New council promotes partnerships between UCSF and community

By Corinna Kaarlela

A new advisory council at UCSF will focus on strengthening the links between the University and the community.

Comprised of 10 public service advocates from the San Francisco community and 10 from UCSF, the newly appointed UCSF University-Community Partnerships Council will provide direction for the current partnerships program.

“If UCSF is to remain a leading university, it is essential that we succeed in our ultimate mission of promoting health and preventing disease,” said Eugene Washington, MD, UCSF executive vice chancellor and provost who was instrumental in formation of the program. “To achieve this goal, we have formed a Council to help us identify needs and develop initiatives to create a more robust, institutionalized community partnership program at UCSF.”

The Council is charged with assisting the community in partnering with UCSF to address community needs and with enabling faculty, staff and students to expand the University’s presence and participation in partnerships.

Kevin Grumbach, MD, professor and chair of the UCSF Department of Family and Community Medicine and chief of the Family and Community Medicine Service at San Francisco General Hospital Medical Center, serves as Council co-chair. A co-chair from the community will be named at the Council’s June meeting.

“I am tremendously excited to see this program in civic engagement taking shape at UCSF,” Grumbach said. “Already, from just the first few meetings of the Council, it is apparent how valuable it is to have community members as meaningful, empowered partners. It is clear to me that this program is not about window dressing, but about challenging UCSF and the community to find ways to work together more effectively to their mutual benefit.”

Council members were selected after a comprehensive review process, and all have extensive track records serving the community. Members from the community include representatives from existing UCSF partners, such as Potrero Hill Neighborhood House, and their professions range from youth guidance counselors to leaders of neighborhood centers. UCSF members come from a cross-section of the campus, with representation from the Schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, and Pharmacy, Graduate Division, and Medical Center that includes experts in social and behavioral sciences and community outreach. 

Community members have said they appreciate the opportunity to share their insights and hope that the partnership will be mutually beneficial. 

“I joined the Council because I have incredible respect for UCSF and want to help UCSF make stronger and more fruitful connections to my population of students and their communities,” said Eric Lewis, a teacher at Mission High School. “The new Mission Bay campus is close to both the Mission and Bay View-Hunters Point, where many of my students reside. I hope that by working with UCSF, we can ensure that these two communities benefit from UC’s presence and that UC will benefit from the participation of these communities.”

The charge and organization of the Council were developed by a task force convened in July 2004 by Washington.  Over the following year, the task force evaluated existing UCSF partnerships in community-based programs, reviewed evidence about the benefits of academic partnerships in community-based programs, and considered the key attributes and best practices that make for successful partnerships. The task force issued its final report in August 2005.

“Excelling at civic engagement - the collaboration between the University and the community for the purpose of improving community health and well-being, as well as empowering community participation - holds measurable benefits for UCSF and the communities in which we engage,” said Paul Takayama, executive director of UCSF Community and Governmental Relations, which serves as the home department for the partnerships program.

Day-to-day management of the partnerships program is spearheaded by San Francisco native Elba Sanchez, who was hired as director in April.  Sanchez comes to UCSF with more than 10 years’ experience in building academic and community partnerships. “From a partnerships perspective, this is an opportunity to work with the community to address their needs, particularly in health care when so many people are underinsured or uninsured,” she said.

One of the main challenges facing the newly formed Council is looking at ways to improve coordination and communication about best practices among UCSF’s many individual community-based programs, according to Sanchez.

“It is amazing how broadly and deeply engaged we are in Bay Area communities through our current education, research, clinical care and community development programs,” Washington said. “We have an opportunity to build on that foundation and to continue to show that we value our relationship with the community.”

Community representatives serving on the Council are Tavi Baker, Boys and Girls Club of San Francisco; Lynda Boyer-Chu, Gloria R. Davis Academy of the San Francisco Unified School District; Larry Del Carlo, Mission Housing Development Corporation; Gwen Henry,  Parent and Family Resource Center and Florence Crittenton Services; Eli Horn, Visitation Valley Community Beacon Center; Sharon Johnson, Potrero Hill Neighborhood House; Dwayne Jones, Communities of Opportunity initiative of the San Francisco Mayor’s Office;  Eric Lewis, Mission High School; John Nickens, Progress Foundation; and Nora Rios Reddick, Horizons Unlimited of San Francisco. 

UCSF representatives are Charles Alexander, School of Dentistry; Patricia Caldera-Munoz, Science and Health Education Partnership; Gerri Collins-Bride, School of Nursing; Christine Des Jarlais, Graduate Division; Kevin Grumbach, Family and Community Medicine, UCSF and SFGH; Dixie Horning, National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health; Cindy Lima, UCSF Medical Center; Howard Pinderhughes, School of Nursing; Lorie Rice, School of Pharmacy; and Naomi Wortis, School of Medicine. Barbara French, UCSF associate vice chancellor of University Relations, serves as an ex-officio member.