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UCSF Hosts First-Ever All-Alumni Weekend

By Elizabeth Fernandez

For the first time, UCSF is hosting a campuswide alumni reunion this weekend that will unite all four professional schools — dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy — and the Graduate Division.

More than 1,700 alumni and friends are expected to attend. They represent 24 different states and three countries, making this reunion the largest alumni event in UCSF history. 

Designed as a celebration of the role of education in UCSF’s international leadership in health sciences innovation, the alumni weekend will be held at San Francisco’s historic Palace Hotel and on the Parnassus and Mission Bay campuses. It will feature more than 60 activities including a breakfast with Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH, campus and lab tours, and an evening at the San Francisco Symphony.

Sahar Mirfarsi, DDS

Sahar Mirfarsi, DDS

Many UCSF graduates are prominent national leaders and members of the UCSF faculty. In fact, Gladstone Senior Investigator Robert Grant, MD, MPH, a UCSF professor of medicine who graduated from the UCSF School of Medicine, was recently named to the 2012 TIME 100, the magazine’s annual list of the world’s 100 most influential people. Read more

“It brings me so much joy when I think about my years at UCSF,’’ said Sahar Mirfarsi, DDS, a 2008 graduate of the UCSF School of Dentistry is among those attending the homecoming. Mirfarsi is practicing general dentistry in the Los Angeles area. She has served as a volunteer in numerous community organizations including health clinics in underserved areas, and currently holds leadership positions with the San Fernando Valley Dental Society and the Iranian American Dental Association.

Catherine Dodd, PhD, RN

Catherine Dodd, PhD, RN

“This event is an amazing opportunity for me to…visit my colleagues, mentors and friends,’’ Mirfarsi said. “Not only is it vital for our profession, but also individually to stay in touch, exchange ideas and communicate with one another…What a great event to combine it all. I cannot wait to see my colleagues, especially my favorite mentors.’’

Catherine Dodd, PhD, RN, director of the San Francisco Health Service System and board member of the National Committee to Protect Social Security and Medicare, also plans to attend.

UCSF All-Alumni Weekend

The UCSF alumni festivities begin this Friday night with an all-alumni kickoff reception from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.

Various lectures and panel discussions on the state of health care will be held on Saturday. Alumni and guests can also learn about the innovative research and instruction taking place at UCSF. Guided and self-guided tours will be conducted at numerous facilities including the Teaching and Learning Center, the Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building, the new Neurosciences Laboratory and Clinical Research Building, and the robotic pharmacy.

A free shuttle bus will be provided from the Palace Hotel to events on the Mission Bay and Parnassus campuses. Childcare is available upon request.

Information on activities can be found online or by calling 415/476-5834.

Dodd has worked as a nurse in a mobile health van serving farm workers, as a perinatal nurse for high-risk babies, as director of women’s health at UCSF-affiliated San Francisco General Hospital and as deputy chief of staff to former Mayor Gavin Newsom for Health & Human Services in San Francisco. More than 20 years after receiving her Bachelor’s degree in nursing, she returned to school and completed her PhD in sociology in 2007 at the UCSF School of Nursing, where she studied end-of-life policies in California.  

“I’m looking forward to talking with colleagues old and new across disciplines about what we have yet to accomplish in prevention and treatment for all,’’ Dodd said.

“What a wonderful idea to have the entire UCSF campus celebrate together. We are all proud UCSF alumni!’’ said Catherine Angell Sohn, PharmD, founder and president of Sohn Health Strategies, LLC, a consultant to pharmaceutical, biotech, medical devices and consumer health care companies. Previously, she was senior vice president of worldwide business development and strategic alliances for GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare.

Catherine Angell Sohn, PharmD

Catherine Angell Sohn, PharmD

Sohn graduated from the UCSF School of Pharmacy in 1977 and won the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year award in 2000. She is a second-generation, UCSF-trained pharmacist — her father, Vincent H. Angell, graduated in 1952. Sohn noted that this year’s reunion promises to be extra special for her class.

“We will celebrate 35 years of professional careers following graduation,’’ she said. “Additionally, we will say goodbye with profound personal gratitude to our dean and friend, Dr. Mary Anne Koda-Kimble,’’ who is retiring after 14 years at the helm of the School of Pharmacy.

Robert Handin, MD, will commemorate the occasion by “recycling’’ the Gold Headed Cane he received 45 years ago during his graduation from the UCSF School of Medicine. Each year, the cane is awarded to a senior medical student selected by classmates as being the most representative of a true physician. Handin will also deliver an address to the Gold Headed Cane Society that will “explain what the cane and I have been doing for the past 45 years.’’

Handin is professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and executive vice chairman of the Department of Medicine and co-director of the hematology division at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. A leading expert in the field of platelet function and coagulation, he is the editor of a leading textbook on hematology and past president of the American Society of Hematology.

For Handin, one particular memory stands out from his time at UCSF:

Robert Handin, MD

Robert Handin, MD

“I did my third-year rotation in obstetrics at San Francisco General Hospital and, like all students, was dying to deliver a baby. The OB service would only let students deliver uncomplicated cases, usually mothers who had had multiple previous pregnancies. I was assigned a mother who spoke no English and was having her fifth baby. I spent most of the day and half the night following her labor. As the time for her delivery approached, the resident took me aside to explain the delivery process. He said he had only one inviolate rule:  ‘Whatever you do, do not drop the baby.’ I nodded sagely and kept repeating the mantra, ‘Do not drop the baby.’

“I delivered the baby easily, which was a magical moment. I was thrilled that I had helped bring a tiny, black-haired little boy into this world, and relieved that I did not drop him. After I had calmed down, I decided that I would call my wife and share the experience with her. I went through the story in great detail. I felt 10 feet tall and like a ‘real’ doctor. She didn’t seem too interested. So I asked her, ‘Don’t you think it’s great that I just delivered a baby?’ She said, in a sleepy voice, ‘Yes, but it’s 3 in the morning and I need to sleep.’

“Now, 45 years later, with two children and six grandchildren, we still laugh over the 3 a.m. phone call and my first delivery.’’

A Few of UCSF's Distinguished Alumni

Graduate Division:

MacArthur Fellow Victoria Hale (PhD ’90) founded One World Health, the first nonprofit pharmaceutical company in the U.S. Under her leadership, the company developed a new cure for the tropical disease visceral leishmaniasis and developed a technology to reduce the cost of malaria drugs by more than 10-fold. Her new venture, Medicines360, is a hybrid nonprofit/ for-profit company focused on women’s reproductive health. “UCSF, as a public institution with creative entrepreneurs, great scientists and a global health perspective, combines all that I have valued in my education, my training and my career.”

School of Dentistry

Jacqueline Kotula (DDS ’09) runs Dental Project Peru, a nonprofit providing emergency and basic dental care to the most impoverished people of the Peruvian Andes. Since 2003, Kotula and her teams of volunteer dentists have treated tens of thousands of patients, many of whom walked barefoot for days to receive care. “As president of my class while at UCSF, I had the opportunity to work with our visionary dean and faculty. They helped hone the leadership skills that have been critical to doing the work I was meant for, in Peru.

School of Medicine

Richard Carmona (MD ’79, MPH) was born into a poor Hispanic family in New York City, and experienced homelessness, hunger and health disparities in his youth. He went on to graduate first in his class at UCSF, receiving the “Gold-Headed Cane Award,” and to hold leadership positions in the public and private sectors be­fore being nominated the 17th Surgeon General of the United States. During his tenure, Carmona released many land­mark reports, one being on the dangers of second-hand smoke that led to indoor smoking bans. “I’m grateful to UCSF for the scholarship support I received and for preparing me for the future. My UCSF education has allowed me to work toward my lifelong goal of being a physi­cian leader nationally and globally.”

School of Nursing

Jennie Chin Hansen (MS ’71, RN, FAAN) is the past president of AARP, the nation’s largest membership organization, and former CEO of San Francisco’s On Lok, the first integrated acute and long-term care system in the nation. During her nearly 25-year tenure, On Lok culminated in a 1997 legislated Medicare program now available to all 50 states. “I arrived at UCSF during the Vietnam era. My nursing program was as unstructured as the times. I developed the necessary critical thinking skills to manage, negotiate and craft my own curriculum and to find a way to contribute to bettering society. These are skills I have used every day of my career.”

School of Pharmacy

Raymond J. Townsend (PharmD ’77) revolutionized his field by inventing the discipline of pharmacoeconomics. He coined the phrase, coauthored the first book on the topic, and started the first scientific-based pharmacoeconomic outcomes research group in the industry. “UCSF has always chosen people from broad-based backgrounds and given them the breadth of knowledge and confidence to go out and do things differently. When I joined the pharmaceutical industry, I was only one of 12 PharmDs. By taking a chance on me, UCSF gave me the self-assurance to spread my wings and create my own path.”