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University of California San Francisco

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Susan Desmond-Hellmann named UC San Francisco chancellor

By Corinna Kaarlela

Susan Desmond-Hellmann

Susan Desmond-Hellmann, a physician, pioneering cancer researcher and biotechnology industry executive who most recently served as president of product development for Genentech, today (May 7) was named chancellor of the University of California, San Francisco campus by the University of California Board of Regents.

The appointment takes effect on Aug. 3. It was made on the recommendation of UC President Mark G. Yudof.

“Susan Desmond-Hellmann is an ideal choice for chancellor at UCSF,” Yudof said. “As an accomplished clinician, researcher and manager, she brings all the tools needed to take the campus to even greater heights. That she did her internal medicine and oncology training at UCSF makes the match even more ideal: She knows the institution well.”

Yudof noted that this is a pivotal time for both health care in general and UCSF in particular, with the pending construction of a new hospital at Mission Bay to serve children, women and cancer patients.

“Susan has the credentials to help ensure that California and the university are major players in reshaping the nation’s health care environment,” Yudof said. “And she has the know-how and leadership skills to make sure the Mission Bay hospital is a success.”

Desmond-Hellmann will replace J. Michael Bishop, M.D., who has served as UCSF chancellor since 1998.

Born in Napa, one of seven siblings, the 51-year-old Desmond-Hellmann calls herself a “small-town girl” at heart. She was raised in Reno, Nev., where time spent as a youngster in her father’s pharmacy, listening to his daily chats with family doctors, first sparked her interest in a medical career.

After earning a medical degree at the University of Nevada, Reno, she moved to UCSF as an intern: “I love UCSF,” Desmond-Hellmann said, “and that has not changed since I had a life-changing experience in going there as an intern in 1982, and I have remained an admirer of UCSF.”

Desmond-Hellmann, who is board-certified in internal medicine and medical oncology, went on to serve as assistant professor, hematology-oncology, at UCSF. During her tenure, she was stationed for two years as a visiting faculty member at the Uganda Cancer Institute, studying AIDS and cancer. She spent two years in private practice before returning to clinical research.

Desmond-Hellmann joined Genentech in 1995 as a clinical scientist. She was named chief medical officer in 1996 and was named president for product development in 2004. During her time at the South San Francisco company, she not only oversaw the development of drugs that have become essential tools in battling certain forms of cancer and blindness, but she also mentored a new generation of clinical and translational experts who, she said, “will go on to make even better products in the future.”

Of her return to UCSF as chancellor, Desmond-Hellmann said: “The most important thing to me throughout my entire career, whether as physician or manager or clinical scientist, has been to work on things that truly matter for patients, and this new role has the potential to make an even larger impact on patients through all aspects of UCSF’s mission.”

Among many honors, Desmond-Hellmann in January 2009 joined the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s Economic Advisory Council. She was appointed to the California Academy of Sciences Board of Trustees in July 2008. She was inducted into the Biotech Hall of Fame in 2007 and from 2005 to 2008 served on the board of the American Association for Cancer Research. Fortune Magazine listed her among the “Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Business” six of the last seven years, and the Wall Street Journal has placed her three times on its “Women to Watch” list.

As chancellor of UCSF, Desmond-Hellmann will receive an annual salary of $450,000. Her compensation at Genentech included $725,666 in base salary and $1.3 million in incentive compensation, not including stock-based compensation. Her predecessor at UCSF earns $402,200.

UC seeks to be competitive in the employment markets relevant to its faculty and staff hires, and the $450,000 base salary for this position is still substantially below the going rate for leaders of academic medical centers in the United States. The median chancellor base salary, in UC’s comparison group of 14 public and private institutions with medical schools, was $628,000 in 2008.

Consistent with university policy, Desmond-Hellmann also will receive university-provided housing; an annual automobile allowance of $8,916; payment of packing and moving costs for household effects, library and related equipment; reimbursement of travel expenses for business-related visits to the campus during the transition period; and eligibility for a Mortgage Origination Program loan and payment of relocation costs if she continues in a tenured faculty position after stepping down as chancellor. An annual allocation of campus funding will be established if an active research program is maintained during the appointment as chancellor.

Desmond-Hellmann also will receive standard pension, health and welfare, and senior management benefits, including senior management life insurance, executive business travel insurance, executive salary continuation for disability, accrual of sabbatical leave and an administrative fund.

The University of California, San Francisco, is one of the leading health-science universities in the world. It comprises premier graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy, top graduate and doctoral programs in medical research, and a world-class medical center and teaching hospital. UCSF is distinguished worldwide for its robust research enterprise, which has helped lay the groundwork for scientists’ understanding of the full range of human diseases, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and neurodegenerative diseases. Its medical center, ranked among the top 10 hospitals nationally, has pioneered such areas as fetal and transplant surgeries and heart, cancer and neurovascular innovations. UCSF is ranked second nationally – and first in California – in total funding from the federal government for scientific research, a reflection of the quality of the scientific research conducted. The campus is the second-largest employer in San Francisco, with a work force of 18,600 employees and more than 4,000 students.