Shavit Honored by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for Community Leadership

Shira Shavit

Shira Shavit, MD, assistant clinical professor in the UCSF Department of Family and Community Medicine, has been selected as one of 10 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 2010 Community Health Leaders.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation established the Community Health Leaders Award to recognize individuals who overcome daunting obstacles to improve health and health care in their communities. Shavit received the award during a ceremony at the Foundation in Princeton, N.J., on Aug. 12.

Shavit was honored for creating a medical home for former prison inmates and their families. Working in a prison as a young family physician, Shavit found that prisoners with high rates of HIV and hepatitis were being released without health information or a care plan.

She now serves as director of Transitions Clinic in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood, a community-based clinic focused on providing medical and social services for individuals with chronic diseases recently released from prison. Shavit credits Transitions Clinic founders Clemens Hong, MD, and Emily Wang, MD, former UCSF residents, with developing the innovative health care model.

“We have tripled the number of people we incarcerate in the United States in the last 30 years, and we incarcerate far more people than any other nation,” said Shavit in a press release from the Foundation. “One reason for our high incarceration rate is that we have criminalized medical issues like substance abuse and mental health disorders. I am compelled to advocate and work with this population because I don’t think prison is the appropriate place to treat these patients.”

Courage and Commitment

Janice Ford Griffin, Community Health Leaders National Program director, said that the selection committee honored Shavit for her courage and commitment to an often forgotten and unsympathetic population.

“Dr. Shavit has a unique understanding of the barriers prisoners confront to maintain their health as they transition from prison back to their neighborhoods and communities,” Griffin said. “She works to assure that their physical and mental health needs are met within a community context that engages residents and ex-offenders as collaborators for the health of the community in a non-threatening atmosphere.” 

Arnold Perkins, a retired director of the Alameda County Public Health Department in Oakland, said that Shavit has made a lasting change to the state’s incarceration system. “Dr. Shavit is continuously looking to create systematic changes that will insure sustainable, continuous and quality care to all individuals leaving prison,” Perkins said. “It is in these efforts to make lasting change on the massive system of incarceration, with its entrenched politics, that I know Dr. Shavit best.” 

Shavit is an active member of San Francisco’s Reentry Council, working with local leaders to design citywide policies to improve the health of people returning from prison to the San Francisco community. She also designed the curriculum for the first national certificate program, at the City College of San Francisco, to train people with a history of incarceration to become community health workers.

Shavit earned an MD degree at Rush Medical College and completed her residency in Family and Community Medicine at UCSF.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has honored more than 180 Community Health Leaders since 1993. Nominations can be submitted though late October for the 2011 Community Health Leaders Award.  For details on how to submit a nomination, including eligibility requirements and selection criteria, visit

Related Links:

Transitions Clinic

UCSF Department of Family and Community Medicine

Clinic Works to Include Ex-Inmates in Health Care’s Embrace
New York Times, February 4, 2010