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Couple funds graduate student research at UC Irvine School of Medicine

Shae and Alan Gazzaniga, MD, at UC Irvine, where they have created a fund to support graduate student biomedical research.
UC Irvine
Dr. Alan Gazzaniga, former head of cardiac surgery at UC Irvine Medical Center, and his wife, Shae, are supporting the biomedical researchers of tomorrow.

They aim to boost biomedical research to improve lives

Retired thoracic surgeon Alan Gazzaniga, MD, made his first connection to UC Irvine Health in 1970, serving both the academic medical center and the medical school in a variety of capacities until his retirement in 2010.

He and his wife, Shae, recently began a new relationship with UC Irvine Health as philanthropists, establishing the Gazzaniga Family Medical Research Award to support biomedical research conducted by graduate students.

Each year, the merit-based award will be given to a student with outstanding academic credentials and a promising biomedical study underway. With this endowment, the Gazzaniga family can further a long and illustrious family legacy in medicine.

"By donating to graduate students working in medical research at UC Irvine, it is my hope they make discoveries that help people live better lives," Gazzaniga said.

Supporting next-generation research

The annual award will provide much needed funding for beginning scientists, said Klemens Hertel, PhD, associate dean for graduate studies and professor of microbiology and molecular genetics.

"We are so pleased that the Gazzaniga family understands the importance of supporting graduate students who are pursuing careers in biomedical research," he added. "These students are the researchers of the next generation. Supporting them means supporting medicine of the future."

It was during Gazzaniga’s tenure as chief of cardiac surgery that the medical center performed the first heart transplant in Orange County. He assisted in the procedure. He also was involved in developing extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a procedure that circulates blood outside the body to remove carbon dioxide and add oxygen before returning it to the body. The procedure is still used worldwide to treat patients with cardiorespiratory failure.

Medicine is a family affair

Gazzaniga’s father was a colorectal surgeon who helped found Ross-Loos Medical Group, a forerunner of the modern health maintenance organization (HMO). His mother’s father was a pioneering plastic surgeon. An emphasis on education and medicine runs in the family: Three of the couple’s four children are physicians and the fourth has a PhD in literature.

Gazzaniga’s creative pursuits have turned from research and innovations in cardiac surgery to gardening and writing mystery novels. He has written five books, including the 2013 novel Shocker Thief. When he isn’t writing, he and Shae spend time maintaining their two-acre garden. She tends to the flowers and herbs, work that rivals the finest English gardens (California style), while he focuses on the produce, fruit trees, tomatoes and eggplant.

Whether nurturing gardens or graduate biomedical research programs, Alan and Shae Gazzanigas are showing their commitment to the health of others.


Want to donate to graduate student scholarships? Please call 714-509-2105, email or give online at On the drop-down menu, choose "School of Medicine," then select "SOM graduate studies discretionary funds."