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Future Leaders Program Mentor Biographies

Our mentors work closely with AGA Future Leader participants preparing them for career growth through mentoring, leadership training and networking.

  • Ezra Burstein, MD, PhD

    Ezra Burstein, MD, PhD

  • Christen Dilly, MD

    Christen Dilly, MD

  • Michael Kochman, MD

    Michael Kochman, MD

  • Rohit Kohli, MD

    Rohit Kohli, MD

  • Sonia Kupfer, MD

    Sonia Kupfer, MD

  • Xavier Llor, MD, PhD

    Xavier Llor, MD, PhD

  • Kimberly Persley, MD

    Kimberly Persley, MD

  • Robert Sandler, MD

    Robert Sandler, MD

  • Aasma Shaukat, MD

    Aasma Shaukat, MD

Ezra Burstein, MD, PhD

Professor and Division Chief, Southwestern Medical Center

Dr. Burstein received his medical degree from Cayetano Heredia University in Lima, Peru. He completed internal medicine residency training at UT Southwestern and gastroenterology fellowship training at the University of Michigan. Thereafter, he was also a research fellow at the Vaccine Research Center at the NIH. After completion of his training, he joined the Faculty at University of Michigan (2002-2008), and was later recruited to UT Southwestern, joining the Departments of Internal Medicine (Division of Digestive and Liver Diseases) and Molecular Biology.

Dr. Burstein′s research training and expertise is in the area of molecular immunology. Broadly, the work in his laboratory is focused on basic mechanisms that control inflammatory responses in human disease, particularly inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Work from the laboratory has investigated the regulation of the NF-kB transcription factor, which led to the discovery of the COMMD protein family. Thereafter, his group has also investigated the basic functions of these factors in immune regulation, including the recent discovery of their role in endosomal protein sorting. More recently, the lab began investigating the genetic and molecular basis of altered immunity in patients with defined Mendelian disorders. These studies have led to important discoveries, including the identification of cytosolic RNA:DNA hybrids as regulators of the interferon pathway.

Christen Dilly, MD

Assistant Professor of Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine

Christen Dilly is a general gastroenterologist with a career focus on medical education. She truly loves her work, and this drives her to help learners and colleagues develop fulfilling careers. Her clinical practice is at the Roudebush VA Medical Center, where she directs the weight loss clinic, performs endoscopic therapies for Barrett’s esophagus and other upper GI pathologies, and removes large colon polyps. As her capstone project for a Master of Education degree, she developed and now directs the Clinician Educator Training Pathway for residents and fellows across all GME programs ( In conjunction with this program, she conducts research into professional identity formation in future educators. She is the Key Clinical Educator for the GI division, responsible for the education effort for medical students and residents. She is the co-site director for the GI/nutrition course for second-year medical students. She runs the GI clinical elective and a new online elective for senior medical students. She is the faculty advisor for the GI student interest group and for the GME House Staff Forum. At the fellowship level, she is starting a new role as the chair of the clinical competency committee. She also enjoys faculty development, and she has facilitated several faculty learning communities centered around the scholarship of teaching and learning. She is the co-director of the AGA Academy of Educators, where she is working to help GI educators across the country develop as educators.

Michael Kochman, MD

Wilmott Family Professor of Medicine and Surgery, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

Michael L. Kochman, MD, AGAF, FASGE is the Wilmott Family Professor of Medicine and Professor of Medicine in Surgery in the Gastroenterology Division at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Kochman is a graduate of Northwestern University (BA, Economics, 1982) and the University of Illinois Medical School at Chicago (MD, 1986). He served his residency at the University of Illinois at Chicago and was Chief Resident at West Side VA under Dr. Clifford Pilz from 1989-90. Subsequently Dr. Kochman completed his fellowship in Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the University of Michigan Hospitals and Clinics in Ann Arbor in 1993 under the direction of Drs. Chung Owyang and Tadataka Yamada. During that time Dr. Kochman also underwent training in interventional endoscopy and had specialized training in endoscopic ultrasound at Indiana University under the auspices of Drs. Robert Hawes and Maurits Wiersema. Subsequently he was recruited to the University of Pennsylvania by Dr. Peter Traber, were he rose through the ranks from Assistant Professor.

While at the University of Pennsylvania he has served in various capacities including as Vice-Chair for Clinical Services and as Development Officer for the Department of Medicine, on the School of Medicine Committee of Appointments and Promotions (COAP), the Physicians Billing Oversight Committee and numerous Departmental Review and Search Committees. Within the GI Division he has served as Fellowship Chairman and runs the regular endoscopy and advanced endoscopy training programs and directs the Wilmott Center for Endoscopic Innovation, Research, and Training. He has received a number of awards including the Luigi Mastroianni Clinical Innovator and Special Recognition Patient Advocacy Awards from the Health System as well as the Sid Cohen, MD and Donald Martin, MD awards for the education of fellows and residents.

Dr. Kochman has served many local and national societies in a variety of positions. He was honored and inducted as a Fellow into the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. The ASGE recognized him as the ‘Master Endoscopist’ in 2015 and the AGA recognized him as the ‘Distinguished Academic Clinician’ in 2018. His current major national commitments are to the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) as a Governing Board Councilor and a Vice-Chair of the Research Foundation, the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES) and to the Natural Orifice Surgery Consortium for Assessment and Research (NOSCAR). He has served the AGA on the Education Committee, the Public Affairs Committee, was Chair of the Regulatory Workgroup and is past Chair of the Center for GI Technology. Dr. Kochman served as Chair of the GIE Editorial Board, treasurer of the ASGE Foundation, and was a Councilor of the ASGE Governing Board. Also, for the ASGE Dr. Kochman has served on the Post-Graduate Education Committee, the EUS SIG, the Research Committee, the Program Committees and has directed numerous post-graduate courses. He is a past president of the Delaware Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy and was the Program Chairman for the Pennsylvania State Gastroenterology Society.

Dr. Kochman regularly speaks for various local GI societies and at SGNA meetings. He is a frequently a faculty member at national and international meetings as a lecturer, moderator and at Meet the Professor sessions on various topics including management of neoplasia, maintenance of luminal patency, EMR, EUS, and ERCP. He also serves as faculty for hands-on training courses held both nationally and internationally for EUS, ERCP, endoprosthetics, and hemostasis.

Dr. Kochman is Editor for Techniques in Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. Dr. Kochman has published over 250 articles, chapters and videos. He has edited 19 published books: among them, the Clinicians Guide to Gastrointestinal Oncology (ed Kochman), Advanced Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (eds Ginsberg, Gostout, Kochman and Norton), and Endoscopic Oncology: Gastrointestinal Endoscopy and Cancer Management (eds Faigel and Kochman).

Rohit Kohli, MD

Chief, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles

Rohit Kohli is a Pediatric Hepatologist by training and currently responsible for the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and a Professor of Pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine at USC. His clinical interest is rare pediatric liver diseases especially in inborn errors of lipid storage and their consequence of chronic liver disease and liver transplantation. His research work is focused on obesity-related fatty liver disease (NASH) and the role of bile acid signaling in weight loss surgeries driven improvement of obesity and its associated morbidities, such as NASH.

Sonia Kupfer, MD

Associate Professor, University of Chicago

Sonia Kupfer is an adult gastroenterologist with clinical and research interests in inherited gastrointestinal cancers and health disparities. She serves as Director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Risk and Prevention clinic at the University of Chicago. She graduated from Yale University and completed her medical training including Chief Residency and Gastroenterology fellowship at the University of Chicago. She is an Associate Professor and Associate Section Chief for Education. She serves as Chair of the Cancer Health Disparities working group in the UChicago Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Kupfer holds grants from the National Institute of Health to study colorectal cancer disparities. Dr. Kupfer is Past-President of the Collaborative Group of the Americas on Inherited Gastrointestinal Cancer. She serves on several committees for the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA). In 2017, Dr. Kupfer was awarded the Division of Biological Sciences Diversity and Inclusion Junior award and the Joseph B. Kirsner Mentorship Award. In 2019, Dr. Kupfer was awarded the AGA Young Investigator Award.

Xavier Llor, MD, PhD

Co-Director, Cancer Genetics and Prevention Program, Yale University School of Medicine

After obtaining his MD degree from the Autonomous University Barcelona, Dr. Llor trained in basic research and Internal Medicine at the University of Chicago and completed his GI fellowship at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He complemented his training with a PhD degree in molecular biology from the University of Barcelona. A clinically active gastroenterologist, Dr. Llor’s research and clinical interests relate to colorectal cancer. He has a very active basic and translational research program mainly focusing on two different aspects of colorectal cancer: hereditary and familial forms, and disparities in colorectal cancer. This work has resulted in almost 100 scientific publications in this field. He has made seminal contributions to the field of Lynch syndrome diagnosis as well as in the definition of other non-polyposis syndromic colorectal cancer cases. Some of his most recent work is providing important clues to the understanding of the biological differences that contribute to disparities in colorectal cancer.

Dr. Llor is the Director of the Smilow Cancer Genetics and Prevention Program; Associate Director for Cancer Screening, Community Engagement and Health Equity (CEHE); and Medical Director of the Colorectal Cancer Prevention Program at Yale University and Smilow Cancer Hospital and he sees patients at Yale. He is a member of the steering committee of the National Colorectal Cancer Round Table (NCCRT) and member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines panels for colorectal cancer screening and colorectal cancer genetics. He is commonly invited to lecture in colorectal cancer genetics in the US and abroad.

Kimberly Persley, MD

Gastroenterologist, Texas Digestive Disease Consultants

Dr. Persley is a native Texan. She was born in San Antonio and raised in Fort Worth, Texas. She graduation for O.D. Wyatt High School in 1985 as class Salutatorian. She played the bassoon in high school and received a music scholarship to Texas Wesleyan University. She changed her major to Biology in her Sophomore year and graduated with a BS in Biology in 1989. She was accepted to University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and graduated with a Doctor of Medicine degree in 1993. Dr. Persley completed her internship and residency in Internal Medicine at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. She stayed an additional year as Chief Resident in Internal Medicine at Parkland Hospital and the Dallas VA Medical Center.

Dr. Persley decided to specialize Gastroenterology and Hepatology. She was accepted to UTSW Gastroenterology fellowship program. She completed her Gastroenterology fellowship training in the June 1999. She did additional study in Inflammatory Bowel disease. She completed her Inflammatory Bowel Disease fellowship at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York in 2001.

After completing her IBD fellowship, she moved back to Dallas and started her career in private practice. She joined Dallas Digestive Disease Consultants in 2001. In 2008, her group merged with Texas Digestive Disease Consultants. She is currently a partner with GI Alliance. She has interest in Inflammatory Bowel disease, Women’s Issues and Wellness. In her practice, she participates in clinical research. She as been recognized by D Magazine for several years in the annual “Best Doc” edition. Dr. Persley has been on the medical staff of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital since 2001. She as served on the Medical Board and Professional Peer Evaluation Committee.

Dr. Persley as actively involved in several professional organizations including the American Gastroenterological Association, American Medical Association, Texas Medical Association, Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, America College of Lifestyle Medicine and the Texas Ambulatory Surgical Center Association. She was past president of the Texas ASC Society. Dr Persley was recipient of the 2020 American Gastroenterology Association Distinguished Clinician Award and the 2020 Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation North Texas/Oklahoma Chapter Physician of the year.

In her spare time, Dr. Persley enjoys travelling with her family. She is a member of St Luke Community United Methodist Church where she has gone on several mission trips to Cuba, Puerto Rico and Zimbabwe. She is a runner and has completed 4 marathons. Her next big adventure will be a trek to Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania in 2022.

Robert Sandler, MD

Director, Center for Gastrointestinal Biology & Disease, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

Robert S. Sandler, MD, MPH, AGAF, received his undergraduate degree, summa cum laude, from Union College in Schenectady, New York. He received his medical degree from Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, and his Master of Public Health from University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill. Dr. Sandler has committed his entire professional career to UNC, serving in growing capacities since he first joined the department of medicine as a GI fellow in 1978. He now serves as the Nina C. and John T. Sessions distinguished professor of medicine.

Dr. Sandler can be credited with giving the field of digestive disease epidemiology and outcomes an early boost. He has maintained an extraordinarily productive career over the past 30 years that has focused on research investigating the etiology and prevention of colon cancer; training and mentoring a generation of GI epidemiologists and academic gastroenterologists; directing the UNC’s multidisciplinary NIDDK-funded Center for Gastrointestinal Biology and Disease; developing a national clinical trials data management resource; and leading an outstanding division of gastroenterology and hepatology.

Dr. Sandler has worked selflessly for AGA in many capacities. In May 2015, he was appointed to the AGA Governing Board as AGA Research Foundation chair-elect, and now serves as chair. This will be Dr. Sandler’s third term on the board; notably he served as president of AGA from 2008 to 2009. Before his most recent appointment to the governing board, Dr. Sandler served as chair of the AGA Publications Committee and has previously served on the Nominating Committee (twice — once as chair), Audit Committee, Executive Committee, Outcomes Research Award Review Panel, Futures Committee, Research Policy Committee, Burden of Disease Task Force, Public Policy Committee and GI Oncology Task Force. Dr. Sandler has also served as an associate editor of Gastroenterology. He is currently AGA Research Foundation chair.

Aasma Shaukat, MD

Professor of Medicine, NYU Langone Health

Aasma Shaukat, MD, MPH, is the Robert M. and Mary H.Glickman Professor of Medicine and Population Health at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, and Director of GI outcomes Research. She is clinical researcher in colorectal cancer screening, prevention and colonoscopy indicators for colonoscopy. She is a member of the US Multi-Society Task Force and chair of the GI field advisory Board for the Veterans Health Administration. Her other areas of research include biomarkers of colon cancer risk, chemoprevention and fecal microbiota transplant for recurrent C.difficile infection. She was a member of the inaugural class of the AGA’s Future Leaders Program.