Dean Schillinger Receives 2016 James Irvine Foundation Award

By Scott Maier

Dean Schillinger, MD, is one of six Californians awarded this year’s James Irvine Leadership Award, for his clinical work focused on diabetes in vulnerable populations.

The awards, announced this week in Sacramento, recognize and support California leaders who are advancing innovative and effective solutions to significant state issues.

Schillinger, professor of medicine and chief of the UCSF Division of General Internal Medicine at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, is the only health care awardee.

“This award recognizes the importance of literacy to the health of Californians,” Schillinger said. “As a doctor, I’ve learned how low health literacy can maim and kill. After 25 years in practice, I’ve learned that my most important role is that of a literacy teacher and advocate, in my clinic, in my community and in my state.“ 

Schillinger co-founded “The Bigger Picture” campaign in partnership with Youth Speaks. The campaign pairs disadvantaged teens with mentors to develop poetry on type 2 diabetes as a social justice issue affecting their quality of life and collective future. The young poets have performed for more than 5,000 students in the Bay area and created 25 public service videos with more than a million views.

The James Irvine Foundation awarded $200,000 to each of the recipient’s organizations to support their breakthroughs on several critical issues.

“This award provides validation of the imperative to re-engineer our health systems to better accommodate the communication needs of all Californians, especially those with limited heath literacy, in what I call improving ‘organizational health literacy,’” said Schillinger, founder of the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations.

“Foundation support will elevate the visibility of the diabetes epidemic in California’s youth to a policy audience and catalyze an active public discourse around its potential solutions.”

The Irvine Foundation has honored more than 70 Californians with a Leadership Award since the program began in 2006. Award recipients are chosen by an independent selection committee that reviews nominations based on several criteria, including the significance, effectiveness and innovation of the leader’s work.

Learn more about the 2016 award recipients »