Our Mentors

Inspired by the enthusiasm and creativity of young scientists, DDRF mentors are acclaimed physician-scientists who commit their time and expertise to lead their DDRF Fellow through the conception, design and execution of a clinical research project. Our mentors commit time, expertise, and resources to mentoring DDRF students throughout the research year.

Abrams Headshot 2.jpg

julian abrams, MD
Physician-Scientist Mentor

Dr. Abrams is an Associate Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology in the Division of Digestive and Liver Diseases at Columbia University Medical Center.  Dr. Abrams performs clinical, epidemiological, and translational research focused on Barrett's esophagus and esophageal adenocarcinoma prevention.  In particular, he is interested in understanding the role of the oral and esophageal microbiome in relation to the development of Barrett's esophagus and esophageal cancer.  He is also interested in non-endoscopic techniques to screen for patients at risk for esophageal cancer. Dr. Abrams previously received a K award from the National Cancer Institute, and currently serves as a Project Leader for the Barrett's Esophagus Translational Research Network (BETRNet), a NCI-sponsored multi-center research consortium.


James Aisenberg, MD, FACP
Physician-Scientist Mentor 

Dr. Aisenberg is a Clinical Professor of Medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York. He graduated from Harvard Medical School, trained in internal medicine at The Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, and completed his gastroenterology fellowship at The Mount Sinai Hospital. His research focuses on gastrointestinal endoscopy, and also on the impact of common medications on digestive health. He has published over one hundred articles, chapters, and abstracts in leading peer-reviewed journals, and speaks nationally and internationally on gastrointestinal health and disease prevention. He is the President of the Digestive Disease Research Foundation. As featured in New York Magazine, from 2003 through the present he has been selected annually by his peers as a “Top Doctor” in New York in the field of gastroenterology.


Neville D. Bamji, MD
Physician-Scientist Mentor

Dr. Bamji is a Clinical Instructor of Medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. After completing his undergraduate degree in biology at Johns Hopkins University and his medical degree at Weill Medical College at Cornell University, Dr. Bamji completed an internship and residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in gastroenterology and hepatology at New York Presbyterian Hospital - Cornell Campus. Dr. Bamji has received multiple honors and has been extensively involved in research, presenting the results of his studies at both national and international conferences and venues. He has also been widely published in peer-reviewed journals and maintains active memberships in the American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy and the American College of Gastroenterology.


Jay Desai, MD
Physician-Scientist Mentor

Dr. Desai began his academic work with DDRF as a Fellow in 2006 when he was a medical student at Tufts University School of Medicine. After medical school graduation he completed his residency in internal medicine and his fellowship training in gastroenterology at NYU Langone Medical Center. Dr. Desai remains on the faculty of NYU, as well as working in private practice. He is widely published as either lead or co-author of more than ten clinical research studies published in peer reviewed journals. Dr. Desai’s research interests range widely including gastrointestinal endoscopy, the impact of frequently utilized medications on the digestive system and new endoscopic techniques for patients which improve the diagnosis of common digestive ailments.

AMG picture.png

ari grinspan, MD
Physician-Scientist Mentor 

Ari Grinspan, MD is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology and the Director of GI Microbial Therapeutics.  He received his medical degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and completed his Internal Medicine training at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. He completed his fellowship in Gastroenterology at Mount Sinai Medical Center, where he remains as full-time faculty. Dr. Grinspan pioneered the Fecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT) program to treat recurrent and refractory Clostridium difficile infection at Mount Sinai, which has developed into a referral center for FMT. His research focuses on exploring the mechanism and clinical utility of FMT in Clostridium difficile infection and Inflammatory Bowel Disease.


Steven H. Itzkowitz, MD, FACP, FACG, AGAF
Physician-Scientist Mentor

Dr. Itzkowitz, MD is Professor of Medicine (Gastroenterology) and Oncological Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. In addition to a clinical practice, Dr. Itzkowitz is Director of the GI Fellowship Program and Co-Chair of the GI Tumor Board at Sinai. He is Co-Chair of the New York City C5 Coalition (Citywide Colon Cancer Control Coalition). Dr. Itzkowitz conducts both basic science and clinical research focused on gastrointestinal oncology. His research has focused on detecting and preventing colon cancer in inflammatory bowel disease, reducing disparities in colon cancer screening and developing new non-invasive stool DNA test for colon cancer. Dr. Itzkowitz is widely published and frequently presents at national and international medical conferences.


michelle kim, MD
Physician-Scientist Mentor

Dr. Kim completed her undergraduate and medical degrees at Harvard College and Stanford University School of Medicine. After completing her medical training at New York–Presbyterian Hospital (Cornell), Dr. Kim joined the faculty at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Since then, Dr. Kim’s clinical and research interests have dovetailed in gastrointestinal cancers, with specific expertise in carcinoid and neuroendocrine tumors. Dr. Kim is known nationally and internationally for her work in translational and epidemiologic approaches in assessing outcomes in patients with these tumors. Dr. Kim has received multiple research grants including the NIH KL2 Award and a Mentored Career Development Award from the American Cancer Society. Dr. Kim has also won numerous teaching awards and mentored dozens of trainees who have become junior faculty at other academic institutions. Dr. Kim is currently serving as Councilor in the American Gastroenterology Association and has served as Past President of the New York Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.


Charles J. Lightdale, MD
Physician-Scientist Mentor

Dr. Lightdale is a Clinical Professor of Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons. Dr. Lightdale has published widely focusing on ground breaking research in Barrett’s Esophagus (BE), a condition of abnormal cell growth in the lining of the esophagus due to repeated exposure to stomach acid. Barrett’s Esophagus can lead to esophageal cancer. The early detection of these abnormal cells, can improve the treatment and prevention of this cancer. He has authored and edited more than 400 publications, including original articles, books, and monographs.  In 1999, he received the Rudolf Schindler Award, the highest honor of the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.


aimee lee lucas, MD, ms
Physician-Scientist Mentor 

Dr. Lucas is an Associate Professor of Medicine in the Henry D. Janowitz Division of Gastroenterology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Dr. Lucas received her undergraduate degree from Brown University with Honors. She then received her medical degree from Yale University School of Medicine and completed a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Fellowship. She subsequently trained in Internal Medicine at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University where she served as Chief Medical Resident. She remained at Columbia for fellowship training in Gastroenterology, during which time she obtained a Masters Degree in Patient-Oriented Research and Biostatistics from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. Dr. Lucas’ research interest is in developing screening regimens to detect early pancreatic cancer and precancerous lesions in high-risk patients with family history of pancreatic cancer or genetic cancer syndromes. Her work has been published in numerous gastroenterology and oncology journals, and she is a recipient of research grants from the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society, and other non-profit organizations.


saurabh mehandru, MD
Physician-Scientist Mentor

Dr Saurabh Mehandru is a physician-scientist who straddles clinical care and laboratory-based investigation. Dr Mehandru completed his residency training in Internal Medicine at the NYU School of Medicine where he also served as Chief Resident. He received subspecialty training in Gastroenterology at The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. For his laboratory training, Dr. Mehandru undertook post-doctoral training at the Rockefeller University, first working in the Laboratory of Dr. David Ho (with Dr. Martin Markowitz) and then in the Laboratory of Dr. Ralph Steinman, Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine, 2011.   After finishing his post-doctoral training, Dr. Mehandru was invited to join the faculty at Mount Sinai where in addition to serving as an Associate Professor of Gastroenterology, he leads a laboratory of Mucosal Immunology since 2013. His laboratory studies the mucosal immune system and the host-microbial interface.  He is an NIH-funded investigator who has received multiple awards. 


Kenneth M. Miller, MD
Physician-Scientist Mentor

Dr. Miller is a Clinical Instructor of Medicine at The Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York. He graduated with the highest honors from New York University School of Medicine, trained in internal medicine at Harvard University's Beth Israel Hospital, and completed his gastroenterology fellowship at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. His research interests include colorectal cancer screening and the development of new technologies for therapeutic applications of endoscopy. Dr. Miller has numerous publications and has presented his research at gastroenterology meetings both in the United States and abroad.


John Morton, MD, MPH
Physician-Scientist Mentor

Dr. Morton is an Associate Professor of Surgery at Stanford University serving as Section Chief of Minimally Invasive Surgery and Director of both Bariatric Surgery and Surgical Quality. He also heads the Minimally Invasive Surgery fellowship and the Stanford Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation (SCORE) and is Co-Director of the Stanford Digestive Health Center. His research has focused on quality improvement and bariatric surgery and has published 3 books and over 100 influential articles.  His clinical skills have resulted in being named Castle Connolly’s “Physician of the Year for Clinical Excellence” in 2012.  He also served on Capitol Hill as Senator Bill Frist’s Health Policy Intern.


Mindie Nguyen, MD, MA
Physician-scientist Mentor

Dr. Nguyen is Professor of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, at Stanford University Medical Center.  She received her medical degree from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and her master’s degree in clinical research at UCSF.  Dr. Nguyen’s primary research interests include the molecular epidemiology and pathogenesis of hepatocellular carcinoma with an emphasis on disease determinants, diagnostic and screening tests, and ethnic differences, and the epidemiological and clinical behaviors of viral hepatitis, particularly in hepatitis C patients with novel genotypes and in under-studied populations.


George Triadafilopoulos, MD, DSc
Physician-Scientist Mentor

Dr. Triadafilopoulos is a Clinical Professor of Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine in California. An internationally acclaimed clinician-scientist, he has authored more than 160 original research articles and 90 review papers in leading journals in the field of gastroenterology. Recently, he served as Editor-in-Chief of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, the leading global journal devoted to the field of endoscopy. In addition, he co-directs the Gastroenterology Fellowship Training program at Stanford University. Dr. Triadafilopoulos’s research focuses on gastro-esophageal reflux disease, pre-cancerous changes in the esophagus and colon (such as Barrett’s Esophagus and polyps), and gastrointestinal motility disorders.