Current and future students in every school at UC San Francisco – dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy – as well as the Graduate Division will benefit from the great success of UCSF: The Campaign, a $5 billion fundraising initiative announced in 2017. The Campaign garnered nearly $525 million in donations to support professional students at UCSF, as well as those pursuing careers in biomedical research through the University’s doctoral programs.
“Our students represent the future of health care and health science,” said Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS. “Our donors understand that, and their generosity is helping to make this path accessible to the best and brightest students regardless of need – including those who are the first in their families to receive higher education. These gifts make UCSF a more equitable and inclusive university.”
The nearly $525 million includes $96 million in current use funding and $428 million in endowed funding, some of which comes in the form of bequests, that will benefit all four professional schools and the Graduate Division.
Our students represent the future of health care and health science. Our donors understand that, and their generosity is helping to make this path accessible to the best and brightest students regardless of need – including those who are the first in their families to receive higher education.
The cost of earning professional degrees in the health sciences has grown sharply in recent years, presenting a daunting financial challenge for many students, particularly those from groups that are underrepresented in the health professions and biomedical science, or whose families do not have the resources to help pay their tuition. The high cost of living in the Bay Area also presents significant challenges to students in UCSF’s professional and PhD programs.
Large loan balances can cause emotional distress, and in the case of medical students, there is some evidence that it can steer students to choose a specialty based on whether it will provide adequate income to repay their loans in a reasonable time. Reducing such debt through scholarships may offer students the flexibility to pursue less remunerative careers in academia, primary care, and generalist practices, and to practice in underserved areas.
Below are some of the highlights of the giving that are supporting the learners across UCSF.
Support Creates Most Diverse Class in School of Medicine’s History
Reading the email with his financial aid package, Christian Garcia Hernandez thought there must be some mistake. It said he would get a full scholarship – tuition and living expenses – to attend the UCSF School of Medicine, his first choice.
But the email was correct. Thanks to a scholarship funded by Philip and Alicia Hammarskjold, chair of the UCSF Board of Directors, Hernandez is one of 10 first-year medical students designated a “Hammarskjold Scholar,” all of whom received awards covering the full cost of attendance – something the school had only been able to do for a handful of students over the course of its history.
“It was so unexpected,” said Hernandez, 25, reflecting on how the steep cost of attending medical school dissuades many people from even from applying. “The fact that it came from UCSF was even more incredible, because it’s the school of a lot of people’s dreams, including mine.”
“As a board member, one of the biggest challenges I’ve seen for the University is the urgent need to provide greater amounts of support to our medical students with financial need,” said Hammarskjold, executive chairman of Hellman & Friedman, a private equity firm in San Francisco, “We have made good progress on this goal, but we’re looking to a day when we can offer assistance to every applicant with financial need, so our students are not burdened by excessive levels of debt.”
During UCSF: The Campaign, Hammarskjold, who became chair of the UCSF Board of Directors in July of 2020, gave $25 million to support this effort. Because of significant campaign scholarship donations, such as this, nearly a third of this year’s incoming SOM class will have enough aid to cover more than the full cost of tuition, which has allowed UCSF to enroll the most diverse medical school class in its history.
Scholarships can also help to absolve the guilt and anxiety that many first-generation university students feel when deciding whether to pursue advanced higher education, rather than getting jobs right after college to help support their families.
“Even without the debt, making the decision to go to medical school and have a period of eight to 10 years where I’m learning or training and not in the world earning, it’s hard to go down that path,” said Yesenia Day, 23, another Hammarskjold Scholar who said she was only able to attend UCSF because she got a full scholarship. “From the way I grew up, I felt like I should go to work and earn money to help my mom.”
Showing Gratitude to Nurses
As part of the Campaign, the Dean of the School of Nursing, Catherine Gilliss, PhD, RN, FAAN, made a personal gift to create an endowment for nurses at UCSF Health who want to pursue advanced degrees in nursing. The Thomas and Catherine Gilliss Educational Fund was launched to recognize the excellent nursing care received by her husband, Thomas, who died last year after a long illness that included a five-month hospitalization at the UCSF Helen Diller Medical Center at Parnassus Heights.
“We were cared for by former nursing students, and by some former faculty of the School of Nursing,” said Dean Gilliss. “His nursing care was excellent.”
UCSF frequently receives donations from “grateful patients” of physicians, and Gilliss thought a similar model could provide support for her own profession. She expressed her own gratitude by seeding an endowment to help nurses continue their training at UCSF.
Nursing students at UCSF fall into two categories: those in the Master’s Entry Program in Nursing, who enroll with a bachelor’s degree, and those in the Master’s, Post-Master’s and doctoral programs, who are in the health care workforce and are returning to school for advanced training.
Often, Gilliss said, nurses will graduate with a bachelor’s degree and go to work to repay their debt before returning for more education. As the Gilliss Educational Fund grows, she said, it will support registered nurses at UCSF Health who wish to pursue master’s and PhD degrees.
“Practicing nurses don’t expect to be rewarded in any way for the care they deliver,” Gilliss said. “But it would be wonderful if more patients and families had opportunities in which they could make a difference in the lives of the nurse or nurses who cared for them at UCSF, and our new fund is a great start.”
Class Spirit: Pharmacy ’72 Steps Up to Make a Difference
At the School of Pharmacy, the close connections among members of the Class of 1972 led more than two dozen classmates to launch and contribute to a scholarship fund over the course of one-week fundraising blitz in August 2019 spearheaded by their classmate, Adrienne Fong, PharmD.
Fong had been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and she made it a priority in her final weeks to ensure that the Class of 1972 established a lasting legacy at UCSF. During the fundraising drive, members of the class committed enough to establish the fund, and Fong was able to celebrate her classmates’ generosity and the fulfillment of her wish before she passed away just weeks later.
“Adrienne’s classmates transformed their sorrow at her passing into an opportunity for future generations of students,” said UCSF School of Pharmacy Dean B. Joseph Guglielmo, PharmD. “What an elegant way to say goodbye and an inspiration to us all in how to give back.”
Scholarships from the fund will be awarded to PharmD students with financial need who demonstrate leadership in their class. The scholarship will support one student each year with the potential to support more students as the fund increases.
Though sometimes overlooked in conversations about health, the lack of access to affordable dental care contributes to significant health inequities. Untreated dental caries and other oral health problems can lead to school and work absences, difficulty finding work and worsening of chronic conditions like diabetes.
One way to address these issues is by educating more dentists who are committed to working in underserved communities.
For this reason, the UCSF School of Dentistry established the Scholarship for Opportunity, with gifts from many donors, including Delta Dental. These scholarships are earmarked for students who have overcome challenges, have high academic achievement and are interested in practicing in underserved areas.
“Students who come from communities where affordable dental care is a rarity are more likely to want to go out and provide it once they graduate,” said Michael Reddy, DMD, DMSc, dean of the School of Dentistry. “We want these students to be able to attend UCSF without getting into so much debt that it discourages them from doing what they came to us to learn how to do.”
Funds for Discovery Fellows Grow to $100M
The Graduate Division celebrates $52 million in new Campaign gifts to its Discovery Fellows Program, pushing the endowment past $100 million. The initiative supports all of the students in the Graduate Division’s basic science PhD programs, as well as specially designated Discovery Fellows who take on the role of ambassadors for the initiative and for basic science education and research.
A generous gift in December 2013 from Sir Michael Moritz KBE, and his wife, Harriet Heyman, launched the Discovery Fellows program in 2013 to ensure the future of PhD education in the basic sciences. Eventually over 1,000 donors have joined them in supporting the program, the largest endowed program for PhD students in the University of California system.
The many donors who made educational support a focus of their giving to the Campaign are helping UCSF achieve an essential part of its public mission. And an important component is educating clinicians and scientists who are motivated by a desire to achieving greater equity in health.
“Earning a scholarship is one of the highest honors a student can receive,” said the School of Dentistry’s Reddy. “It signifies the University’s recognition of the promise our students have as health care professionals and leaders.”