UCSF Breaks Ground on State-of-the-Art Mission Bay Medical Center

By Louise Chu and Juliana Bunim

Attending the Oct. 26 groundbreaking ceremony, from left, are California Senator Mark Leno, San Francisco Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, Dede Wilsey, UCSF Chancellor Sue Desmond-Hellmann and US Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who listen to opening remarks from Mark Laret, chief executive officer of UCSF Medical Center.

After a decade in the works, UCSF broke ground on Tuesday on a state-of-the-art and sustainable medical center at Mission Bay – a 289-bed, 878,000 square-foot complex that promises to transform care for women, children and cancer patients.

More than 200 community members, elected officials, donors and UCSF leaders, faculty and staff and patients celebrated the milestone, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, UC President Mark Yudof, UCSF Medical Center CEO Mark Laret and UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond- Hellmann, MD, MPH.

The bright and sunny occasion matched the upbeat mood of those attending the invitation-only ceremony and luncheon under tents on the site where tractors are ready to roll. The celebration continues today (Oct. 27) for employees and members of the community.

“Today we celebrate champions at UCSF who have made this special day possible,” Laret said as he welcomed the crowd.

The groundbreaking is the culmination of nearly a decade of work by UCSF faculty, staff, donors and community advisory groups who together are bringing San Francisco its first completely new hospital in 30 years. 

Celebrate the Groundbreaking

Please join UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital for a grand community celebration on October 27, 1 – 6 p.m. All UCSF staff, faculty, students, and neighbors from the surrounding neighborhoods of Mission Bay, Potrero Hill, Dogpatch and Bayview are invited to the join in the fun. This family-friendly event will take place at 3rd and 16th streets at Mission Bay.

  • Tour mock-up patient rooms
  • Learn about sustainable design
  • Meet local farmers
  • Savor cooking demonstrations from local chefs
  • Enjoy live music and dance
  • Rejuvenate with fitness and activities

“We are here to celebrate a very major milestone in the history of UCSF, the City of San Francisco, the County of San Francisco and the state of California,” Laret continued. “Just imagine that in four years we’ll be looking out at a spectacular new Benioff Children’s hospital, a women’s hospital and a cancer hospital. It will be a place of exceptional advanced technology where the next lifesaving techniques like fetal surgery will be introduced.”

Blazing a Trail

Pelosi noted that this $1.5 billion project is made possible in part by funds from the federal economic recovery act, which total about a half billion dollars for biomedical research and construction at the University. “UCSF represents what is best about our city, it is always blazing a trail,” said Pelosi. “By breaking ground we are building again on that tradition of innovation and wellness.”

The new medical center’s location at Mission Bay will bring UCSF’s renowned research facilities and its world-class patient care together, shrinking the distance between research scientists, physicians and other health care professionals. “Research, clinical care and biotech are coming together to advance clinical care worldwide,” said Desmond-Hellmann. The new medical center is a “model of modern healing incorporating modern standards of energy-efficiency and sustainability.”

While the entire project has been sustainably designed and is targeting LEED gold certification, within the walls of the facility, “it’s all about patients and care,” said Pelosi, pointing to the “star of the day” in Paddy O’Brien, an 11-year-old UCSF patient, diagnosed two years ago with Ewing Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. “It’s about coming to some of the nation’s best providers for hope.” 

In addition to helping with the actual groundbreaking, O’Brien read an original poem titled “Needles.”

Desmond-Hellmann also noted the efforts of local community members, including San Francisco Supervisor Sophie Maxwell and State Senator Mark Leno, who helped UCSF get approvals for the rooftop helipad, which as the only helipad in the city, will be used to bring critically ill newborns, children and pregnant women to UCSF from remote hospitals for care. 

For Corrine Woods, a member of the UCSF Community Advisory Group (CAG) who witnessed the groundbreaking for the existing Mission Bay campus in 1999, this latest development represents “quite a moment” in UCSF history. “We’ve waited a long time to get to this point,” said Woods, who also handled a shovel as a member of the community.

The new hospital complex also will enable UCSF to expand clinical services at its other facilities, including Mount Zion and Parnassus Heights. “Starting to build the new hospital at Mission Bay means growth,” said Desmond-Hellmann. “And it means we can renovate at [other locations] and gives us some breathing room.”

UC President Yudof echoed the impact of the medical center. “It’s impossible to over state,” he said. “The hospital will transform the neighborhood, will transform the city and will transform the region. But more importantly, it will transform the lives of our patients.”

Lynne and Marc Benioff enjoy the groundbreaking ceremony.

As the city’s second largest employer, UCSF and the new medical center at Mission Bay will also be a significant contributor to the local economy. “The real important thing is to try and respond to what happened to the economy,” said Dennis Antenore, a longtime member of the CAG and former city planning commissioner. This development is “a real shot in the arm for the local economy by employing local people.”

The new facility would not be possible without the generous gifts from its community of donors. San Francisco residents Lynne and Marc Benioff donated $100 million toward the now-named UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, the Atlantic Philanthropies and its founder Charles F. Feeney made a $125 million matching gift and two additional anonymous pledges of $25 million each were also made. These gifts bring the total raised to $375 million – nearly two-thirds of the fundraising goal of $600 million.

The Benioffs are now taking the lead on a new social media fundraising campaign, Challenge for the Children, which for the first time at UCSF is seeking to tap into the growing movement of digital activism to raise awareness of and dollars for UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. Lynne Benioff on Tuesday announced the launch of the novel campaign, which has already drawn support from social media devotees including Ashton Kutcher and MC Hammer.

Individuals and teams can register and donate online at the Causes website, or through the UCSF Facebook page.

Photos by Elisabeth Fall/fallfoto.com

Related Links:

UCSF launches social media fundraising campaign for Benioff Children’s Hospital, UCSF News Release, October 26, 2010

Community Invited to Celebrate Groundbreaking of UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay, UCSF Today, October 25, 2010

UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay website