UCSF Awards Gold-Headed Cane to Advocate for Disabled

By Shipra Shukla on May 27, 2008

Professor Kevin Grumbach, right, congratulates Nathaniel Gleason.

By Shipra Shukla

The UCSF School of Medicine recognized graduating student Nathaniel "Nat" Gleason with the prestigious Gold-Headed Cane Award, at its commencement ceremony on May 19.

Tradition deems that the cane is presented by someone who received it in the past. This year, the award was presented by Kevin Grumbach, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine, who received it in 1985. Each year, the cane is presented to a senior medical student who has been selected by classmates as being the most representative of a true physician. "It's especially meaningful receiving this honor from Dr. Grumbach, whom I've looked to for inspiration over the years," said Gleason. "He's a leader in the field of primary care reform and advocacy." Gleason, who is legally blind, will continue his training at UCSF - his first residency program match choice. He plans to practice general medicine. Many schools I applied to said, "If you can't use a microscope, you can't come,'" recounted Gleason. "The UCSF School of Medicine said, 'If you can't use a microscope, we'll make bigger photographs of the histology and microbiology slides. They were completely unfazed by the whole idea of having a blind medical student." Gleason was recently featured on CBS's Channel 5. While he says he is reserved by nature, he felt it was important to get the message out about what a person with a visual impairment can achieve. Gleason devoted a significant amount of time at UCSF to his advocacy efforts. For five years, Gleason served as a member of the Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Disability Issues (CACDI). With the support of committee members, he developed and presented extensive curriculum addressing how to care for patients with disabilities. Linda Centore, RN, PhD, clinical professor in the Division of Behavioral Sciences, Professionalism & Ethics, serves as chair of CACDI. Centore also was recently appointed chair of the UCSF School of Dentistry Diversity Committee. "Nat has made a significant contribution to the CACDI with his novel and incisive ideas pushing us forward to consider new ways to implement disability awareness training for health care professionals," said Centore. "His warmth, enthusiasm, and relentless energy will clearly benefit his future patients." Gleason points to the broader diversity of UCSF as a reason why he chose to continue his training here. "I think that above all else, UCSF draws really extraordinary people," said Gleason. "We all know that it's not the most resource-rich school and it doesn't have the greatest facilities, but I think great people attract other great people - and that's UCSF." Gleason begins the next phase of his training, an internal medicine residency, on May 21. "It's humbling to see the outstanding qualities of graduating students, as exemplified by Nat Gleason," said Grumbach. "It shows the future of medicine is in good hands." Photo/Elisabeth Fall Related Links: Graduates urged to "change the world"
UCSF School of Medicine, May 22, 2008 CBS Channel 5