Who We Are

Residents, Leadership, and Alumni facts

Ryan Ash, MD, PhD
Research Track

Undergraduate: University of Texas, Austin
Graduate: Baylor College of Medicine
Medical School: Baylor College of Medicine
Postdoctoral Research Fellowship: Brigham & Women's Hospital

During my MD-PhD I studied altered synaptic plasticity in a mouse model of autism with in vivo 2-photon dendritic spine and calcium imaging. My results suggested that the prominent behavioral inflexibility in autism spectrum disorders could arise from an abnormal imbalance between synaptic stability and plasticity in the brain. Since then I became interested in studying neural circuit stability and plasticity in psychiatric disorders. Excessive brain automaticity is such a prominent feature of psychiatric illness -- in addiction, OCD, ruminative depression, PTSD, chronic pain, delusions, and so on -- but the neural mechanisms underlying this automaticity are mostly unknown. I'm also interested in how therapies like mindfulness meditation allow a de-automatization of reflexive mental processes (having attended several silent meditation retreats and seen the effects on my own mind).

As a research track resident I aim to study how plasticity (e.g. as induced by transcranial magnetic stimulation) is altered in disorders of excess habit automatization, and second how this plasticity is modified by meditation. I'm also interested in performing high resolution functional mapping of somatosensory areas in psychiatric patients, to evaluate the disruptions in anatomical organization and functional connectivity within and across somatotopic maps in patients with posttraumatic psychosomatic phenomena like body dysmorphia, chronic pain, somatization, and dissociation, and to see how these change during treatment.

I chose Stanford to work with and learn from the leaders in psychiatry treatment, education, and research. I'm hoping to learn the skills, perspective, wisdom, and empathy that I need to also eventually become a leader in the field, to help bring mental well-being to a greater and greater proportion of those in need. So far I have been amazed by the brilliance and sensitivity of my colleagues here, and touched by the culture of wellness that is the bedrock of the program.

Benjamin Belai, MD

Undergraduate: Stanford University
Medical School: Stanford University School of Medicine

I grew up in Los Angeles but spent my entire adult life in the Bay Area where I attended Stanford as both an undergraduate and a medical student. As a medical student, I conducted brain imaging research utilizing rs-fMRI to explore the development of striatal connectivity in children with Autism. My Autism research transformed into direct community work with underserved immigrant populations in the Bay Area. As an intern at Stanford I hope to further explore these interests in child psychiatry and cross-cultural/community psychiatry. I decided to stay at Stanford because of the incredible flexibility and support the department gives residents to pursue their own areas of interest. If you put forward a plan, the department won’t just make room for you, they will actively find ways to support your endeavors. This is a strength of Stanford in general and the Psychiatry department in particular.

Lisa Ekeanyanwu, MD

Undergraduate: Arizona State University, Tempe
Medical School: University of Arizona College of Medicine

Stanford's Psychiatry program appealed to me for many reasons, including its innovative teaching environment, dynamic curriculum and the flexibility it affords to its residents. On my interview days I was pleasantly struck by the continuous encouragement from faculty, residents and other house staff, to share intellectual ideas openly and freely. It was evident to me that training here would allow me to have a dynamic clinical education with ample opportunities for collaboration. I also felt that I would be able to explore my professional interests here, without compromising on any of them. My interests include community psychiatry, cultural psychiatry and global mental health and I feel very fortunate to be a member of the Stanford family.

Charles Fagundes, MD

Undergraduate: University of California, Irvine
Medical School: Brown University, W. Alpert Medical School

I feel very fortunate to be a part of Stanford Psychiatry. I chose Stanford because the residency program encourages and supports residents in following their individual passions to become the type of psychiatrist they want to be. Stanford Psychiatry offers numerous opportunities to craft your own career path in mental health, from research to global mental health to LGBTQ mental health to community psychiatry (my own interests!), to just about anything you can think of. Yet there is no expectation or pressure that you will choose a certain path: our curriculum is designed to empower us to pursue interests from before residency, as well as newfound interests. In addition, on interview day I was very impressed by the emphasis on resident wellness and the warmth and enthusiasm of all the residents and faculty I met. As an intern, I am happy to report that the program is just as supportive, caring and warm as it seemed on that day!  

Desiree Li, MD

Undergraduate: University of California, Los Angeles | Psychobiology, Cognitive Science
Medical School: Stanford University School of Medicine

I grew up on the West coast in Washington and California and feel fortunate be staying in the area for residency. I have a lot of family here and found this to be a very supportive place to train. Within psychiatry, I am drawn to psychodynamic psychotherapy, child and adolescent psychiatry, cross-cultural psychiatry, and thinking about ways to expand mental health treatment and decrease the stigma of mental illness. I spent a couple of years during medical school consulting with local startups that used technology to increase access to mental health services. I love that Stanford is a place that encourages thinking broadly about what it means to work in this field and the administration does everything it can to support leadership in its trainees based on our interests. Ultimately, I chose Stanford for the people and ethos of the program.

Karen Li, MD

Undergraduate: Rice University
Medical School: Baylor College of Medicine

Originally from Portland, OR, I spent the last 8 years training in Texas, and I am so excited to be back on the best coast. On the interview trail, I felt like I was frequently faced with the choice between excellent clinical training and resident wellness, but at Stanford I realized I could be offered both. On top of that - Stanford's program actively cultivates intellectual creativity in its residents in a way that benefits both the resident and the program. My interests in the field include adolescent psychiatry, forensic psychiatry, emergency psychiatry, and media influence on mental health. Outside of work, I love spending time outside, being active, and exploring all the fun activities the SF Bay Area has to offer!  

Alissa Rogol, MD, JD

Undergraduate: Princeton University
Graduate: George Washington University Law School
Medical School: Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons

I’m originally from southern Connecticut, but am so excited to be doing my residency at Stanford and living on the West Coast for the first time! Stanford completely won me over on my interview day because of the warmth of the residents, program directors, faculty and staff and the diversity of opportunities available here. I felt this was a program where I would really feel supported, both in the day to day life of residency and in finding and pursuing what I’m most passionate about in psychiatry. It doesn’t hurt that the campus is also gorgeous! I worked as a public defender before making the career change to medicine and so I’m particularly interested in areas where the law, psychiatry and ethics intersect. I’ve thought a lot about pursuing child and adolescent psychiatry and potentially combining that with either a fellowship in forensics or palliative care. Outside of medicine, I love spending time with my dog Bella, doing anything athletic that doesn’t involve running and going wine tasting.

Samuel Saenz, MD, MPH

Undergraduate: Stanford University
Graduate: University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health
Medical School: University of California, Irvine

Growing up in California as a first generation Mexican-American, I have strived to help the communities that sacrificed greatly to allow me the privilege of being a physician today. I could not be more thrilled to be a psychiatrist because everyday I am caring for a universally underserved patient population suffering from mental illness while learning how I can better advocate for these individuals at the systems level. It’s challenging work, but the brilliant and diverse group of leaders that comprise the residency program at Stanford could not be better company to fuel my passions. The residents here are humble, curious, and extremely supportive of one another, making it hard for me not to be inspired to learn from them and inform my own approach to patient care and advocacy. If you couldn’t already tell, my interests include community/public psychiatry, social/structural determinants of health, and of course, taquerias.

Omar Sahak, MD, MPH

Undergraduate: University of California, Santa Cruz
Graduate: San Jose State University
Medical School: University of California, Davis

My parents were Afghan refugees in Iran when I was born in the early 1980s, so you can imagine how “far from home” I must be here at Stanford. But I am here, because I believe Stanford values me as a whole person; it values my story and sees my personal history as an asset. I see that reflected in my cohort at large, as each one of us comes with our own personal history and an open heart to receive each other’s. Here I feel I can explore and inquire in deeper ways than I’ve been afforded the opportunity to before. Here I feel there is a community with a similar thirst to become great doctors in service to others, and with a recognition that it will be a journey we will take together. In psychiatry, I have three main elements that drive where and how I want to work: marginalization, stigma and storytelling. Wherever these three things are happening, you can hopefully find me there.  

Thanh Truong, MD

Undergraduate: University of California, Irvine
Medical School: Stanford University School of Medicine

The Stanford faculty and residents astounded me in their diversity of interest and depth of passion for their work. I really loved that any field of psychiatry and all types of work, from bench research to community program development to mental health writing, were highly valued and encouraged. Furthermore, there is such warmth and a family-feel among all the residents and faculty. Despite the challenges of residency, I have truly felt connected and cared for here. I am interested in community psychiatry, cultural psychiatry, women’s health, medical humanities, and psychotherapy. In my free time I enjoy exploring cafes in the bay area, doing jig-saw puzzles, going to museums, hitting up the latest food trend shops, casual hiking, and attending all types of festivals (arts and music, cultural, food celebrations, renaissance, etc.).

Jonathan Updike, MD, MPH

Undergraduate: University of Wyoming
Graduate: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Medical School: Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons

After living my whole life in Wyoming, I ventured from my home state’s only university to Manhattan for medical school with a detour to the Charm City for an MPH. Having witnessed the variability in the healthcare system along the geographic spectrum and general dearth of mental health resources, I pursued psychiatry to provide high quality mental healthcare and diminish the barriers folks face in accessing it.

I chose Stanford for a multitude of reasons- its emphases on excellence, wellness, diversity, scholarly freedom, and institutional support- but mostly because of Stanford’s people. Enthusiasm, innovation, and kindheartedness radiated throughout my interview day during discussions of psychiatry and beyond. I wanted to be part of a program with people exuding and fostering such consistent positivity. I cannot imagine an institution that does so better than Stanford.

My interests include the integration of general psychiatry with primary care, improving healthcare system delivery to and access for underserved populations, how social/environmental factors, especially the built environment, affect psychiatric outcomes, and Wyoming’s current affairs. In my free time, I practice self-care- writing, stropping my straight razor, oiling my boots, and bouldering.

Nicole Zelin, MD

Undergraduate: University of California, Davis
Medical School: Yale School of Medicine

I chose to enter Psychiatry because it embodies why I first was drawn to medicine : working with and for people at the interface of the social and the scientific, and helping stigmatized and marginalized communities access health and well being. Stanford’s curriculum beautifully balances training in psychotherapy and pharmacology, outpatient practice and inpatient care, and the various biological, psychological and social considerations that contribute to each patient’s unique experiences, struggles and strengths. I feel beyond lucky to be working and learning with the talented, open minded and open hearted folks who are my fellow interns. I have been delighted with the depth of support and active promotion of resident wellness, and the genuine warmth shared between all program affiliates - from our Program Directors to our Chief Residents to our faculty to our fellow residents. I could not be happier with my residency experience, and am excited to continue to develop my professional interests in LGBTQ+ health, child and adolescent psychiatry, and the use of art in psychiatry. Outside of work, I enjoy the many benefits of belonging to two cats (unlimited purrs is high on the list), science fiction and fantasy, and exploring other cultures and subcultures!