2 Top Doctors Leaving UCI

Times Staff Writers

A well-regarded stroke treatment program at UCI Medical Center is losing two key doctors, officials confirmed Thursday.

Varoujan Kostanian, a specialist in interventional neuroradiology, said he would enter private practice in Las Vegas sometime after July. Also departing is Wengui Yu, a neurologist and co-director of the neurological intensive care unit, according to UCI officials. His resignation is effective in August.

Kostanian, who obtained a Nevada medical license a month ago, hinted at unrest within UCI’s stroke treatment program. “A lot of things have happened around here. I don’t want to get into the politics of it, but I just figure I’m better off doing my own thing,” he said. He declined to elaborate.


UCI spokeswoman Susan Mancia declined to respond to his comments.

Yu also declined to comment. Kostanian said his colleague was moving to Texas.

Stroke treatment has become a burgeoning field as the baby boom generation ages.

UCI Medical Center in Orange was the first Southern California hospital to gain certification as a primary stroke center from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

The program was recertified in April.

Kostanian is part of a small, highly trained fraternity of doctors who specialize in invasive, and at times risky, treatments for stroke victims, including clot removals and aneurysm repairs through blood vessels.

Yu, who joined UCI in 2004, has similar expertise.

Kostanian said that stroke specialists are in high demand and that UCI faced “a hell of a task” replacing him and Yu. “They’re scrambling,” he said.

Mancia said the departure of Kostanian and Yu “should have no impact on the program’s ability to provide excellent care for its patients.”

While the hospital searches for replacements, two physicians specializing in vascular neurology will fill in, she said.

A top official of the Joint Commission on Accreditation, which monitors and certifies medical providers, said the departures shouldn’t hurt the program’s certification.

Dr. Mark Alberts, director of the stroke program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, said Kostanian’s specialty is needed in about 5% to 10% of patients.

The resignations of Yu and Kostanian are the latest setbacks to UCI’s medical division, which has been hit in recent months by serious problems in its liver, kidney and bone-marrow transplant programs, questions about cardiologists’ credentials, turmoil in the anesthesiology department and alleged nepotism in hiring.