About The Council
We aim to create a culturally proficient and welcoming environment for patients, faculty, staff and trainees through exceptional clinical care, diversity education, mentorship programs, and community service. We strive to champion diversity and inclusion in the department of neurology.
Racial Injustice Statement
Dear members of the UF neurology family,
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has served to highlight numerous inequalities in our country this past year, placing in even starker relief the historically unequal treatment of marginalized and minority groups in our society. The events of this past Tuesday in Atlanta with the killing of 8 people, 6 of whom were women of Asian heritage has come after over a year of increasing violence against Asian communities. This violence must be acknowledged for what it is; these acts are hate crimes against those of Asian backgrounds and the flames of historical discrimination have been fed by incredibly damaging and harmful rhetoric during this ongoing pandemic. The statistics regarding hate crimes targeting Asian communities around our nation this past year are daunting, and the pain this surge in violence has caused must be acknowledged.
We are proud to have many people in our department of Asian, Asian American, and Pacific-Islander background, and even more in our extended department community as friends and loved ones who are of Asian descent as well as many other races and ethnicities. We acknowledge the fear and uncertainty that these events may have caused amongst us. For those of you feeling vulnerable in the wake of these attacks, know that you are not alone. We are here with you. If you have any concerns for your personal safety or others around you, please reach out to any of us. If anyone is in need of counseling or support, please remember that resources are available at Health & Safety – University of Florida (ufl.edu).
As always, merely acknowledging the horror of such events is not enough. We must work to address discrimination wherever it arises, and there is no better place to begin than our own home. The Diversity Council is actively drafting policies to address discrimination against staff and healthcare providers in our own clinics and within the hospital. No such policy currently exists within UF and we hope that by drafting such policies we can address incidents as they arise within our own department, help those in our department feel safe and secure in their roles, and serve as an example to the rest of the UF community in this important work. Please contact the Diversity Council if you have any suggestions as they work on this policy.
Lastly, again a thank you to everyone for all that you do. Please continue to support one another during these difficult times after what has been a challenging year in innumerable ways large and small. Our department is strong because of the wealth of backgrounds from which all of us come, and the connections that we all have with each other. If you see someone else in the department experiencing discrimination, speak upon their behalf. It is only by acknowledging and addressing these incidents when they happen that we can make way for change and make the world a more just and equitable place for all of us.
The UF Neurology Diversity and Inclusion Council.
Maria Bruzzone, MD
Bryce Buchowicz, MD
Aisha Elfasi, MD
Carolina Maciel, MD
Adolfo Ramirez-Zamora, MD
Ashley Rawls, MD
Diego Rincon-Limas, PhD
Vinata Vedam-Mai, PhD
Crystal Yu, MD
Meet the Team
Dr. Maria Bruzzone is a neurologist specialized in Epilepsy at the University of Florida. She graduated medical school from Universidad de la Republica in Montevideo, Uruguay and did her residency and fellowship training in Chicago. Her native language is Spanish and she really enjoys working with underrepresented trainees with a Spanish background. She is currently a mentor for the University Multicultural Mentor Program at UF. She enjoys cooking, traveling and spending time with her husband and little son.
Dr. Rawls is a 2014 graduate of UFCOM, and completed her residency in neurology at the Medical University of South Carolina. She returned to serve her home state of Florida following her completion of the Stanford Movement Disorders program
Dr. Adolfo Ramirez-Zamora is a neurologist specializing in movement disorders at the University of Florida. He graduated medical school from the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara in Mexico. He completed neurology training at Loyola University Chicago followed by a fellowship training at the University of California San Francisco. He has participated in several mentorship programs for students with focus on diversity and underrepresented minorities in medicine. He was part of the first diversity leadership award/counsel created by the Academy of Neurology. He has diverse cultural background and he enjoys outdoor activities and sports.
Aisha Elfasi is a fourth-year UF Neurology resident. She grew up in the large and diverse city of Jacksonville, FL where her formative years were spent living with and learning from people from all over the world. In her undergraduate years, she spent time volunteering at her university as well as local hospitals and medical clinics which provided care and support services to refugees settling in the Jacksonville community. As a medical student at UF COM, she served in several leadership roles including Community Service Co-Chair and co-president of the Gold Humanism Honor Society Student Board where her efforts were dedicated to community service within the Gainesville community with a special focus on immigrant populations. Aisha is looking forward to serving on the UF Neurology Diversity and Inclusion Council to promote acceptance and inclusion within our department, clinics, and hospital.
Allison is a second-year MHA student at the University of Florida. She obtained her Bachelor of Science in public health at the University of Florida. Her main passions include increasing access to care for the underserved and quality of care for patients. As well as the work environment for employees. She has worked as an intern in quality and patient safety at UF Health Shands and as a key informant interviewer for the National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS). Currently, she serves as an administrative intern for the Department of Neurology and looks forward to supporting the council’s mission as they push for creating an environment founded on equity and inclusion. In her free time, she likes to enjoy shows, read books, and try cooking new things. She is originally from Colombia and is proud to be a first-generation student.
Dr. Bryce Buchowicz is a neuro-ophthalmologist and is currently dually appointed with the departments of Ophthalmology and Neurology at the University of Florida. She completed Neurology residency at Yale University and neuro-ophthalmology fellowship at Emory University. Her clinical interests include idiopathic intracranial hypertension and cerebrospinal fluid leaks. She enjoys spending time outdoors and adopting animals in need.
Carolina is a triple board-certified neurologist with formal training in neurocritical care, electrophysiology, and clinical research., committed to promoting diversity excellence in the neuroscience workforce and reducing neurodisparities. As a diverse scholar selected by the American Academy of Neurology to receive the TRANSCENDS award (an NIH-funded initiative via R25 to enhance diversity within the neuroscience workforce), she had the opportunity to complete formal training in clinical research and clinical trials through a Master of Science program under a comprehensive mentorship for career development. This program was fundamental to equip her with the resources (from mentoring to formal training) she needed to thrive in a competitive scientific environment, write successful grant applications and maintain her scholarly productivity. She will employ this experience to guide trainees and junior faculty during all steps of the scientific process in translational science, from study design to dissemination of findings—in compliance with national and international scientific guidelines. Her commitment to diversity excellence is also translated into her scientific work. Carolina has and will continue to engage in relationship development with patient groups to continue incorporating their insights as we carry on clinical trials. She brings her training background, commitment to improving outcomes in the neurocritically ill and to ensure adequate representation of patient populations in trials and reduce neurodisparity, and position as Director of Neurocritical Care Research to the Neurology Diversity Council to help inspire trainees from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue their dreams, and support colleagues, patients and caregivers with a welcoming, inclusive environment. As a native Brazilian, Carolina enjoys spending time off soaking up the sunshine while devouring a book. Her favorite words are resilience, equity, equality, and love.
Crystal Yu is a fourth-year neurology resident. She was born and raised in Poughkeepsie, NY, to first-generation immigrants from China. Growing up at the intersection of her culturally Chinese home and her culturally American school and social life, Crystal gained an appreciation for the importance of diversity and representation in all areas of life. She went on to obtain her bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from Brown University and her medical degree from Albany Medical College. Since her undergraduate years, Crystal has been proud to work in addressing the needs of underserved populations in multiple ways, including volunteering at a free and equal access healthcare clinic, and teaching cooking skills and how to make nutritious, wholesome meals to the community. Crystal looks forward to serving with the Diversity Council to create a safe and inclusive environment for people of all different backgrounds and walks of life within the Neurology department.
Dr. Deepak Chhangani is an Assistant Scientist at the Department of Neurology, currently focused on ALS and AD research. He completed his PhD from IIT Jodhpur, India in Neurobiology. Dr. Chhangani hails from the Thar deserts of India, speaks Hindi, Rajasthani and English languages. He is keenly interested in helping under-privileged and under-represented people, particularly in issues related to education. Dr. Chhangani loves diverse forms of music, culture and natural places. He is also inclined to Yoga, Badminton, Chess, Biking, and landscape-photography
Dr. Diego Rincon-Limas is a neuroscientist with a PhD degree from the Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon in Monterrey, Mexico. He is strongly interested in issues related to the education, mentoring and professional development of underrepresented minorities in biomedical sciences. He served previously on the UF Council of Diversity, the UF Career Resource Center Advisory Committee, and the UF Minority Mentoring Program. He has mentored more than 25 individuals from underrepresented groups and is a Lifetime Member of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science. He enjoys multicultural food, landscaping, and spending quality time with family.
Joshua Lopez-Scarim is an undergraduate student studying biochemistry at the University of Florida in the class of 2023. He is currently doing research on the molecular basis of neurodegenerative diseases in the department of neurology and his work is supported by the MARC GatorSTAR and University Scholars Program. Strongly interested in issues related to diversity and inclusion, he is a member of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science and The Soccer Outreach Program, where he volunteers to help children with disabilities play soccer. In his free time, he enjoys paddle boarding, volleyball and reading.
Lorena Figueredo is a third-year Neurology Resident, born in Havana, Cuba. She moved to the States at the early age of 15, joining one of the many underprivileged communities of the cultural melting pot that is Miami. She completed her BS in Biology/Chemistry at Florida International University, while volunteering at a non-profit organization helping refugees with resettlement and employment opportunities. She completed medical school training in San Juan Bautista School of Medicine, Puerto Rico. There, she learned of different barriers to healthcare that stood tall even in a more homogenous, predominantly Hispanic population. As a physician, Figueredo aspires to be a safe refuge for her patients, while promoting a safe, unbiased environment solely focused on facilitating medical care. She enjoys working with the underserved population, as she feels that her experience as a Latina immigrant allows her to identify barriers to adequate medical care that could otherwise be invisible to physicians with different backgrounds. She is honored to have joined the Diversity Council, where we focus on building a welcoming, non-discriminatory environment that is home to patients and colleagues. It is not only a means of representation of the underserved communities within our work field; but also a voice and a powerful source of education. In her free time, she enjoys road trips, a good cup of coffee, and spending time with her family.
Dr. Vedam-Mai is an Assistant Professor at the Dept. of Neurology and the Fixel Institute at the University of Florida. She received her PhD from the University of Georgia, and received her BS and MS degrees from Bangalore University in India. Research in her lab focuses on comprehending mechanisms of neuronal demise in neurodegenerative diseases in order to improve therapeutic strategies for their treatment. Specifically, there are three main thrust areas to her work: 1) Studying the effect of chronic electrical stimulation [such as Deep Brain Stimulation, DBS] on the neurogenic niches of the brain, and comprehending the cellular-molecular processes affected via this surgical procedure. 2) To develop a novel immunomodulatory platform for the treatment of PD and to identify the role of the peripheral immune system in the efficacy of this therapeutic platform [in a preclinical model]. 3) Understanding the brain “metabolome” in aging and disease.
Dr. Vedam-Mai has mentored several students in the laboratory setting belonging to diverse backgrounds. She currently serves as a mentor for the University Multicultural Mentor Program (UMMP). She is also a board member for the Academic Association for Women (AAW) at UF. She is a member of the Women in Medicine and Science (WIMS) group at UF. She is trained in Indian classical dance and music and performs routinely at various cultural events. She also enjoys playing tennis, traveling, cooking, reading, and spending time with her family.