Leaders in health care

Here are profiles of four of Irvine’s top physicians.

Working to make dementia care obsolete

As director of Hoag Hospital’s Memory and Cognitive Disorders Program, Dr. Aaron Ritter aims to rid the world of dementia and make such medical care obsolete.

“The issue of dementia and brain aging affects every individual on the planet today,” Ritter says.

Experts now know that symptoms set in many years before a dementia diagnosis. And each type of dementia, such as Alzheimers, has an Achilles heel, he explains. “They seem to be caused by the buildup of waste products within susceptible parts of the brain. If we can remove these proteins or stop the biochemical processes that are causing this problem, we may find the key to curing dementia.”

Dr. Aaron Ritter, Hoag Hospital

Medical experts need to make sure dementia care is carefully prescribed, he says, “so it is impactful, helpful and specific to each patient and family’s experience.” And patients and their caregivers need to feel heard. Dealing with caregivers is a significant role for medical experts, he says. “They are the real heroes.”

Where Western medicine meets Eastern therapies

City of Hope Orange County’s Dr. Richard T. Lee’s medical education has taken him from the nation’s capital to Southern California to Chicago to Taiwan. He’s specialized in everything from palliative care and laboratory research to Chinese medicine, including acupuncture.

But the primary focus of his career is what led him to City of Hope: cancer. Lee is its medical director for supportive care and integrative medicine. He’s also its chair for the Center for Integrative Oncology.

“My philosophy as an oncologist is all about treating the whole patient – centering care on who they are and what they need,” he says.

Dr. Richard T. Lee, City of Hope

He’s grateful, he says, to be in charge of a multidisciplinary team that’s a leader in the field of integrative oncology, which incorporates lifestyle and diet changes with evidence-based treatment, making the patient a participant in his or her own treatment plan. “I often see a tremendous sigh of relief when patients realize they have found a physician who can help interweave these two worlds.”

Making strides in fighting infectious diseases

The call of neurology led Dr. Susan Huang to become a doctor. Along the way, she came to value the importance of research in infectious diseases. Today, as medical director of epidemiology and infection prevention at UCI Health, Huang works with patients, is a diligent researcher, and leads protocols to ensure hospitals are safe environments for patients and staff.

She’s written nearly 200 articles published in major medical journals, and she headed a program called SHIELD Orange County that called for a switch from the use of regular soap and water in nursing homes to antiseptic ointments and soaps – a protocol credited for reducing hospitalizations due to infections by 44%. She was also at the forefront in leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Susan Huang, UCI Health

While she’s worked with major medical names across the country, Huang says her UC Irvine experience ranks high. When a crisis comes along, “we get what we need faster, and better – always going the extra mile, the extra 40 miles.”

On the quest to keep bodies in motion

Having simultaneous careers keeps Dr. Brent Davis busy. But all of them involve his passion: sports medicine. Davis has his own orthopedic practice. He’s program director of the Kaiser Permanente Orange County Orthopaedic Sports Medicine Fellowship. He’s an assistant area medical director for Kaiser Permanente Orange County. And he oversees Kaiser’s one-year training program for orthopedic surgeons to enhance their sports medicine expertise.

A big part of his job: making sure his patients – many of them competitive athletes – receive the best care possible and teaching physicians the latest surgical techniques. To that end, Davis started a Kaiser program called the Athletic Injury Clinic to begin treatment right away, and get patients back to their sport.

Dr. Brent Davis, Kaiser Permanente

“I recall a young athlete who thought her sports career was over after tearing a major ligament in her knee,” he says. “After surgery, seeing her return to playing soccer and ultimately receive a college scholarship was very rewarding.”