New UCSF Students Fill Millberry Gym for Orientation Event

Good food and drink and respectably loud party music set the tone for the orientation of hundreds of first-year students gathered in the Millberry Union gym on Sept. 19. 

Jose Molina

Jose Molina

They were there to have fun but also to explore campus services and student groups, which set up tables on three sides of the gym. The financial aid table was quite popular, as were tables set up by several interprofessional student groups. Major sponsors of the orientation event included the Office of Student Life and Campus Life Services.

The entering class includes 160 new UCSF Graduate Division students working toward a PhD, 149 first-year medical students, 88 new students earning dentistry degrees, 123 first-year PharmD students, 29 nursing students entering doctoral programs, and 184 nursing students beginning a master’s degree curriculum.

Diverse Students Drawn to UCSF

“I love this city, and I love this campus,” said first-year dentistry student Jose Molina. “UCSF is big in Fresno, and that’s where I’m from.” Molina, whose wife also is completing her training as a dentist, first came to UCSF for the Doctors Academy when he was a junior in high school — part of a career pipeline program sponsored by the Latino Center for Health Education and Research and UCSF.

Shawn Gogia

Shawn Gogia

Molina was drawn to attend the UCSF School of Dentistry by the research, campus organizations, focus on diversity, and outdoor activities — although he also has joined a futsal (indoor soccer) league. “I feel connected to the university, and they certainly have made me feel welcome since I have been here,” he says.

Shawn Gogia, who graduated with a degree in history from UC Berkeley, is a first-year medical student. “I mostly grew up in the Bay Area, but still there have been some surprises,” he says about coming to UCSF.

“The past week has been fantastic. The School of Medicine is doing a great job getting us oriented to life as medical students. This kind of event is very helpful to meet people from different schools. I’m not sure how much of an opportunity we will have to do that as medical students."

Brandie Hollinger, a registered nurse who ultimately would like to help shape federal policy about nursing issues, said “UCSF is the only graduate institution for nursing I have found that has a health policy program that is really geared toward nurses interested in policy that has a nursing focus rather than a business administration focus. I was looking for a place that really embraced health care.”

Brandie Hollinger

Brandie Hollinger

Before coming to UCSF, Hollinger worked for three years in a step down intensive care unit at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando, Florida. As an undergraduate, she was president of the student government association at the University of Central Florida.

“I have a big goal in mind, and I think UCSF will help me figure out the nuts and bolts of what I want to do and what it’s going to take to get there,” she said.

Garrett Foo

Garrett Foo

First-year pharmacy student Garrett Foo took a moment to chat before checking out the interprofessional student groups. His view of UCSF is an environment that is “conducive to learning” has been reaffirmed already.

'An Incredible Melting Pot'

“The orientation is a good opportunity to meet medical, dentistry and nursing students,” he said. “I am also interested in seeing who the chancellor is, and hearing what the chancellor will say.”

Students certainly gave Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH, a warm welcome after Vice Chancellor for Student Academic Affairs Joseph Castro, PhD, briefly outlined her accomplishments and introduced her, but she came to have fun, too. Desmond-Hellmann began by getting new students to represent their schools by cheering. It was close, but the School of Pharmacy students seemed to make the most noise.

“You’re coming to a wonderful institution that is an incredible melting pot,” she told students.

Desmond-Hellmann, who became the first female UCSF Chancellor in 2009, said that women make up 66 percent of the entering class. Students hale from 44 states and 55 countries in addition to the United States.

“I know you know you guys want to hear me give a speech, but instead — besides the free food and the free beer and the free wine — we’re going to give away prizes,” she said.

Raffle prizes donated by various campus organizations ranged from UCSF “hoodies” to protect against the chilly Parnassus campus breezes, to a new iPad, to gift certificates for massage, dinners out, outdoors activities programs, food vendors and laundry services.

And everyone was encouraged to pick up a free T-shirt before they left.

Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH

UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann addresses first-year students at orientation day on Sept. 19.

Photos by Susan Merrell