4 UCSF Faculty Elected to the National Academy of Medicine for 2020

By Nina Bai

Four UC San Francisco faculty members are among the 100 new national and international members elected this year to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), one of the highest honors in the fields of health of medicine.

Membership in the NAM recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievements and commitment to service in the medical sciences, health care and public health.

“This distinguished and diverse class of new members is a truly exceptional group of scholars and leaders whose expertise in science, medicine, health, and policy will be integral to helping the NAM address today’s most pressing health challenges and inform the future of health and health care for the benefit of everyone around the globe,” National Academy of Medicine President Victor J. Dzau said in a press release. “It is my privilege to welcome these esteemed individuals to the National Academy of Medicine.”

This year, this distinguished group welcomes four UCSF faculty:

  • Mark Anderson, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and Robert B. Friend and Michelle M. Friend Endowed Chair in Diabetes Research
  • Edward Chang, MD, Jeanne Robertson Distinguished Professor and Joan and Sandy Weill Chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery
  • Aleksandar Rajkovic, MD, PhD, Stuart Lindsay Distinguished Professor in Experimental Pathology and Chief Genomics Officer of UCSF Health
  • Robert Wachter, MD, Holly Smith Distinguished Professor in Science and Medicine, Benioff Endowed Chair in Hospital Medicine, and chair of the Department of Medicine
Mark Anderson portrait

Mark Anderson, MD, PhD

Anderson is a physician-scientist who cares for patients with autoimmune endocrine diseases such as type 1 diabetes. This focus extends into the lab, where his research examines the genetic control of autoimmune diseases to better understand the mechanisms by which immune tolerance is broken.

In particular, his lab is interested in how the thymus trains the immune system to distinguish proteins made by the body itself from proteins made by invasive pathogens. For example, they have shown that some thymus cells produce “self” proteins and others even differentiate into skin or gut cells to test newborn T cells for autoimmune tendencies. Understanding these mechanisms could one day lead to medical interventions that suppress or enhance immune activity.

Anderson is a member of the UCSF Diabetes Center and the UCSF Bakar ImmunoX Initiative, director of the UCSF Medical Scientist Training Program, and current president of the Federation of Clinical Immunology.

Edward Chang smiling.

Edward Chang, MD

Chang is a neurosurgeon-scientist and chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery. He specializes in advanced brain mapping methods to preserve crucial areas for language and cognitive functions in the brain. Chang is a member of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences and co-director of the Center for Neural Engineering and Prostheses, a collaboration between UCSF and UC Berkeley.

Chang’s research focuses on the brain mechanisms for human behaviors such as speech and mood. For example, by studying the brain activity associated with the physical movements of speaking, his team was able to teach a computer to decode and transform these brain signals into synthetic speech. This technology has the potential to eventually lead to speech prosthetics for paralyzed people who have lost the ability to speak.

Chang completed his medical degree and residency in neurosurgery at UCSF and joined the faculty in 2010. He is the inaugural Bowes Biomedical Investigator at UCSF, an HHMI Faculty Scholar, and a recipient of the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award and the Blavatnik National Award for Life Sciences.

Aleksandar Rajkovicpic

Aleksandar Rajkovic, MD, PhD

Rajkovic is a medical geneticist who specializes in basic and translational research in reproductive genomics. His lab investigates the genetic underpinnings of the formation and differentiation of gametes and reproductive tracts and the role of these genes in human disease. For example, they have discovered numerous genes that regulate ovarian follicle formation and the growth of healthy eggs, and may be involved in infertility. Another focus is the genetics of fibroid tumors, which are found in nearly a quarter of women by age 45, and therapies to eliminate such tumors. He has been at the forefront of innovative technologies to diagnose and reveal the mechanisms of reproductive pathologies.

Rajkovic joined UCSF in 2018 as the first-ever Chief Genomics Officer of UCSF Health. In this role, he directs the activities of clinical genomics laboratories across UCSF and leads efforts to apply genetics and genomics clinical care throughout the health system.

Robert Wachter stands in a hospital room

Robert Wachter, MD

Wachter is a hospitalist and health care thought leader who has chaired the Department of Medicine since 2016. The department leads the nation in National Institutes of Health grants and consistently ranks among the nation’s best. He has authored more than 300 articles and six books and is a frequent contributor to the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Recently, he has become known for organizing the widely viewed Department of Medicine COVID Grand Rounds and his informative tweets about the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 1996, Wachter coined the term “hospitalist” – a physician who specializes in inpatient care – and is often considered the founder of the hospitalist field, the fastest growing specialty in modern medical history. He is also a leading expert on patient safety, health care quality and digital health. He has served as president of the Society of Hospital Medicine and chair of the American Board of Internal Medicine.

New members to the NAM are elected by current active members. This year’s elections bring the number of people from UCSF named as members in the NAM to 108.

The National Academy of Medicine, established in 1970 as the Institute of Medicine, is an independent organization of eminent professionals from diverse fields including health and medicine; the natural, social, and behavioral sciences; and beyond. It serves alongside the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering as an adviser to the national and the international community.