Campaign’s Achievements Will Transform UCSF Research, Education, Patient Care

By Pete Farley

people eat in a room with a screen that says UCSF: The Campaign behind them

The UCSF community celebrated the public launch of UCSF: Campaign at an event in October 2017. Photo by Elisabeth Fall

By any measure, UCSF: The Campaign, a multi-year fundraising initiative launched publicly in October 2017, has set a new standard of success. In his annual State of the University address, UC San Francisco Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS, announced that the Campaign far exceeded its $5 billion goal – all told, almost 160,000 donors stepped up to make more than 280,000 gifts during the Campaign, which raised nearly $6.2 billion to support UCSF’s mission to advance human health worldwide.

But Hawgood stresses that the Campaign’s impact is far more significant than these impressive numbers.

“Our donors helped fortify UCSF’s future by investing in our people, ensuring the work we all do each day will continue to advance human health in the Bay Area, in our nation, and around the world,” he said. “And as an added benefit, the Campaign provided a unique opportunity for our faculty members to ‘think big’ – to go beyond conventional project proposals in favor of transformative, one-of-a-kind ventures that could only happen at UCSF.”

Our donors helped fortify UCSF’s future by investing in our people, ensuring the work we all do each day will continue to advance human health in the Bay Area, in our nation, and around the world.

UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS

Spanning only 15 months, planning for the Campaign drew inspiration from across the UCSF community, garnering more than 180 ideas from 250 UCSF faculty members. Based on this inclusive and comprehensive process, the Campaign sought support for UCSF’s public mission as expressed in three broad “Grand Challenges”: solving fundamental biological mysteries; accelerating the translation of these discoveries into safer and better patient care; and tackling persistent health inequities head-on to ensure that every person has the opportunity to live a healthy life.

In just one example of the transformative and innovative programs made possible by the Campaign, 2018 saw the launch of the Bakar ImmunoX Initiative, a “radical collaboration” bridging UCSF’s research enterprise and UCSF Health to accelerate our understanding of the central role of the immune system in both wellness and disease, and to harness its power to treat a wide range of diseases.

Over the course of the Campaign, the University’s endowment grew from about $2 billion to more than $4 billion, an enduring legacy that ensures the future of UCSF. Endowed gifts fuel discovery, shape UCSF’s education of tomorrow’s leaders, and help UCSF Health transform the standard of patient care. Endowments also provide a steady source of support that empowers faculty to pursue high-risk/high-reward research ideas that may be too preliminary to obtain support from funding agencies. Finally, endowments fund new programs for our caregivers and their patients, and help UCSF attract the best students and recruit and retain the brightest faculty.

In addition to making crucial gifts that boosted UCSF’s endowment to more than $4 billion, donors rose to the unexpected challenge of COVID-19, giving more than $60 million for UCSF’s response to the pandemic. These funds are supporting both frontline health care providers at UCSF Health and basic research on the SARS-CoV-2 virus, as well as helping UCSF serve vulnerable populations who have been the hardest hit by the infection, through community testing initiatives and patient care.

“UCSF’s excellence embraces the full breadth of the continuum, from conducting groundbreaking fundamental studies on the workings of genes and proteins, to educating our talented and hardworking learners, to providing world-class patient care to those with the most complex illnesses,” said Talmadge E. King Jr., MD, dean of the UCSF School of Medicine. “In all these realms, our donors answered the call of the Campaign, and UCSF is far stronger for their generosity and vision.”

A Wide Range of Gifts

The Campaign spurred the launch of the Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI), an unprecedented international, interdisciplinary initiative dedicated to improving brain health and reducing the scale and impact of dementia worldwide. A partnership of UCSF and Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin, GBHI brings together a powerful mix of disciplines, professions, backgrounds, skill sets, perspectives, and approaches to develop new solutions.

Instructor talks to a small group of students in a dental simulation lab

Gifts to the UCSF School of Dentistry have established endowments to support the dean’s priorities and provide scholarships for disadvantaged students. Photo by Susan Merrell

An unrestricted gift from an anonymous donor during the Campaign to the School of Dentistry established an endowment directed to the Dean’s priorities that will strengthen the school’s position as a global leader in oral health and oral health sciences through the development of a modern curriculum, recruitment and retention of world-class faculty members, and professional development and mentorship programs for junior faculty. In addition, a gift from Delta Dental has seeded an endowment that will fund scholarships for disadvantaged dental students.

One of the most serious problems facing nurses is overcoming the “alarm fatigue” resulting from the numerous warnings sent by the intensive monitoring in today’s hospitals. A Campaign gift to the School of Nursing aims to support research that will discover ways to combat this barrier to optimal patient care. With moves toward remote instruction and the urgent need to ramp up other educational technologies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a gift in 2019 to establish the School’s Educational Technology Hub could not have been more timely.

In the School of Pharmacy, a Campaign gift is advancing the development of The Kidney Project, which aims to create a small, surgically implanted, and free-standing bioartificial kidney to treat kidney failure. In addition to freeing patients from the need for dialysis, a bioartificial kidney would help address the shortage of donor organs for kidney transplant. Another gift established an endowed fund to assist the School’s dean in building engagement and fostering connections among faculty members, students and academic visitors. This gift has been especially impactful during the pandemic, as it has helped students, faculty, and staff build a stronger community under sheltering and social distancing guidelines.

researcher holds a bioartificial kidney

Rachel Gurlin, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar in the Shuvo Roy lab, holds one of the prototype devices that are part of an implantable artificial kidney. The Kidney Project received a gift to advance the development of the device. Photo by Susan Merrell 

In addition to the three fundamental pillars represented in the Grand Challenges, the Campaign also raised more than $1.3 billion in funds for UCSF’s “Brilliant Minds” – the students and faculty who are the lifeblood of the institution. Overall, donors contributed nearly $525 million to student support, including nearly 1,000 new scholarships and fellowships available to students across the University. In the School of Medicine, these funds have already enabled UCSF to recruit the most diverse class of medical students in the University’s history. More than 140 new professorships created through the Campaign will empower UCSF to attract and retain the best faculty in both research and clinical care. And over 40 percent of these chairholders are women. 

In addition to supporting professional students in UCSF’s Schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, and Pharmacy, the Discovery Fellows Program created during the Campaign supports graduate students in UCSF’s doctoral programs across the basic sciences. Thanks to more than 1,000 donors, the program is now the largest fund of its kind for PhD students in the University of California system.

“The Discovery Fellows program provides invaluable support to UCSF’s graduate students, who are among our nation’s best and brightest young scientists,” said Elizabeth Watkins, PhD, dean of the Graduate Division and vice chancellor for Student Academic Affairs. “In a time when the importance of basic biological research has never been more clear, the Campaign has ensured that UCSF can continue to provide the very best graduate education to tomorrow’s independent researchers.”

Funds raised during the Campaign have also contributed to state-of-the-art facilities to serve our patients and researchers, including an expanded outpatient center at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, opened in 2018; and the Bakar Precision Cancer Medical Building at Mission Bay, opened in 2019, which integrates the next generation of basic scientific and clinical cancer research into patient care.

a pediatric patient and her mother talk with two doctors

Asthma patient Zuri, 12, and her mother, Anjanette, meet with Elizabeth Gibb, MD, and Cheryl Johnson, RFT, AE-C, in the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland Outpatient Center. The outpatient center expansion was supported by the campaign. Photo by Steve Babuljak

Buildings launched with Campaign support and soon to open include the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Neurosciences Building, the future headquarters of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences; the UCSF Wayne and Gladys Valley Center for Vision, which will bring together ophthalmology research, teaching, and patient care; and a building for a Child, Teen, and Family Center and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, which will offer combined mental and physical health care services for children, adolescents, and adults.

As might be expected at an academic medical center like UCSF, most of the $6.2 billion raised is earmarked for particular purposes by donors; these funds can be spent only to support a specific project. Also, more than $3.4 billion raised by the Campaign is for “current use,” versus endowment, meaning the donor wants UCSF to use these funds for an immediate impact.

“We are profoundly grateful to everyone who gave to the Campaign,” Hawgood said. “Together, their generosity is fueling new scientific knowledge and clinical innovations that will benefit humankind, an exceptional education for the next generation of health-science leaders, and capital projects that have laid the foundation for 21st-century research and patient care.”