UCSF is among the nation’s premier health sciences campuses and is world-renowned for educational excellence. Its four professional schools – dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy – as well as its Graduate Division consistently rank among the top programs nationwide in their fields and attract the world’s finest students.

Founded in 1864 as Toland Medical College, UCSF was devoted from the start to training the future leaders in health sciences and biomedical research, and remains the only campus in the 10-campus University of California system with that singular focus. As the campus expanded its professional training, it also developed a strong commitment to interprofessional education and collaboration among the professions, as well as a commitment to the underserved and reducing health disparities around the world.

Lisa Coussens PhD, co-leader of the Cancer, Immunity, and Microenvironment Program at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, teaches a class on breast cancer.

Training takes place in some of the finest “classrooms” in the nation, including UCSF Medical Center, a 722-bed academic quaternary care center with two major sites at Parnassus Heights and Mount Zion; UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, the UCSF-affiliated San Francisco General Hospital and San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center; UCSF Fresno, as well as many dental, nursing and medical clinics.

Both UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital are known for innovative medicine and advanced technology, with expertise in virtually all specialties, including cancer, heart disease, infertility, neurological disorders, organ transplantation and orthopedics, as well as specialized services for women and children. In 2015, UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay will open, placing three specialty hospitals in children’s, women’s and cancer care beside the University’s world-class biomedical research center.

Doctoral students also benefit from studying at a pioneering biomedical research institution that is the leading public recipient of funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In the 1970s, Nobel laureate J. Michael Bishop, MD, now chancellor emeritus, led development of the Program in Biological Sciences, which established a single, interdisciplinary doctoral and postdoctoral program that spanned UCSF departments – and revolutionized the way UCSF teaches and conducts research.

Today, that collaborative, interdisciplinary focus places UCSF at the forefront in training future health care providers to adapt to global challenges and national health care reform, as well as the rapid changes in such areas as health care technology and translating research breakthroughs into better patient care.

The range of initiatives in the educational enterprise includes, for example, the master’s degree program offered by UCSF Global Health Sciences that prepares the next generation of researchers and clinicians for careers in international policy, health care, research or development.  And, UCSF’s PhD program in translational medicine, which focuses on moving scientific discoveries into clinical treatment, now is joined by a master’s degree initiative, launched in fall 2010 and co-sponsored with UC Berkeley. 

Earning National Recognition

UCSF’s educational enterprise has received national recognition across its specialties from a variety of sources.

Among these, U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UCSF professional programs among the most outstanding nationwide.

UCSF's School of Medicine ranked fourth nationwide in both research and primary care education in the magazine’s 2015 issue of “Best Graduate Schools," making it the only school of medicine in the nation to rank in the top five in both research and primary care education. The school also ranked in the top 10 in every medical specialty in which it was assessed. Among those, UCSF ranked first for its medical program in HIV/AIDS; third in family medicine, internal medicine and women’s health; and tied for fourth in drug/alcohol abuse education.

The latest U.S. News rankings also include the 2012 survey of graduate schools of pharmacy, in which UCSF ranked first for its Doctor of Pharmacy program (PharmD), and the 2011 survey for nursing. In the latter, the UCSF School of Nursing ranked fourth for both its master’s of nursing program and its nursing-midwifery program. The report also includes last year’s rankings for PhD programs in the biological sciences, in which UCSF placed seventh overall, as well as second and fifth, respectively, in Immunology/Infectious Disease and Biochemistry specialties. U.S. News does not rank graduate schools of dentistry.

Daniel Brenner, MD, PhD, with attending physician Dana McGlothlin, MD, at the Heart and Lung Transplant Clinic at UCSF.

Those rankings are substantiated by the 2010 National Research Council report on the nation’s premier research doctoral programs. The report by this prestigious organization underscores UCSF’s top ranking in 12 graduate education programs. Seven programs rank in the top 10: nursing, bioengineering, biochemistry and molecular biology, neuroscience, biophysics, biomedical sciences, and cell biology. Also rated among the nation’s best are UCSF programs in medical anthropology, chemistry and chemical biology, sociology, genetics, and oral and craniofacial sciences. 

The resulting breadth of excellence at UCSF translates directly into an incomparable educational experience. While many other universities offer renowned individual programs, no other can offer the level of collaborative, innovative and cross-disciplinary education available at UCSF.

Medical students have the opportunity to train alongside the world’s best students in dentistry, nursing and pharmacy; oral health students collaborate with medical teams to identify diseases that appear first in the mouth and gums; and bioengineering doctoral students tackle projects alongside clinical leaders in their fields.

UCSF students, residents and postdoctoral scholars — who total about 5,600 — also benefit from the scrutiny and wisdom of top educators in shaping their training to be more relevant for the future. 

In January 2011, UCSF opened a state-of-the-art Teaching and Learning Center on the Parnassus Heights campus. The 20,000-square-foot center uses the latest technology in medicine to create a setting in which dental, medical, nursing and pharmacy students can train as a team to provide patient care.

All of these programs are supported by the cultural diversity of the UCSF community of faculty, staff and students, underscoring the University’s missions of serving the underserved and advancing health worldwide.™

Here’s a look at UCSF admissions and the competition among applicants:

School and degree Admitted Applications (2010)
Dentistry (DDS) 112 1,996
Medicine (MD) 151 6,413
Nursing (Master's) 203 826
Pharmacy (PharmD) 123 1,604
Graduate Division (PhD) 125  1,851