UCSF Salutes Three for Commitment to Advancing Diversity

By Juliana Bunim

Priscilla Jane Banks, Cynthia Zamora, Carol Gross and CSF Chancellor Sue DesmondFrom left, Priscilla Jane Banks, Cynthia Zamora and Carol Gross stand with UCSF Chancellor Sue Desmond-Hellmann upon receiving the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award at UCSF.
Three members of the UCSF community were recognized on Jan. 25 for their extraordinary leadership in promoting and advancing mutual respect, understanding and appreciation for diversity at UCSF. Chancellor Sue Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH, presented the awards ceremony at the ceremony in Cole Hall, part of the campuswide celebration of the life and legacy of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. The 2010 Martin Luther King, Jr. awardees are:
  • Carol A. Gross, PhD, Department of Cell and Tissue Biology at UCSF
  • Priscilla Jane Banks, UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Cynthia Zamora, a fourth-year student, UCSF School of Medicine

Carol A. Gross

As chair of the Faculty Diversity Committee which she also established, Gross evaluates the status of underrepresented minorities in the basic sciences at UCSF and launches new initiatives to improve their situations. The most recent of these initiatives is the Diversity Workshop, a mandatory one-day session designed to increase awareness of minority issues for all incoming graduate students. Student and faculty members alike say the workshop is one of the most enlightening experiences they’ve had at UCSF, and changes the way they view one another.
Carol GrossCarol Gross
Gross has also been instrumental in establishing and maintaining the excellence of the Summer Research and Training Program at UCSF. A central goal of the program is to recruit underrepresented minorities into renowned UCSF laboratories for summer research as undergraduates. Many of these students have ultimately decided to attend graduate school in the biological sciences following participation in the program. Gross writes the National Sciences Foundation-Research Experience for Undergraduates grant that funds 12 slots for the program, and has a major role in reviewing applications and orchestrating the placement of students in the labs that best match their interests and pursuits. Many underrepresented students also find their place at UCSF thanks to Gross’s dedication to coordinating admissions for underrepresented students for individual graduate programs. She works closely with admissions committees in Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Genetics and Developmental Biology as well as Biophysics BMI and interviews all underrepresented candidates for both programs. Additionally, Gross works to convert national directives on minority training into action by arranging for UCSF faculty to attend two large national minority research meetings: the Annual Biomedical Research Conferences for Minority Students and the Society for Advancing Chicanos and Native Americans in Science. But Gross’ dedication to revolutionizing the role of ethnic minorities in the basic sciences programs at UCSF doesn’t end at her official duties. For 17 years, she has mentored minority students and is known amongst faculty and students as approachable, easy to talk to and especially empathetic with students.

Priscilla Jane Banks

Banks, director of Community Programs at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, is recognized for her devotion to the diverse communities of the San Francisco Bay Area. According to colleagues, Banks can think of nothing better than having a job that allows her the opportunity to spend all of her time – and she knows no limits when it comes to time - uplifting those who are marginalized and connecting them with UCSF’s strengths. Renowned throughout the San Francisco Bay Area for her creativity and determination, Banks’ passions fall broadly into two categories: promoting the health of underserved communities by creating collaborations between their leaders and UCSF, and advancing the careers of young people of color from disadvantaged backgrounds. Banks had reached out to African American churches across San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa and San Mateo County, working on behalf of the health of their congregants and forging relationships through recruiting community leaders to the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Community Advisory Board (CAB) established in 2005. Banks fostered the creation of the Faith Communities Committee, which was formed as part of the CAB board, which includes more than 20 community faith leaders from across the Bay Area. To date, the Faith Committee has held three gatherings to reinforce the work of churches and each has attracted between 100 to 150 participants representing 30 to 40 churches. But Banks’ work is not limited to her own African American community. She also helped launch and still maintains the San Francisco Women’s Cancer Network through UCSF Avon program at San Francisco General Hospital, created to provide services to low-income women with breast cancer and to promote breast cancer screening. Among her greatest accomplishments is her assistance in the creation of the Minority Training Program in Cancer Control Research. Developed in 1998, the program encourages underrepresented master’s level students to continue on to doctorate study and to pursue careers in research. Funded by the National Cancer Institute, the grant has spawned replication at other universities, and as of late 2010, 22.5 percent of UCSF’s participants had gone on to doctoral programs and the majority cite their involvement in the program as a strong influence on their plans.

Cynthia Zamora

Fourth-year medical student Cynthia Zamora furthered her interest in working with underserved communities while studying at San Francisco General Hospital. Alongside Robert Rodriguez, MD, Zamora embarked on a study examining the impact of the fear of discovery Latino undocumented immigrants feel while going to the emergency department. Zamora was involved in every step of the project, from initial literature searches to grant applications and implementation including the screening and enrollment of virtually all of the patients in the study. As a result of her hard work and dedication, Zamora presented the research at the UCSF Health Disparities Research Symposium in October 2010. While balancing her medical studies with her research, Zamora still makes time to volunteer with several humanitarian organizations, including serving as a medical student board member and Officer of Community Education for Clinica Marin Baro that serves indigent Latino parents. As a lifetime member and vice chair of the Latino Medical Student Association, Zamora has promoted diversity in health care through community mentorship of high school and undergraduate students, while fostering collaboration with other campus organizations such as the Student National Medical Association and Philippine United Students Organization. Zamora’s dedication to mentorship is also prevalent in her work with Chicanos in Health Education. As president, Zamora coordinated collaboration among students for outreach to local schools aimed to increase the number of Latinos in the health professions, provided health education at health fairs in the Bay Area communities, and organized campus activities to promote greater understanding of Latino culture. In recognition of all her hard work, Zamora was recently awarded a scholarship from the National Hispanic Health Foundation for her academic achievements, leadership and commitment to the Hispanic community. Group photo by Susan Merrell

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