2019 Founders Day Awards Honor Extraordinary Commitment to Public and University Service

By Nina Bai

Founders Day award winner standing in a group
The 2019 Founders Day Award winners (from left): Amy Kangwankij, RN, BSN; Jonathan Butler, PhD; Caroline Prioleau; Monica McLemore, PhD, MPH, RN; Susan Bluestone; Daniel Ciccarone, MD, MPH; Jody Spelman Lesko; Melanie Callen, MEd; Eleanor Chung, MD; Alesia Woods; Jane Czech, MS, MBA; and Cynthia Watchmaker, MBA, MEd.

Twelve faculty, staff and students were honored for their public service, exceptional service to UC San Francisco and excellence in nursing at this year’s UCSF Founders Day Awards.

The awardees were celebrated at a luncheon Friday that showcased their extraordinary accomplishment and dedicated service to the UCSF community and beyond.

“It’s a great pleasure for me each year to host this event. It’s one of UCSF’s great traditions; a time for us all to gather together and recognize our outstanding community, a community that is now over 27,000 strong,” said UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS, in his opening remarks. “Our progress, our achievements, our impact is all about the people that come to work every day. I think we can all take pride in our accomplishments over the last year as together we have worked to advance all of our missions of education, research, health care and, importantly, public service.”

The following awards were given for 2019:

Chancellor Award for Public Service

Established in 1970 by former Chancellor Philip R. Lee, this award honors members of the University who have performed outstanding service to the community.

Melanie Callen, MEd
Child development and education specialist at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital

The Chancellor Award for Public Service in the staff category was awarded to Melanie Callen, MEd, whose devotion to child education advocacy has had immense impact throughout the UCSF and local public school communities. Callen is a child development and education specialist in the Department of Pediatrics at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and has been at UCSF for 14 years.

Callen conducts in-clinic and on-site school assessments, attends Individualized Education Program meetings as a patient and family advocate, and trains educators and clinicians in the developmental and educational needs of children at the ZSFG Multi-Disciplinary Assessment Center. She holds the unique position of teaching about child development, diagnosis of learning and developmental disorders, and complex navigation of special education and therapeutic services and policies to trainees of all levels in the UCSF School of Medicine, UCSF Pediatric Residency program, and the Departments of Family & Community Medicine. She works tirelessly to help each child fulfill his or her learning potential, regardless of barriers, visiting children in the classroom, providing detailed updates on each child’s progress, and brainstorming better care plans.

“School administrators, therapists, and community leaders trust her insight and partnership, thus amplifying individual child advocacy,” said Eleanor Chung, MD, assistant professor clinical professor of pediatrics, in nominating Callen. “On any school or clinic day, children run up to Ms. Callen to give hugs and high fives – she clearly shares her affection generously and makes every child feel special, as she does with each trainee and colleague.”


Daniel Ciccarone, MD, MPH
Professor of family and community medicine

The Chancellor Award for Public Service in the faculty category was awarded to Daniel Ciccarone, MD, MPH, who is professor of family and community medicine. Ciccarone is a leading expert on the opioid epidemic and has turned research into action in representing the needs of the most under-served and overlooked.

“Dr. Ciccarone represents the ideal of a clinical and academic researcher who has dedicated his life’s work to public service,” said Sarah Mars, PhD, assistant professional researcher, in nominating Ciccarone. “For many years this involved low profile ‘behind-the-scenes’ volunteer service, bringing assistance to street drug users well beyond the demands of his official position and advocating for improved services.”

Ciccarone has done extensive on-the-ground research in his NIH-funded Heroin in Transition study, learning from injection drug users about their experience. He has developed protocols for syringe exchange, fentanyl testing, peer distribution of naloxone, and buprenorphine treatment that have been adopted nationwide. He frequently appears on international, national and local media, has testified in front of Congress, and has consulted for countless governmental organizations on evidence-based drug policies and compassionate, long-term solutions.


Jonathan Butler, PhD
Postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Cardiology

The Chancellor Award for Public Service in the student/learner category was awarded to Jonathan Butler, PhD, who is a postdoctoral scholar studying populations disproportionately burdened by health disparities and a dedicated champion for disadvantaged communities.

Butler helps lead interventional trial studies at the NURTURE Center, an interdisciplinary, translational research center that seeks to understand the “biology of adversity” and its impact on health. His latest research looks at how socioeconomic disadvantage affects obesity and cardiovascular risk among black and Latinx individuals.

Butler holds a master of divinity degree and PhD in medical sociology from Howard University and has been deeply engaged with the African-American and faith-based communities. He was appointed to serve on the San Francisco Sugary Drinks Distributor Tax Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations for how to invest “Soda Tax” revenue in chronic disease interventions; he is health committee chair of the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); and he serves as associate pastor and health minister of the Third Baptist Church of San Francisco.

“Dr. Butler has played an exceptional role in helping UCSF to forge more trusting and productive relationships with disadvantaged communities in San Francisco – communities that traditionally have not always viewed UCSF as a good neighbor fully committed to addressing health and social inequity in our city,” said Wylie Liu, MPH, MPA, executive director of the Center for Community Engagement, in nominating Butler.


Edison T. Uno Public Service Award

This award, named after the assistant dean of students at UCSF from 1969 to 1974, was established in 1980 to recognize dedication and commitment to established social, political and civic groups that bring about social change.

Eleanor Chung, MD
Assistant professor of pediatrics

The Edison T. Uno Public Service Award was awarded to Eleanor Chung, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics, who has used her role as a healer to support the wellbeing of immigrant children and families in San Francisco.

In addition to her work as a clinician and educator at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, Chung has led a number of impactful projects, including the Bridges Clinic at the ZSFG Children’s Health Center. The clinic addresses the unique medical, legal and mental health needs of new immigrant children and families, many of whom are asylum seekers, and provides vital connections to community resources. She has given expert testimony on the impact of trauma and parental separation on children’s health and helped preserve many immigrant families.

Chung is also the co-coordinator of the Too Small to Fail initiative, in which pediatricians teach parents that talking, reading, and singing to their young children can boost early brain and language development. Over 80 percent of parents reported improvements in their child’s behavior through this program.

“Dr. Chung is recognized by her colleagues as a creative, committed and powerfully persuasive person,” said Elena Fuentes-Afflick, MD, MPH, vice chair and chief of pediatrics at ZSFG, in her nomination letter for Chung. “Although she has a quiet personality, she is forceful and our best advocate for immigrant children and their families.”


Thomas N. Burbridge Public Service Award

This award, named after the professor of medicine remembered for his efforts to open up jobs for minorities in previously segregated fields, was established in 1973 to recognize public service that promotes equal education and employment opportunities, civil rights and social justice.

Monica McLemore, PhD, MPH, RN
Assistant professor of family health care nursing

Monica McLemore, PhD, MPH, RN, is a key voice in formulating, promoting, and disseminating the agenda on addressing reproductive disparities and structural racism through the lens of social justice.

From her clinical work at the Women’s Options Clinic to her research, teaching and political advocacy, McLemore has improved the health of women, particularly women of color, and inspired a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion at UCSF. She contributes to numerous committees addressing health disparities, homelessness and criminal justice, as well as admissions and search committees within the School of Medicine and School of Nursing; she is co-PI of a program establishing a partnership between UC and historically black colleges and universities; and she mentors STEM students of color through the SF Build program.

“Monica has already created a legacy despite being relatively early in her career – inspiring her many mentees, students and colleagues to devote themselves to reproductive justice and addressing structural racism,” said Deborah Cohan, MD, MPH, professor of gynecology and reproductive sciences, in nominating McLemore. “I know of no other scholar who has so seamlessly and effectively integrated a mission of addressing reproductive and social justice and promoting diversity into the fabric of a professional and personal life.”


Chancellor Award for Exceptional University Management

Jane Czech, MS, MBA
Associate chair for finance and administration in the Department of Neurology and administrative director for the Weill Institute for Neurosciences

Jane Czech, MS, MBA, is a creative problem-solver who has developed innovative solutions for the many space, staffing and financial needs of the Department of Neurology and the Weill Institute for Neurosciences. When Czech arrived at UCSF in 2007, the Department of Neurology was facing an overall large financial loss in its clinical practices and several senior investigators were operating in the red. Czech has helped create a new financial structure that has enabled the department to thrive, now maintaining tremendous financial health.

“Jane is a superstar,” said S. Andrew Josephson, MD, chair of the Department of Neurology, in nominating Czech. “Not only have her efforts resulted in transformative change in our department, but she has also become a highly valued contributor to the School of Medicine and the Medical Center, including her service as a representative on multiple committees within the Dean’s Office and UCSF Health.”

Josephson also noted Czech’s exceptional skills as a collaborator and communicator who works hand-in-hand with graduate students, post-docs, faculty and staff. She has been critical in fulfilling the Weill Institute’s goal of aligning the clinical and basic science departments, centers and units around a common vision for neuroscience at UCSF.


Cynthia Watchmaker, MBA, MEd
Associate dean for student affairs in the School of Pharmacy

As associate dean for student affairs in the School of Pharmacy, Cynthia Watchmaker, MBA, MEd, oversees a team that provides a broad array of student services, often described as “soup to nuts.” These services include recruitment, admissions, orientation, graduation, academic advising, career counseling, graduate advising, financial aid, scholarships and housing.

Watchmaker and her staff at the Office of Student and Curricular Affairs handle complex and sometimes difficult circumstances with integrity and sensitivity. Her management has made the office a supportive resource for students as well as a place of growth for staff.

“Cindy sets her staff up with mentoring, guidance, and other tools to be their best, setting them up for success,” said Sharon Youmans, PharmD, MPH, vice dean of the School of Pharmacy, in nominating Watchmaker, who has been at UCSF for over 20 years. “As staff members come and go, all leave with the sense that they can springboard to the next level in their careers and have benefited personally and professionally from their work experience and by having Cindy as their manager.”

Youmans highlighted Watchmaker’s exceptional skills as a collaborator. “As a leader she is able to reach across the aisle with faculty, students, and staff, within and outside of the School of Pharmacy to achieve the goals of not only her unit, but also the school and the campus at large.”


Alesia Woods
Director of administration and finance in the Department of Physiology

With over 20 years of service to UCSF, Alesia Woods is one of the most experienced, knowledgeable and well-respected managers at UCSF. As director of administration and finance, she oversees financial and personnel management, risk management, and resource and space allocation. Under her administration, the Department of Physiology has maintained fiscal stability even through challenging times, which has had direct positive impact on faculty research.

From advance planning that allowed the department to accumulate reserve funds, to navigating the complexities of shared laboratory and office facilities, Woods uses creativity and generosity to solve problems. She is known for going above and beyond to help others, such as helping a staff member in another department resolve a complex payroll issue or establishing a child care system for junior faculty at UCSF.

“Ms. Woods is, indeed, an exceptional colleague and the success and vigor of our department is owed, in no small measure, to her energetic, intelligent, and creative style of management, her professionalism and initiative, and her tremendous dedication to our institution,” said David Julius, PhD, chair of the Department of Physiology, in nominating Woods.


Chancellor Award for Exceptional University Service

Susan Bluestone
Recycling and waste reduction coordinator for Campus Life Services

Susan Bluestone is nearly synonymous with the UCSF recycling program, which she founded in 1998 when she joined the University. Thanks to her dedication and tireless determination, UCSF is leading the UC campuses in reaching the system-wide “zero waste” goal by 2020. Under her direction, UCSF has diverted hundreds of thousands of tons away from the landfill, which represent an increase from 7 to 78 percent diversion over the past two decades.

Working with the City of San Francisco, Bluestone has been awarded three recycling and waste-reduction research grants, which has enabled improvements such as compost bags throughout campus, more education around waste and recycling habits and a better understanding of waste from UCSF housing. She has also found ways to engage the UCSF community and beyond through the yearly UCSF Sustainability Fair and by partnering with local non-profits to find reuse opportunities for materials discarded from the University.

“Finding ways to reduce waste and change behavior at a large and complex university setting is not an easy task,” said Adam Schnirel, associate director of facilities operations, in nominating Bluestone. “Day to day, week to week, month to month and year to year, Susan Bluestone is dedicated to finding ways to get UCSF to zero waste. This is not a nine to five job for Susan but a life-long dedication from which we have all benefited.”


Jody Spelman Lesko
Manager of financial planning and benchmarking at UCSF Health

Lesko is well known for her financial expertise and critical work with all entities on the Ten Year Financial Plan for UCSF Health, which provides a clear and consistent vision for the organization and identifies areas of need. Her work on the Ten Year Plan has helped propel the growth and partnerships that UCSF Health has today.

Beyond her professional work, Lesko’s heart for her community is evidenced by her commitment to the Volunteer Services Department for over 10 years, her passion to mentor and guide young volunteers and her willingness to give her time to UCSF. She volunteers weekly with the In Stitches knitting group at Benioff Children’s Hospital, which teaches patient’s family members the art of knitting during their child’s hospital stay. She has also served as a board member and treasurer of UCSF Medical Center Auxiliary, now called Partners in Care.

“It’s clear that Jody Lesko truly cares about the UCSF community. Her passion and commitment to UCSF, her job, her friends and colleagues, and her volunteer work is extraordinary,” said Sheila Antrum, senior vice president and chief operating officer at UCSF Health, in nominating Lesko. “She is a shining example to us all, and elevates those around her.”


Caroline Prioleau
Writer and designer at the Memory and Aging Center

From timely tweets to soulful stories, innovative infographics to warm patient brochures, Caroline Prioleau has used her many talents to communicate the work of the Memory and Aging Center (MAC). With unmatched energy and generosity of spirit, Prioleau can meet seemingly impossible deadlines while also being a great help to many colleagues.

One of her true callings is making science understandable for non-scientists. She was instrumental in launching the MAC website, as well as its Youtube channel and Facebook groups. In addition to lending her visual and writing skills to countless grant applications, scientific manuscripts, patient and caregiver educational materials, and social media channels, Prioleau also led the publication of a book, Hear Say, which gathers stories that illustrate the wide range of experience of people living with dementia.

“Ms. Caroline Prioleau is the most remarkable person that I have ever known,” said Bruce Miller, director of the Memory and Aging Center, in nominating Prioleau. “Caroline combines true gifts for writing and creating web-based tools, with extraordinary grit, integrity and generosity. Beloved among our 250 employees, she has touched multiple people within and outside of the Memory and Aging Center at UCSF and beyond.”


Distinguished Nurse Award

This award recognizes outstanding contributions to the care of patients and fosters professional and public awareness of achievements in nursing practice.

Amy Kangwankij, RN, BSN
Clinical nurse in C5 transitional care unit pediatrics

In addition to caring for young patients as a bedside nurse and resource nurse in the transitional care unit at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, Amy Kangwankij, RN, BSN, brings enthusiasm and excellence to improving the systems and practices that are essential to quality care.

Kangwankij has worked diligently as a critical team member of the Discharge Workflow Improvement group, and has been integral to several improvement projects. She spearheaded introduction of a family checklist for discharge preparation, helping to get staff on board, defining standard roles, and developing a visual management system for using the checklist. She is also working with various interdisciplinary groups and the Apex team to build an innovative real-time discharge milestones checklist. Her contributions have already led to tangible improvements in patient experience, quality and safety, and strategic growth.

“Amy stands out as an individual who goes above and beyond in all manner for her work,” said Deborah Franzon, MD, FCCM, medical director of the transitional care unit at Benioff Children’s Hospital, in nominating Kangwankij. “She excels at navigating and advocating for patients and her fellow TCU staff both in day-to-day patient care and also in implementation of new initiatives.”