UCSF Leaders Pay Tribute to Washington

By Lisa Cisneros

Eugene Washington, MD, executive vice chancellor and provost, this week caps his 20-year career at UCSF, where he ascended the academic ranks to become one of the University’s most respected and beloved leaders.

Eugene Washington and Mark Laret
At his farewell tribute on Jan. 14, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Eugene Washington stands with Mark Laret, chief executive officer of UCSF Medical Center.

Washington will leave UCSF — where he first stepped foot as a medical student in 1972 — to become vice chancellor of UCLA Health Sciences and dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine on Monday, Feb. 1.

About 200 UCSF leaders and colleagues gathered at UCSF on Jan. 14 for a tribute to Washington that ran the gamut from humorous to sentimental, awe-struck admiration while his wife, Marie, and daughter sat by his side.

A professor of gynecology and epidemiology, Washington is an internationally renowned clinical investigator and health policy scholar who has been a leader in assessing medical technologies and shaping national health policies. He was named executive vice chancellor in 2003 after having chaired the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at UCSF from 1996 to 2004.

Mark Laret, chief executive officer of UCSF Medical Center, praised Washington for his integrity, honesty and values, saying his “legacy will live long after he leaves UCSF.”

Sue Desmond-Hellmann and Eugene Washington
UCSF Chancellor Sue Desmond-Hellmann presents Eugene Washington with a certificate of appreciation for more than “20 years of outstanding service” at UCSF.

Washington leaves UCSF in good hands. He is credited with these achievements:

  • shepherding the highly inclusive two-year process to draft UCSF’s first-ever strategic plan, a roadmap for development over the next decade;
  • leading the implementation of the 10-point diversity initiative;
  • promoting campuswiide programs that enhanced quality-of-life for faculty, staff and students;
  • playing a pivotal role in launching the Clinical and Translational Science Institute; and
  • co-founding the Medical Effectiveness Research Center (MERC) for Diverse Populations, which promotes health and prevents disease in racially/ethnically diverse populations in part by developing and evaluating interventions to eliminate disparities.

UCSF Chancellor Sue Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH, presented Washington with a plaque in appreciation for more than 20 years of outstanding University leadership. “Add me to the Gene Washington fan club,” she said, acknowledging him as a “great leader. It has been my honor to work with you for six months,” she said.

Commitment to Public Service

Washington’s leadership style and personal qualities were repeatedly recognized — especially his integrity, boundless optimism, unlimited energy and commitment to values.

A native of Houston, Texas, Washington’s values stem from his childhood where he grew up in the segregated south as the son of a minister father and mother who was a homemaker.

“The two influences that have shaped my life are high expectations that I would excel in school and even higher expectations that I would use my education to excel in public service with the aim of improving the lives of others,” he told UCLA Today.

Washington’s public service reaches far beyond UCSF. In 1997, he was elected to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences, where he serves on the governing Council of IOM. He also serves on the boards of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the California Wellness Foundation, Common Sense Media, the California HealthCare Foundation and the Congressionally-mandated Scientific Management Review Board of the National Institutes of Health.

A 1976 graduate of the UCSF School of Medicine, Washington completed graduate studies at both UC Berkeley and Harvard schools of public health and residency training at Stanford University. He worked for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before joining the faculty at UCSF in 1989.

Eugene Washington posing with colleagues at his party
Eugene Washington stands with, from left, Kathy Dracup, dean of the UCSF School of Nursing, Patricia Calarco, dean of the UCSF Graduate Division and Gail Schechter, director of the Center for BioEntrepreneurship at UCSF during his farewell reception.

Washington has won many honors and awards, including the UCSF School of Medicine 1999 Alumnus of the Year, the highest honor awarded by the Alumni-Faculty Association and the UCSF Martin Luther King Jr. Award in 2002, recognizing his extraordinary efforts to promote campus diversity. He was inducted into the Gold-Headed Cane Society for his significant scholarly achievements and received the Outstanding Service Medal from the US Public Health Service.

Wanda Ellison-Crockett, assistant provost, thanked Washington for being a supportive mentor and a great manager who showed her “the valuable lesson of collaboration and inclusiveness.” “It’s been a wonderful ride supporting your vision,” she said.

Mike Bishop, MD, former chancellor, commended Washington for his intellect and unimpeachable integrity. He said UCLA is lucky to land him.

For his part, Washington, a member of the UCSF community for 37 years, thanked the UCSF family for its trust and support. “It has been my profound honor to have studied and served in our extraordinary UCSF community.”

Photos by David Hand