Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann Tells UCSF Community She's Stepping Down

UC San Francisco's Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH, announced to the campus community on Tuesday that she will step down as chancellor on March 31 to become the chief executive officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Here is the letter she sent to the UCSF community:

Dear Colleagues,

I have some important news that I want to share with you.  In my fifth year as your Chancellor, I have made a decision to take on a new challenge, so I am announcing today that I will be stepping down as Chancellor on March 31, 2014 and will become the CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on May 1, 2014.

My passion for UCSF, our mission and my colleagues have made the decision to change very difficult.  I know that many of you will be surprised, so I want you to know my reasons. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation teams up with partners around the world to take on some tough challenges: overcoming extreme poverty and poor health in developing countries and improving America’s education system. The Foundation funds innovative ideas in order to remove barriers that prevent people from making the most of their lives.  The Foundation’s credo that “every person deserves the chance to lead a healthy and productive life” resonates with my own life-long philosophy, and my hope is that my leadership can contribute to creating a more equitable world.

I want you to know how positive I feel about UCSF and the progress we have made since I arrived as Chancellor. We have incredible momentum on many fronts, and I have great confidence in the people of our university and the likelihood for even greater future success. I have let President Janet Napolitano know of my interest in continuing a close relationship with UCSF by remaining on the UCSF faculty and continuing to serve UCSF in other meaningful ways.

I am thrilled with the progress we have made during my time at UCSF in all our areas of focus: patients, research, education, people, and finances. UCSF Medical Center has continued to rank among the best hospitals in the country according to the US News & World Report, and our clinical efforts are enhanced by our focus on safety, quality, access and affordability.  UCSF remains a powerhouse for research despite an intensely competitive environment. Our fundamental science is particularly notable, and I believe that our leadership in Precision Medicine will enable UCSF to advance health in even greater ways in the future. Our professional schools and Graduate Division all rank among the nation’s most prestigious advanced study programs in the health sciences, and I believe our student support fundraising efforts, most recently with the unprecedented $60 Million dollar endowment for the Discovery Fellows Program, will continue to allow the finest trainees to study at UCSF. Most importantly, we have accomplished this while maintaining our fundamental commitment to our public mission in our local community, California and throughout the world.

Without a doubt, the people of UCSF — faculty, staff, students and volunteers — are what make this university great.  I have been pleased by our progress in mentorship, leadership development and management training, and excited to see the high level of talent of the individuals who come and stay at UCSF. Finally, the progress we have made in financial planning and efficiency has been essential in allowing us to support the incredible mission of UCSF, and we have recently experienced the two most prolific fundraising years in our history.

I often describe UCSF to others as an institution with great intellect and innovation coupled with an aspiration of “advancing health worldwide,” devoted at every level to serving the public.  I’m looking forward to drawing on my exceptional experiences at UCSF as I take on the role of CEO with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and focus on some of the world’s most difficult challenges. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to contribute to that effort.


Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH
Arthur and Toni Rembe Rock Distinguished Professor