San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors to Vote on New UCSF Research Building at ZSFG

Mission-Critical Facility Would Safeguard Hospital’s Unique Level 1 Trauma Center Status

Editor's Note: This story was updated after an initial committee hearing on Jan. 25.

At its Jan. 31 meeting, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will consider a Ground Lease and Lease Disposition and Development Agreement (LDDA) that would allow UC San Francisco to construct a new research and academic building at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center (ZSFG), a project that is key to ZSFG maintaining its designation as the City’s sole Level 1 Trauma Center.

UCSF’s partnership with ZSFG dates back nearly 150 years, and UCSF faculty members provide all physician care at the hospital. All told, about 800 UCSF faculty, trainees and staff provide patient care, teach or conduct research at ZSFG alongside employees of the San Francisco Department of Health (DPH). The UCSF offices and laboratories at ZSFG are now dispersed among several outdated buildings. These structures do not meet University of California (UC) seismic regulations, and UCSF faculty and staff must vacate the buildings by 2019.

The proposed new research and academic building, which would be paid for by UCSF and constructed at no cost to city taxpayers, is critical to ensuring that ZSFG will continue to retain and attract the world-class physician-researchers who lead the bench-to-bedside research and teaching programs at ZSFG. Research is vital to retaining ZSFG’s Level 1 Trauma Center designation, a rank reserved by the American College of Surgeons for the highest-quality, most comprehensive trauma treatment centers, and also to maintaining the full complement of clinical care provided to all ZSFG patients by UCSF physicians.

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“The research that happens on the ZSFG campus ensures all San Franciscans access to world-class trauma care whenever they need it,” said Barbara A. Garcia, MPA, director of the San Francisco DPH, which operates ZSFG. “Nearly 4,000 patients with serious, life-threatening traumatic injuries are treated each year at ZSFG, and by constructing this new facility without delay we can guarantee that these crucial services will not be disrupted.”

On Jan. 25, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Budget & Finance Committee reviewed the Ground Lease and the LDDA for the proposed research facility and forwarded the item to the entire Board for its consideration on Tuesday, Jan. 31.

Research Improves Patient Care

This robust research program is essential to ZSFG’s and UCSF’s joint mission to continually improve patient care at the hospital, which is considered one of the premier public hospitals in the world, and which provides critical care to all San Franciscans. This research is often translated into improved health practices, protocols and policies that are widely adopted – improving the health of all San Franciscans and that of people around the globe.

For instance, the globally recognized clinical care for trauma offered at ZSFG springs directly from UCSF-led research at the hospital in neurosurgery, neurology, orthopedics, radiology, nursing and numerous other fields.

The new research and academic building would strengthen ZSFG’s overall program by complementing the new main hospital building and soon-to-be-renovated ambulatory care center, both of which have been funded by nearly $1 billion in voter-approved bond measures and philanthropic contributions. UCSF’s $200 million investment in the proposed new building would augment the City’s investments to ensure that ZSFG is prepared to serve all San Franciscans for decades to come.

exterior of Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital
The proposed UCSF research and academic building would complement Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital’s new main hospital building and ambulatory care center. Photo by Steve Babuljak

“There are San Franciscans who suffered critical injuries who are alive today because of treatments derived directly from UCSF-led research at ZSFG,” said UCSF neurosurgeon Geoffrey Manley, MD, PhD, chief of neurosurgery at ZSFG, and co-director of the world-renowned research program at ZSFG’s Brain and Spinal Injury Center.

“Our research and teaching are vital components to our clinical care for trauma, which are second to none globally. This urgently needed new facility will enable UCSF and ZSFG to carry on its distinguished tradition long into the future.”

Benefitting All San Franciscans

In addition to advancing trauma care, the research conducted at ZSFG also leads the way in helping to find solutions for HIV/AIDS, chronic illnesses, asthma, cancer, heart health, smoking cessation and health disparities that affect ZSFG patients, San Franciscans and vulnerable populations worldwide.

For example, UCSF’s Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, MD, PhD, MAS, a national leader in disease prevention, has led transformative research at ZSFG on cardiovascular disease and diabetes, two common health concerns in the U.S. that also disproportionately affect poor and minority communities.

“UCSF research conducted at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital has improved the health of generations of patients and families, in our own city and beyond,” said Bibbins-Domingo, professor of medicine and epidemiology, and director of the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations. “UCSF researchers at ZSFG led pioneering research in HIV/AIDS dating back to the first diagnoses in our city, and we continue to lead in HIV research, as well as in the areas of diabetes, and heart, lung, and kidney diseases.  The new research and academic building promises to greatly increase this impact, by bringing all of our physician-researchers under one roof, in up-to-date facilities, while keeping us close to the patients we care for.”

The proposed $200 million, 175,000-square-foot building has already received the backing of the San Francisco Health Commission, which voted unanimously in December in support of a 75-year Ground Lease and LDDA for the building, and of the UC Board of Regents, which certified the Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR), Ground Lease, and LDDA in November. Also supporting the research and academic building are the San Francisco Medical Society, the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California, the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation, UCSF’s Board of Overseers, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, and La Casa de las Madres, among others.

Talmadge E. King, Jr., MD, dean of the UCSF School of Medicine, said that the new academic and research building is essential to the University’s public mission. “Our partnership with Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital is a jewel in UCSF’s crown, offering the opportunity for our faculty, students, and staff to conduct world-class research on health while advancing health equity by providing the best clinical care to some of our region’s most vulnerable populations. This new building will accelerate our research, enrich our teaching, and benefit our patients.”