UCSF Contributes to $28 Billion Health Sector in San Francisco

By Lisa Cisneros

UC San Francisco is part of the city’s thriving health sector that collectively generates $28.4 billion to the economy – more than tourism and technology – according to a new economic impact report released on Tuesday.

As a nearly $5 billion enterprise and the second largest employer in San Francisco, next to the city and county itself, UCSF plays a major role in San Francisco’s vast and vibrant health care sector that not only contributes to the economy and quality of life, but advances health worldwide through its scientific discoveries.

Among the highlights of the 2014 San Francisco Health Sector Impact Report:

  • The health sector directly generates 121,677 jobs – 20 percent of all jobs in San Francisco – more job creation than in tourism (76,834) technology (53,319) in 2013;
  • Nearly $5 billion will be invested in the construction of five new medical centers, including UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay, before this decade is over; and
  • Charity care in San Francisco has increased from $155 million in 2009 to $203.7 million in 2012.

Health Care Begins During the Gold Rush

The health sector impact report highlights how the tradition of caring began from the earliest days of the Gold Rush in 1854 when eight Sisters of Mercy arrived in San Francisco from Ireland to begin caring for the poor. By the following year, just in time for a cholera epidemic, they opened St. Mary’s Medical Center, the oldest continually operating hospital in the city.

UCSF’s story begins a decade later in 1864 when South Carolina surgeon Hugh Toland ventured to San Francisco and founded Toland Medical College in North Beach. Now celebrating its 150th anniversary, UCSF is credited in the report for its legacy of leadership in the life sciences.

UCSF’s story began with the founding of Toland Medical College in 1864. Read more about UCSF’s 150-year history here.

“Many San Francisco health institutions have developed innovations that have contributed to the health of people around the world, nation and state. Of particular note, UCSF is one of the world’s leading health and science research universities, and is responsible for many innovations and discoveries that have impacted health care worldwide,” the report states. “The mavericks who discovered proto-oncogenes, normal genes that can be converted to cancer by genetic damage; prions, an infectious agent that causes neurodegenerative diseases; and recombinant DNA – birthing the modern biotech industry – all came to UCSF for a culture of collaboration that was more adventurous than the staid institutions of the east.”

Today, the health care marketplace in the city is large. In addition to UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals, San Francisco is home to Sutter Health California Pacific Medical Center, Chinese Hospital, Jewish Home of San Francisco, Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center, Saint Francis Memorial Hospital, St. Mary’s Medical Center, San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center and the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

UCSF is also recognized for its catalytic role spinning off biotech companies at Mission Bay, where QB3, a consortium run by UCSF, UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz, is a pioneering magnet for the burgeoning biotech boom. UCSF, which broke ground at Mission Bay in 1999, has served as the centerpiece of this thriving innovation zone. UCSF Mission Bay is now a $30.6 billion, 60-acre campus, representing the largest single redevelopment project in the city.

“San Francisco boasts an explosion of more than 100 biotechnology companies, bringing the region’s genius to bear on some of the most vexing medical problems known to humanity,” the report states. “The city’s health sector serves as the epicenter of global innovation, where advanced science is translated into innovative care that ultimately improves health worldwide.”

UCSF’s Medical Milestones

  • First to discover how to transform ordinary adult skin cells into cells that, like embryonic stem cells, are capable of developing into any cell in the human body.
  • First to discover the precise recombinant DNA techniques that led to the creation of a hepatitis B vaccine.
  • First to perform in-utero fetal surgery.
  • First to clone an insulin gene into bacteria, leading to the mass production of recombinant human insulin 
to treat diabetes.
  • First to develop prenatal tests for sickle cell anemia and thalassemia.
  • First to discover that missing pulmonary surfactants are the culprit in the death of newborns with respiratory 
distress syndrome; first to develop a synthetic substitute for it, reducing infant death rates significantly.

For more internal-facing stories from the UCSF community, please visit Pulse of UCSF.