Odmara Barreto Chang, MD, PhD receives the 2021 Irene Perstein Award

May 24, 2022 | By Lesley Snyder

Dr. Odmara Barreto ChangOdmara Barreto Chang, MD, PhD, came to UCSF after completing her MD and PhD in neurosciences at Stanford. She completed her anesthesia residency and research fellowship at UCSF, where she trained with Dr. Katherine Possin from the Memory and Aging Center.  

“I'm a physician-scientist who takes care of adults undergoing surgery. As the population ages, an increasing number of older adults will require surgery. My research focuses on understanding the risk factors that lead to perioperative neurocognitive disorders in these patients.” 

Dr. Barreto Chang investigates how baseline patient characteristics and intraoperative monitoring such as electroencephalogram (EEG) can be used to identify older adults at high risk for postoperative delirium. 

"One important step is having a baseline cognitive assessment of these patients so we can understand how their brain was before the surgery and how what's happening during and after the surgery may lead to problems with cognition. Not only is delirium one of the most common postoperative complications in elderly patients, but it also costs millions of dollars and sometimes can be preventable. Identifying those at risk early on could allow for delirium preventive interventions and improve patient-centered care. This clinical problem requires a multidisciplinary research strategy in order to tackle it, including looking into the molecular mechanisms involved in cognitive impairment. By understanding the evolution, impact, and mechanistic process of cognitive impairment after surgery, we will be closer to preventing, treating, and understanding what's happening to the brain after surgery." 

Identifying those at risk may not seem easy, but she is on track to incorporate tools that would allow the patient's health care team to use this information to improve patient care. 

"I am thrilled to be this year's recipient of the Irene Perstein Award. This is a unique opportunity to advance my research. I feel so grateful to be part of the UCSF community. I have the privilege of taking care of these patients in the OR and advancing science by conducting translational research. The high caliber of scientists, mentors, and colleagues with whom I interact allows me to grow in this environment."