Sae Takada, MD, PhD, MHS, is an Assistant Professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research, Department of Medicine, at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. She obtained her MHS in Global Health Policy and Planning at the University of Tokyo, and MDPhD in Health Policy at Harvard. She completed her Internal Medicine Primary Care residency and fellowship in the National Clinician Scholars Program at UCLA. Sae studies how social relationships serve as resources for under-resourced communities, how they lead to the formation and spread of health behaviors and beliefs, and how these behaviors and beliefs in turn reshape social relationships. She is also a HIV primary care physician at the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Homeless Patient Aligned Care Team.


Sae met Dr. William Cunningham as a fellow to talk about his project on peer navigation for people living with HIV and was inspired by his passion and commitment to developing implementable solutions to complex social and structural barriers experienced by marginalized communities. Dr. Cunningham took her under his wing and taught her, with much love and patience, important skills for thriving in academia and life in general: how to build a team; how to craft a meticulous response letter for a manuscript revision; how to make new friends at poster sessions; how it is better to share and get input on your work early (even if it is not perfect); how to grow through uncertainty and setbacks. The scholarship serves as a reminder of Dr. Cunningham’s moral compass and wisdom and will guide her as she continues Dr. Cunningham’s legacy by advocating for under-resourced communities through research and mentorship. She plans to use the scholarship to disseminate one of her projects aiming to improve the lives of people living with HIV.


During the pandemic, Sae takes breaks from the world by cultivating her own garden – quite literally by growing tomatoes and broccoli in her balcony, orchids in her “office,” and mushrooms in her living room, and also by learning to sew her own clothes and enjoying works of fiction recommended by Dr. Steve Shoptaw. Prior to the pandemic, she enjoyed choral singing and was a budding choral conductor under the mentorship of Dr. Kenneth Wells.