Coaching Program

Jeff GoldenThe UCSF Fellowship Program in Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Medicine has developed a coaching program as part of an effort to create a structure that will sustain the continuous improvement mindset of our training experience. Most importantly, the coaching program is designed to enable fellows to get the most out of their fellowship time while attaining high levels of satisfaction with their clinical training and career development. Our philosophy is that specialty training requires continuous adaptation and improvement. This includes all aspects of the program, our curriculum, our faculty and our fellows. Meet the coaches:

Nirav Bhakta, MD

Nirav BhaktaAfter completion of medical school and a PhD at Stanford University School of Medicine, Dr. Bhakta joined the UCSF Internal Medicine Residency program as a Molecular Medicine resident. With an undergraduate background in engineering and graduate work studying T cell development in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, he was drawn to pulmonary and critical care medicine early given the combination of physiology and immunology present in this specialty. He also found the challenges in working with patients and families on critical illness rewarding. After completing fellowship in pulmonary and critical care medicine and a postdoctoral fellowship both at UCSF, Dr. Bhakta joined the faculty in 2013. 

Alyssa Perez, MD, EdM

Nirav Bhakta

Neil Trivedi, MD

Neil TrivediDuring his undergraduate time at University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Trivedi developed an interest in medicine that led him to medical school at UCLA, and then residency and fellowship training at UCSF. A California native, he is most at home in the coastal climes of the Bay Area. In addition to general pulmonary medicine, his major clinical and research interest is lung cancer, including diagnostic procedures and cancer screening at the San Francisco VA Health Care System. Neil is also an outstanding teacher and has received numerous teaching awards. When not at work, he spends his time exploring the culinary landscape of San Francisco and is widely known among fellows and faculty as a resource for first-rate restaurant recommendations.

Leah Witt, MD

Neil TrivediDr. Witt is originally from the Midwest—she grew up in Wisconsin, went to Northwestern University for her undergraduate education and University of Minnesota for her medical school education. She completed her training in Internal Medicine at University of Chicago and continued her training there in Pulmonary Medicine, completing a T32 research fellowship. After these fellowships, she moved to the west coast in 2017 to complete a Geriatrics fellowship at UCSF. She joined faculty at UCSF in the Divisions of Pulmonary, Critical Care, Allergy, and Sleep Medicine and Geriatrics in 2018. At UCSF she has been able to merge her clinical, research and education interests Geriatrics and Pulmonary Medicine, currently through an education award from HRSA called the Geriatric Academic Career Award. In addition to her coaching role, she is also the Pulmonary Associate Chief for Ambulatory Affairs. Outside of work, she loves spending time with her toddler son George, and exploring her favorite park in the city, the Presidio!

Coaching Program F.A.Q

What is the Fellowship Coach? 
A coach is distinct from a mentor or an advisor, but there can be some overlap. Coaches focus specifically on helping others visualize and attain their own person goals. Unlike a mentor, coaches need not have advanced skill in their client’s specific area of interest or research; instead, coaches have expertise in helping clients improve their performance and attain their goals in a particular context. Like a sports coach or voice coach, your fellowship coach will help you perform at your best to get the most out of your fellowship experience.  Your relationship with your coach will focus on developing a personal vision of your career in pulmonary and critical care medicine. Your coach will help you set achievable goals that will move you toward actualizing your vision. To do these things, coaches will spend time with you, review your performance with you, create a safe space for informed reflection, and help you translate your values into action. Coaches will never formally evaluate you for the program. Coaches are your key advocate for your personal career development. Coaches are also a resource for you to learn about opportunities and services, and a key contact for you if any unexpected issues arise that might affect your wellbeing or fellowship experience. 

Why create a coaching program? 
Traditional mentorship structure leaves unmet needs in the program. Mentors typically provide expertise relevant to specific areas of interests or development, and can additionally act as sponsors for fellows new to a field; however, mentors do not necessarily simultaneously assist with development related to self-exploration, clinical skill development, research skill development, and issues of work-life balance.  The goal of the coaching program is to promote high levels of professional achievement and personal satisfaction for our fellows. In addition, the program seeks to enhance fellow wellbeing and personal growth, and serve as an example for fellows as they further develop habits of lifelong improvement and learning. 

How do fellows work with coaches?
Coaches use comprehensive data and deep knowledge of the fellow’s vision to set appropriate goals and develop a plan based on the fellow’s priorities. Coaches provide guidance and program-specific expertise in setting attainable goals that promote self-discovery. Coaches also promote accountability to oneself in service to your personal vision. 

How many fellows does one coach have?
Each fellowship coach works with seven fellows. A coach has 2-3 fellows from each class. 

Can fellows change coaches?
No. In cases where a fellow may want to pursue research with their coach, requests for changes can be brought to the program director. 

Do coaches evaluate fellows?
No. Although coaches will review all evaluation data with fellows, coaches will not formally evaluate fellows. 

Are meetings with coaches confidential?
Yes, you can be confident that the discussions you have with your coach are confidential.  

Be aware that there are some important exceptions. As faculty members in our program, coaches are mandatory reporters for issues related to sexual harassment (“Title IX”), or issues involving harm to self or others. That means that if a fellow brings up a concern of this nature with their coach, the coach is legally required to report it to the appropriate office. 

Confidentiality in Title IX matters may be maintained with the Department or University Ombuds.  

UCSF Pulmonary & Critical Care Fellowship Ombuds: Rupal Shah, MD [email protected] 

UCSF Department of Medicine Fellowships Ombuds: Vanessa Thompson, MD [email protected]

UCSF Office of the Ombuds:  415-502-9600

How do I get the most out of the coaching program?
Make a commitment and participate. Coaching only works for the willing, it requires active inquiry, self-discovery, self-awareness, and responsibility. Your coach is there to help you, be open and honest about what you want, and be receptive to working on your areas of strength and your areas for improvement. Follow through with the goals you set for yourself with your coach. Fellows should meet with their coaches about once per month on average, but more frequent meetings may be necessary at certain times. 

Coaches Contact

  Nirav Bhakta

Nirav Bhakta, MD
[email protected]


Alyssa Perez, MD
[email protected]


Leah Witt, MD
[email protected]

  Neil Trivedi

Neil Trivedi, MD
[email protected]