UCSF Prepares for Accreditation Visit by WASC Team

By Lisa Cisneros

UCSF is preparing for a three-day site visit next week as part of its bid for reaffirmation of accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), a once-a-decade validation of its quality as a graduate health sciences university. WASC is the regional organization that is responsible for the accreditation of public and private universities and colleges in California, Hawaii and the Pacific Basin.

Joseph Castro

“Accreditation is an important indication that UCSF is fulfilling its mission as a public university educating future health care professionals, scientists and scholars,” says Joseph Castro, PhD, vice provost of Student Academic Affairs, who chairs the WASC Accreditation Steering Committee at UCSF. On Feb. 17, 18 and 19, Castro and other UCSF leaders will welcome a team of WASC officials, including WASC team chair Joseph Bloom, MD, professor of psychiatry emeritus and dean emeritus of the School of Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University. Last accredited by WASC in 2000, UCSF initiated the new accreditation process in early 2006. Chancellor Mike Bishop, MD, and Eugene Washington, MD, executive vice chancellor and provost, appointed a WASC Accreditation Steering Committee to draft UCSF’s proposal, get broad institutional support to execute the mission and help guide the review process.

Speak Out

Students and postdoctoral scholars can offer their comments at an open lunch at noon on Wednesday, Feb. 18, in the Lange Room of Kalmanovitz Library. Staff will have the opportunity to offer comments on Thursday, Feb. 19, at noon in the City Lights Room of Millberry Union. Those who are interested in attending should RSVP by Thursday, Feb. 12 to Veronica Nepveu. Comments also may be sent to a private, secure email address ([email protected]) by those who wish to communicate directly with the WASC team.

Sally Marshall, PhD, vice provost of Academic Affairs, serves as co-chair of the WASC committee, which includes faculty, a postdoctoral scholar, student, staff member, and administrative leaders who represent the Academic Senate, each of the four professional schools and the Graduate Division. As part of a three-step process for accreditation, the UCSF committee in May 2007 submitted to WASC an institutional proposal citing numerous improvement initiatives underway. The WASC Proposal Review Committee approved and praised UCSF’s proposal in July 2007. Read that UCSF Today story. In December 2008, the UCSF committee submitted its Capacity and Preparatory Review (CPR) report, which updated WASC on the progress made since 2007. That CPR report states that “UCSF functions with clear purposes, high levels of institutional integrity, fiscal stability, and organizational structures to fulfill its purposes and is prepared to fulfill its obligations for the WASC Educational Effectiveness Review.” The detailed CPR report focuses on three themes – all priorities linked to the UCSF Strategic Plan, which was released in June 2007. UCSF views the WASC reaffirmation of accreditation process as an opportunity to maintain and enhance its efforts in these three important areas:
  • Improving the learning environment
  • Strengthening learning outcomes and
  • Enhancing diversity to better address the health care needs of the 21st century
  • UCSF recently launched a comprehensive WASC website that includes the entire CPR report and information related to the WASC reaffirmation of accreditation.
Importantly, the CPR report notes that California is feeling the pain of the “global financial crisis” and that the state-funded budget of the University of California is facing additional reductions this fiscal year. UCSF expects even larger budget reductions in fiscal year 2009-2010. While UCSF officials remain committed to further improvements, they say that they “may be forced to delay some actions that require new funding.” One of the projects officially “suspended” per the UC Office of the President is the much-anticipated Teaching and Learning Center, which would serve all UCSF schools and provide a foundation for experiential and interprofessional training in renovated space on the second floor of the library on the Parnassus campus. “We don’t have a restart date at this point,” says Patti Mitchell, senior project manager for Capital Programs & Facilities Management. “If we receive approval soon, we may still meet our original deadline of April 2010. It all depends on when the state can agree upon a budget and when we get approval to proceed with the project.”


In its quest to remain at the forefront of health sciences education and to meet the growing demand for health care professionals, UCSF has made great strides recently to sustain and promote excellence in teaching and learning. These efforts involve five strategies.

Space Plan

The first strategy is to develop a space action plan that takes into account UCSF’s multisite educational environment and includes specific steps to maintain the vitality of the flagship Parnassus campus, as well as a reassessment of the functions and needs at Mission Bay, Laurel Heights and other campus sites. Although it is on hold, the UCSF Teaching and Learning Center (TLC) has been the product of cross-campus planning by representatives from the schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy, the library and the Student Academic Affairs division. The center will house new tools and technologies for educating future health professionals and scientists while supporting a culture of interdisciplinary, interprofessional and transdisciplinary learning programs for students and trainees. A telemedicine teaching facility will provide a multipurpose training ground to enable all health professional education programs to use this rapidly growing technology to bring the specialty health care available at UCSF to its community of patients throughout the Bay Area and the Central Valley. Realizing that the quality of health care and health sciences is enhanced by collaboration and communication, UCSF is working to expand its interprofessional educational opportunities. (More about efforts to improve student learning outcomes is described below.) Other efforts to enhance the learning environment at UCSF include a classroom initiative that has already renovated 40 classrooms, equipping them with video projectors, universal wireless access, new computers and flexible floor plans. Work will continue to upgrade the rest of the classrooms at the Parnassus and Mission Bay campuses, thanks in part to a new endowment fund established by the chancellor to sustain classroom improvements. The Laurel Heights auditorium will be used as a classroom this year. If all goes according to plans, UCSF’s learning environment is expected to grow when the medical center opens a new, integrated hospital complex to serve children, women and cancer patients at Mission Bay. Since the relocation of some clinical services to the Mission Bay hospital complex in 2014 will require clinical teaching space for professional schools, a campuswide committee is evaluating how the move will affect their teaching programs and is developing a Mission Bay education space plan that considers a broad range of teaching space, such as lecture halls, classrooms, clinical skills facilities and student lounge areas. The space plan will be completed this year. In addition, UCSF is updating its overall campuswide space master plan, which is expected to be ready for presentation to the chancellor in early 2009. Space for teaching and learning, as well as student academic services, is an essential part of this planning effort.

Technology, Data Systems

The second strategy is to develop state-of-the-art technology, such as videoconferencing, telemedicine, media and simulation resources, and learning management systems for education space at all sites. To this end, UCSF formed an Education Systems Advisory Committee (ESAC) that was charged with creating a world-class education information system. ESAC produced a five-year plan to expand the innovative use of educational technology and information services. ESAC also identified two other high-priority projects: to identify and prioritize support needs and recommend solutions for creating a central computer technology support service, and to recommend ways in which UCSF can provide valuable educational material and institutional content, using new technologies. “Many universities currently offer both educational and institutional content freely via webcasts and podcasts, and incoming students expect these technologies to be in place here,” the CPR report states. The third strategy calls for developing campuswide systems for continuous data acquisition and dissemination. Improvements have already been made or are underway in the offices of admission and registrar and student information systems. Among the latest developments:
  • A new online course schedule is now in place, which enables students to identify potential elective courses offered outside their professional schools
  • A new scheduling system now enables web-based searches for classroom availability and gives faculty, students and staff an opportunity to see what classes are offered in any campus department and
  • A faculty portal for online entry of final course grades has improved the accuracy of grade reports and provides students with fast and timely access to grades and transcripts
The newly reconstituted Office of Institutional Research has been working to establish campuswide baseline definitions used to collect ethnicity data from students and data-gathering timelines and procedures. Having uniform data categories across the schools and departments will help UCSF measure progress in achieving diversity-related goals and other priorities outlined in the UCSF Strategic Plan.

Education Innovations

The fourth strategy involves exploring innovative programmatic and educational options to break down barriers to optimal learning across the University. To this end, UCSF recently launched the Pathways to Discovery program, which is open to all students and provides opportunities for advancing knowledge, experience and scholarship within the traditional time frame of each degree program. Led by the UCSF School of Medicine and with robust input from each professional school and program on campus, the Pathways to Discovery program will expand its course offerings as other schools are ready to participate. “One of the exciting and totally innovative aspects of Pathways to Discovery is the ability of learners to enter the program at any level of education (student, resident, fellow, faculty member), from any school and at individualized level of depth (single course to certificate program to master’s degree). The program represents one more step in the movement to integrate programs across schools,” says David Irby, PhD, vice dean for education in the School of Medicine. In addition, the medical school’s Haile T. Debas Academy of Medical Educators and the Office of Medical Education have developed program models for faculty development, which can be applied to the broader campus community of learners and faculty. Models of extending the academy to other schools are being discussed.

Recruitment and Retention

The fifth strategy calls for taking a critical look at the strategies for recruitment and retention at UCSF. “UCSF leadership clearly recognizes that our continued success and excellence relies heavily on our ability to attract and retain the best people,” the CPR report states. The importance of recruitment and retention was also underscored in the UCSF Strategic Plan, which called for a number of initiatives, such as expanding mentoring and offering professional development programs for faculty and staff. See this story about the staff initiatives. Two ways to create a positive campus culture for faculty include development of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) – a major initiative that won support from the National Institutes of Health – and the extension of learning and outreach to sites within San Francisco and throughout California that build upon existing community service activities and services provided by all four schools. The CTSI, which works to transform clinical and translational research to ensure that the best health solutions get to patients as quickly as possible, plays an important role in recruitment and retention by providing a range of career development options and offering online support through a website. The CTSI Resource Allocation Program also makes intramural or start-up funding easier for faculty to apply for and receive. The Chancellor’s Council on Faculty Life (CCFL), which is chaired by Marshall, also has spearheaded numerous initiatives aimed at improving work life at UCSF. In fact, some of these measures helped UCSF receive recent recognition by The Scientist as a great place to work. Among the CCFL-led actions to improve faculty life are offering leadership training, creating a formal mentoring program, establishing institutional and social welcoming events, recognizing collaborative research activities, and improving processes for faculty searches and advancement. Initiatives to boost recruitment and retention of staff have included the launch of a leadership development program for high-level and mid-level managers, the introduction of career planning resources to help assess goals, skills and interests, and the implementation of UC’s systemwide learning management system to track coursework designed for career advancement. Community partnerships also contribute to successful recruitment by giving faculty and staff an opportunity to extend their service and impact outside the University. Central to the community service commitment, outlined in the UCSF Strategic Plan, is the University Community Partnerships Program (UCPP). Established in 2006, the UCPP coordinates the many existing partnerships between UCSF and San Francisco-based community organizations and supports new partnerships. More information about the UCPP is available here.


The innovative work in the area of interdisciplinary education at UCSF is due to a group of associate deans from all four schools who were charged by the deans to work together to break down traditional barriers. The importance of providing health sciences students with an interdisciplinary education was identified more than a decade ago by the National Institutes of Health. The CPR report states: “Contemporary health care is more complex and intricate than at any time in history. The model of physicians, pharmacists, nurses, dentists and scientists working in isolation is rapidly being replaced by a collaborative model that views health care as affecting the entire body and therefore requiring all members of the health care team to be engaged in providing care. This shift presents an educational challenge to prepare students to work effectively in teams when their existing curricula are already so demanding, both intellectually and temporally.” The UCSF Interprofessional Education Task Force has led a number of activities, such as hosting Interprofessional Education Day, when students from dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy and physical therapy gather to interact with and learn from one another in small teams focusing on a challenge that requires problem solving and highlights the importance of communication. The event has been held three years in a row and has been well received by the student participants, who evaluated the program. Video of the second annual Interprofessional Education Day is posted on UCSF Today. UCSF has two strategies to improve student learning outcomes, according to the CPR report. The first strategy is to prepare students for opportunities in interprofessional education and health care teamwork. For its part, the task force helped recruit an interprofessional group of faculty to participate in the Program for Educators in Health Professions. This group reviewed existing programs and addressed barriers to the inclusion of interdisciplinary learning at UCSF. Since then, it has launched lunchtime seminars on learning skills, developed video modules of patient communication that will be incorporated into the core curricula of all professional schools, and supported a survey to identify and catalogue all interprofessional curricular offerings to serve as a resource for all students. In other developments, UCSF also has created an online course schedule, adopted a common academic calendar for fiscal year 2009-2010, and planned for the Teaching and Learning Center, which is expected to be the hub for interprofessional education. The second strategy to improve learning outcomes is to encourage graduates to pursue academic careers by fostering opportunities for scholarship, creative activity and educational mentorship. The rationale for motivating more students to pursue careers in academia is that many faculty at UCSF and in health sciences institutions across the United States are nearing retirement age. Indeed, in dentistry today, there are more than 300 vacant faculty positions among 58 schools of dentistry, according to the CPR report. “There is a tremendous shortage of dental educators across the country, so introducing students to the excitement of academic careers is an important way to address this shortage,” says Dorothy Perry, PhD, associate dean for education and admissions in the UCSF School of Dentistry. “There is no better place to explore all aspects of academic careers than in a dynamic institution like UCSF.” And the UCSF School of Nursing expects to see a wave of faculty retirements in the coming years, which reflects the national trend, according to Dean Kathleen Dracup, RN, DNSc. "The aging and imminent retirement of nurse faculty, combined with an already existing shortage of nurse educators, contributes to the acute shortage of nurses in the United States," she says. To address faculty shortages, each professional school identified existing curricular offerings that encourage health professional students to consider academic careers. A summary of the findings for each school is available in the CPR report.


In its strategic plan, UCSF named nurturing diversity as one of the seven strategic directions the campus will take to guide it over the next decade. The plan’s diversity goals include “creating a more diverse campus community, ensuring that UCSF continues to attract the best and most diverse candidates for all educational programs and improving diversity among senior leadership.” “The diversity-related goals of the strategic plan have raised campuswide awareness of the importance of diversity in the learning and working environment at UCSF,” says Harold S. Bernstein, MD, PhD, professor of pediatrics. “We are hoping to demonstrate to the WASC site visit team how diversity at UCSF is not an end in itself, but a valued feature of our educational environment. It is essential to fulfilling our mission of educating the next generation of academic leaders.” One of the ways in which UCSF has worked to enhance the diversity of faculty, students and trainees was the establishment of the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Academic Diversity (CACAD). The CACAD has worked to implement the diversity-related goals outlined in both the strategic plan and the 10-point diversity initiative, adopted in 2007. A story about the 10-point initiative is posted here. To address efforts to create a pipeline of well-qualified and diverse students coming to UCSF, the CACAD formed a subcommittee that took an inventory of existing campus outreach programs designed to increase the pool of students, postdoctoral scholars and faculty from diverse backgrounds. That subcommittee, chaired by Castro, also was charged to conduct a review of best practices for fostering effective outreach programs in academic institutions and to make recommendations for improving the success and impact of UCSF’s outreach endeavors. The subcommittee made specific recommendations, in a detailed report endorsed by the CACAD, to strengthen outreach programs at UCSF. The report’s recommendations are under consideration by campus leadership. The entire academic outreach report (pdf), and a comprehensive inventory of UCSF’s student outreach programs, are posted on the WASC website. To further its outreach efforts to disadvantaged students, UCSF brought back a program called Inside UCSF, which invites students from community colleges and universities to UCSF to hear about career opportunities in health and science. UCSF hosted the program last October and will offer it again this spring. A story about Inside UCSF is posted here. “We are incredibly pleased with the increase in diversity of our medical school entering classes in recent years – now 30 percent,” Irby notes. “This diversity enriches our educational programs and will provide future physician leaders who can better care for the diverse populations of our country.” UCSF also created and continues to implement a communication plan to promote diversity and understanding of the many differences among those in the campus community, including race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, language, abilities, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status, among others. Charged by campus leadership, UCSF Public Affairs, in collaboration with the CACAD and other campus groups, “has made a strong effort to ensure that campuswide diversity events are covered and appropriately featured,” the CPR report states. Communication efforts include the launch of a diversity website that features news and events, recognizes diversity champions, and profiles diverse members of the campus community through a video series called Voices. The website also carries demographic statistics, research and reports about diversity. Other methods to maximize diversity of the faculty include the development of an academic demographic system, advertising about UCSF’s commitment to diversity and improvements to the Academic Affairs website. The academic demographic system is being used to track faculty searches, applicant demographics, national availability data and current trends about existing faculty. Read a story about the academic database here. Soon, exit surveys, developed by the Academic Senate Clinical Affairs Committee, will be expanded and sent to departing faculty to determine their reasons for leaving UCSF. Any differences among groups will be identified and addressed. UCSF has already begun to conduct exit interviews for staff.

Related Links:

UCSF Reaffirmation of Accreditation by WASC

UCSF Submits Action Plan to Reaffirm WASC Accreditation
UCSF Today, Aug. 27, 2007