. Li is board certified in Internal Medicine, and Physician Nutrition Specialist. She is very passionate about patient's wellness, particularly preventing diet-related diseases like diabetes, hypertension and obesity. More >
Anna Balioukova, MSN, NP
Bariatric Program Manager
Anna Balioukova has been with UCLA for 12 years. After providing care to bariatric patients in the immediate post-operative period as a floor nurse, she witnessed firsthand the rapid resolution of comorbidities, which piqued her interest in metabolic surgery. After obtaining her Masters of Science degree in Nursing from UCLA In 2013, she began working as a bariatric surgery manager. Her clinical interests include the brain-gut connection and importance of psychological factors in postoperative weight loss maintenance. Her role is to assess, plan, implement and evaluate care for patients requiring specialized bariatric care in collaboration with health care team. She provides direct patient care and education to patients and serves as a resource and educator.
The program coordinator is available to assist patients through every step of the surgical process. She is a resource for information regarding the procedures, pre-operative instructions, surgery scheduling appointment scheduling, and insurance authorizations.
Lauren Maddahi, MS, RD
Lauren Maddahi grew up in Los Angeles and attended UCLA as an undergraduate, where her desire to become a dietitian solidified. She received her Masters of Science in Nutrition Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and moved back to LA to pursue her career in dietetics. Lauren is eager to help her patients succeed with their weight reduction success. She stresses a strong foundation in understanding basic nutrition, such as label reading and cooking, along with advocating exercise and proper hydration. She also sought a culinary certification in New York City to increase her understanding of basic cooking methods and help her patients find ways to prepare delicious and nutritious meals. She takes inspiration from her own past of battling with weight, body image, and disordered eating patterns to identify with her patients and motivate them to have a positive relationship with eating and a neutral relationship with all foods.
Christine Goukasian, MS, RD
Christine completed her Masters of Science in Nutritional Sciences at California State University, Los Angeles. She earned her Bachelors of Science in Nutrition, Dietetics and Food Science from California State University, Northridge. Her dietetic internship was completed at Lenoir-Rhyne University, with emphasis on childhood obesity. She has experience working in multiple areas including clinical nutrition, weight management, prenatal nutrition, diabetes and renal disease. She enjoys being part of a vital multidisciplinary team to help patients succeed in weight loss and is committed to helping patients meet their dietary needs through nutrition education. Christine believes the benefits of healthy nutrition on our mind and body is endless. She speaks Armenian fluently and is able to work with Armenian speaking patients.
Devon Kaiser, Psy.D Clinical Psychologist
The psychologist specializes in the assessment and evaluation of identifying and treating emotional components of improper eating habits.
The administrative assistant is the first point of contact for every patient. She guides each new participant through the process before their first clinic appointment and answers any questions the patient may have. She provides information about the program, verifies insurance and schedules new patient appointments in addition to handling the day to day functions of the office.