UCSF Health Leader Mark Laret to Retire at Year’s End

In 21-Year UCSF Tenure, CEO’s Vision Spurred Extraordinary Growth and Transformation 

By Pete Farley

Mark Laret smiling.

Mark R. Laret, president and chief executive officer of UCSF Health, joined UCSF in 2000. Photo by Tom Seawell and Gabe Branbury

Mark R. Laret, president and chief executive officer of UCSF Health, who grew and transformed UC San Francisco’s multibillion-dollar clinical enterprise in an ever-shifting health care landscape for more than two decades, has announced that he will retire from the University of California on Dec. 31, 2021.

A nationally recognized leader in health care, Laret joined UCSF in 2000, in the wake of a three-year merger with Stanford Hospital that had left UCSF Medical Center in challenging financial and administrative straits. Under Laret’s deft leadership, a new Medical Center executive team was recruited, guided by a values system he implemented called PRIDE (Professionalism, Respect, Integrity, Diversity and Excellence), which has since been adopted across the entire University. 

With an emphasis on quality of patient care, safety, positive patient experiences, deep employee engagement and operational efficiency, and health equity, Laret’s direction soon cemented UCSF Medical Center’s status as a nationally renowned hospital. The Medical Center has now been ranked among the top 10 hospitals nationwide by U.S. News & World Report for more than 20 years. 

In recent years, through major capital projects as well as affiliations and partnerships throughout the Bay Area, UCSF Medical Center has become the anchor of an important regional health system known as UCSF Health. 

During his tenure, Laret has propelled this dramatic growth of UCSF’s clinical enterprise, which now serves twice as many inpatients and nearly five times as many outpatients as in 2000. UCSF’s Health workforce has more than tripled, to more than 15,000 people, and revenues have grown from $600 million per year to more than $5 billion per year. Throughout, Laret has maintained a strong commitment to UCSF’s public mission and its duty to provide the highest level of care to medically underserved communities. 

“Mark’s long UCSF career parallels my own, and all along the way – as a chair, dean, and now Chancellor – I have deeply admired and taken many lessons from his skilled and visionary leadership,” said UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS. “It has been an extraordinary privilege to witness firsthand UCSF Health’s tremendous growth and increasing prominence on the national stage under Mark’s expert direction over two decades. The UCSF community will be forever grateful for his innumerable contributions.” 

It has been an extraordinary privilege to witness firsthand UCSF Health’s tremendous growth and increasing prominence on the national stage under Mark’s expert direction over two decades.

UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS

The Medical Center’s growth trajectory included the expansion of the clinical practice from its historic home at Parnassus Heights to Mission Bay, and an affiliation with Children’s Hospital Oakland, a revered East Bay institution now known as UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland. 

Under Laret’s leadership, UCSF embarked on the $1.6 billion Mission Bay expansion – acquiring land, planning, building and ultimately opening the doors of the 289-bed UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay in 2015. To finance the project, Laret spearheaded a capital plan that successfully borrowed $700 million and raised an additional $600 million from philanthropy. Now, UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay – an 878,000-square foot complex that includes UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco, Bakar Cancer Hospital, Betty Irene Moore Women’s Hospital, and the Ron Conway Family Gateway Medical Building – provides the highest level of care to patients of all ages from throughout the Bay Area. 

the UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay as seen from an aerial perspective

UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay provides the highest level of care to patients of all ages from throughout the Bay Area. Photo by Matt Beardsley

Through UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, UCSF Health serves the health care needs of all children from the East Bay and beyond, regardless of their families’ ability to pay. Since the 2014 Oakland affiliation, UCSF Health’s two children’s hospitals have grown into a comprehensive cross-Bay pediatric health system that combines Oakland’s high-quality care and research with UCSF’s renowned specialty care, biomedical research and health sciences education. 

“Mark is highly respected and admired by colleagues across the nation, who deeply value his friendship and counsel,” said Rick Pollack, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association. “For more than four decades he has provided outstanding leadership in ensuring high-quality health care services for the patients and communities served by UCSF and the University of California health care system. But in addition, Mark has shaped public policy at the state and national levels to expand health care coverage and access, helping to improve the lives of millions of Americans.” 

From the beginning of his tenure at UCSF, Laret continually worked to deepen and broaden the ties between the University’s clinical mission and UCSF’s highly lauded educational and research missions, partnering closely with academic deans to align their priorities with those of the health care enterprise. 

Talmadge E. King Jr., MD, dean of the UCSF School of Medicine, said that Laret has been an ideal collaborator, with a deep understanding of the uniquely rich approach to health care offered by academic medical centers. 

“Academic medicine is greater than the sum of its parts. All of our missions – patient care, education, research and public policy – matter, and Mark has never lost sight of that,” King said. “We could have asked for no better leader to guide our health system through tumultuous times in American medicine. We will miss his creative leadership and strong partnership with the School of Medicine, but he will leave an enduring legacy here at UCSF.”

Richard M. “Dick” Rosenberg, retired chairman and CEO of BankAmerica and chair of UCSF Health’s Executive Council for more than 10 years, praised the leadership and keen strategic focus Laret has brought to the highly competitive and rapidly changing arena of Bay Area health care.

Mark Laret talks with staff during a 2018 staff appreciation event

Mark Laret talks with staff during staff appreciation event in 2018. Photo by Susan Merrell

“Mark has done a superb job in managing one of the most complex operations in the nation – one of my fellow CEOs on the UCSF Health Executive Council who runs a huge multinational company commented that Mark’s job is more challenging than his own,” said Rosenberg. “In my many years as chair I have observed his management of issues ranging from labor relations to finance, from hospital construction to acquisitions, as well as a multitude of other critical functions. Under Mark’s direction, UCSF Medical Center has consistently been recognized as one of the best hospitals in the country.”

After graduating from UCLA, where he was a Regents Scholar, Laret earned a master’s degree in political science at the University of Southern California. He went on to serve the University of California system for 40 years, first joining UCLA Medical Center in 1980. Over a 15-year career at UCLA, he advanced through the ranks, becoming deputy director of the medical center and CEO of UCLA Medical Group, which then represented 900 physicians in UCLA’s clinical practice. From 1995 to 2000 he was CEO of the medical center at UC Irvine, now part of UCI Health.

“It has been my honor to work with Mark over the course of two decades,” said Sherry Lansing, founder of the Sherry Lansing Foundation and chair of the University of California Board of Regents Health Services Committee. “Aside from his first-rate leadership skills, Mark is an extraordinarily warm and engaging person, and always a joy to work with. He has taken the time to truly listen to all sides on complex issues, and to forge consensus. All the people of California, especially those in our most medically underserved groups, have benefitted from the phenomenal growth of UCSF Health, in both size and stature, on his watch.”

Laret has served as chair of the Board of Trustees of the California Hospital Association, as a member of the Board of Directors for the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, and as chair of the Board of Directors of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

AAMC Chief Public Policy Officer Karen Fisher, JD, said, “Mark epitomizes leadership in academic medicine. Throughout his career, he has been fiercely committed to, and an eloquent advocate for, the missions of research, education and clinical care that improve the health of patients, communities and the nation. Mark has always approached his work with a deep sense of humility and a great sense of humor. He will be greatly missed.”

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Laret has brought calm and compassionate leadership to the challenges facing UCSF Health and the University. His closing remarks at UCSF’s online COVID-19 Town Halls – full of determination, hope, and deep gratitude for the untiring service of all who work at UCSF, whatever their role – have become a familiar and reassuring highlight for the UCSF community.

“Few people have the privilege to be a part of something so important, and I consider my years at UC, and especially these past two decades as CEO of UCSF Health, to be the greatest honor of my life,” Laret said. “As UCSF embarks on major capital projects at both Parnassus Heights and at Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, I think now is the time to pass the baton to the next leader of UCSF Health.”

The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is exclusively focused on the health sciences and is dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. UCSF Health, which serves as UCSF’s primary academic medical center, includes top-ranked specialty hospitals and other clinical programs, and has affiliations throughout the Bay Area.