2009 UCSF Medals To Honor Four Health Advocates, Innovators

By Robin Hindery

A pathologist who made University history, a health-focused philanthropist, a legendary civil rights advocate and a leading biotechnology innovator are the 2009 recipients of the UCSF Medal, the University’s most prestigious campus award.

This year’s recipients will be honored at the annual Founders Day Banquet, scheduled for April 15. The UCSF Medal, first awarded in 1975, is the University’s equivalent of an honorary degree. While not restricted to individuals who have an association with UCSF, the award recognizes outstanding personal contributions in areas associated with the University’s fourfold mission, such as providing top-quality patient care, improving the understanding of the factors that affect human health and serving the community.

The 2009 recipients are:

  • Dorothy Bainton, MD, a UCSF professor emerita, researcher and administrator who was the first woman to head a department in the UCSF School of Medicine and who has long been a champion of increased leadership roles for women in academia;
  • William K. Bowes Jr., a Bay Area venture capitalist and founder of US Venture Partners, who has channeled many of his investments and philanthropic donations toward advancing medical research and improving health care;
  • Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers of America, labor leader and organizer, and tireless advocate of farmworkers’ rights; and
  • Robert S. Langer, ScD, a world-renowned inventor and biomedical engineer known as the father of controlled drug delivery and tissue engineering.

Dorothy Bainton

Bainton retired from UCSF in 2004 after an extraordinary and groundbreaking rise through the University ranks and 42 years of dedicated service to the campus community. After starting in 1963 as a postdoctoral fellow and researcher in the UCSF Department of Pathology, Bainton became a full professor in 1981 and six years later was appointed department chair — the first woman to hold that position in any department within the School of Medicine. In 1994, she was appointed vice chancellor for academic affairs after having chaired the Academic Senate the previous year. Throughout her career at UCSF, Bainton was an outspoken advocate of the promotion of women in academic medicine and a mentor to many women who aspired to reach the professional heights she herself had achieved. She served on the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on the Status of Women and chaired both the Academic Senate’s Equal Opportunity Committee and the Council on Faculty Life. In 2001, she spearheaded a comprehensive survey of the work environment for UCSF’s female faculty members — just one of the many efforts that earned her the Chancellor’s Award for the Advancement of Women in 2003. In addition to her advocacy work, Bainton made significant contributions to the field of pathology through her research into the development and function of hematopoietic cells in bone marrow, which give rise to all of the body’s mature blood cell types. She has received numerous prestigious honors, including membership in the Institute of Medicine. Bainton was president of the American Association of Pathologists (now the American Society for Investigative Pathology) and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She received her medical degree from Tulane School of Medicine and a master of science degree in pathology from UCSF.

William K. Bowes. Jr.

Bowes, a venture capitalist in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than 50 years, founded US Venture Partners in 1981 and proceeded to channel a large percentage of the firm’s more than $1.8 billion in investments toward the medical industry. He also has donated his own money and time over the years to advancing education, medicine and science, and has long been a strong supporter of UCSF. He currently serves on the board of directors of the UCSF Foundation and was the chairman of the Mission Bay Capital Campaign. He is also on the advisory committee of the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3), which is headquartered at UCSF. Beyond UCSF, Bowes serves on the executive committee of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and recently retired as board chairman of the Exploratorium, San Francisco’s renowned interactive museum of the sciences. He also serves on the boards of the city’s Asian Art Museum, Grace Cathedral and the Hoover Institution. In 2006, the William K. Bowes Jr. Foundation was one of six organizations that collectively committed $14 million to set in motion California’s funding of stem cell research while the state’s own funding efforts were held up by lawsuits. Before founding US Venture Partners, Bowes was the founding shareholder and the first chairman and treasurer of Amgen Inc., a leading therapeutic company in the biotechnology industry. He also was senior vice president and director of the investment bank Blyth, Eastman, Dillon and Co., and later worked as a consultant to Blyth Eastman Paine Webber. Bowes graduated from Stanford University with a BA degree in economics and received an MBA degree from Harvard University.

Dolores Huerta

Huerta, a longtime community organizer, has spent her life using grassroots activism to achieve meaningful social change, both in her home state of California and throughout the country. In 1962, she co-founded with César Chávez the National Farm Workers Association, which eventually became known as the United Farm Workers of America (UFW), AFL-CIO. As the organization’s main negotiator, Huerta secured many rights and protections that had previously been denied to farmworkers, including medical and pension plans, unemployment benefits, and protection from harmful pesticides. Huerta lobbied against federal guest worker programs and spearheaded legislation in the mid-1980s that granted amnesty to farmworkers who had lived, worked and paid taxes in the United States for many years but were denied the benefits of citizenship. Her efforts resulted in the Immigration Act of 1985, which granted amnesty to 1.4 million of the nation’s farmworkers. Since 2003, Huerta has served as president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation in Bakersfield, California, which is dedicated to community organizing. She also teaches community organizing at the University of Southern California, and held a six-month position as a University of California Regent in 2004. Her activism has extended to women’s rights, as well, and she served on the board of the Fund for the Feminist Majority for nearly 20 years. Huerta’s many awards and honors include the Outstanding Labor Leader Award from the California State Senate, the American Civil Liberties Union Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty Award and the Smithsonian Institution’s James Smithson Bicentennial Medal. In 1993, she was the first Latina to be inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Robert S. Langer

Langer is the most cited engineer in history, with more than 1,000 articles to his name and more than 600 issued or pending patents worldwide. He is currently a professor of chemical and biomedical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is one of 14 Institute Professors — MIT’s highest faculty honor. Working in a lab at Children’s Hospital Boston in the mid-1970s, Langer figured out a way to release a stream of large organic molecules into the tissues of lab animals, thereby ushering in a revolutionary system of controlled drug delivery. Since then, he has also pioneered a remote-controlled system in which a drug’s rate of release can be varied using ultrasound, electric pulses and magnetic fields. Langer has also been extremely influential in the relatively new field of tissue engineering. Using tailor-made polymers, he provided a structure for colonizing cells that can eventually form the foundation upon which cells grow into a new, functioning organ. He has received some of the scientific and engineering communities’ top honors, including the United States National Medal of Science, the Charles Stark Draper Prize and the 2008 Millennium Prize, the world’s largest technology prize. He is one of very few people ever elected to all three United States National Academies and the youngest in history — at age 43 — to ever receive that distinction. In 2001, CNN and Time magazine named him one of the 100 most important people in America. Langer received his bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and his doctor of science degree from MIT, both in chemical engineering. From 1995 to 2002, he served as a member and then chairman of the US Food and Drug Administration’s highest advisory board, the Science Board.

Other Honorees

In addition to the four UCSF Medal recipients, the April 15 Founders Day Banquet will honor Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD, the Morris Herzstein Endowed Chair in Biology and Physiology in the School of Medicine, who has been designated a UCSF Faculty Research Lecturer; and Bernard Lo, MD, UCSF professor of medicine and director of the Program in Medical Ethics, who has been designated a Distinguished Clinical Faculty Research Lecturer. The event will also recognize the recipients of the University’s Distinction in Teaching Award and the Distinction in Mentoring Award – a new award created this year. The Founders Day Banquet will be held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in San Francisco. For more information or to request an invitation, please contact Debi Ham at 415/502-4337.

Related Links:

UCSF Medal

All in the Family – Dorothy Bainton Leaves Her Mark on UCSF
UCSF Today, June 30, 2004

US Venture Partners

Dolores Huerta Foundation

Langer Lab
MIT Department of Chemical Engineering