With the COVID-19 pandemic in its third year, UC San Francisco continues to pursue innovative work that expands humanity’s knowledge to improve health. This combination of “Science + Service” was the theme for Chancellor Sam Hawgood’s ninth annual State of the University on Nov. 3, 2022.
“Science plus service…is a reflection of what occurs at UCSF when you add two and two together,” Hawgood said.
The chancellor, who greeted approximately 100 UCSF faculty, staff and learners for the debut of his address at Mission Bay, highlighted the accomplishments and opportunities facing the University. He framed his address through the four priorities that he outlined in 2019:
- Fostering innovation
- Forging partnerships
- Ensuring financial resiliency
- Empowering our people
Curiosity + Innovation
One of UCSF’s greatest strengths is the curiosity driven by scientists engaged in fundamental discovery.
“The ability to bridge laboratory discoveries through clinical research and ultimately to patient care solidifies the recognition of UCSF as one of the world’s top academic medical centers,” said Hawgood, MBBS, Arthur and Toni Rembe Rock Distinguished Professor.
He highlighted the importance of basic research in the work of UCSF biochemist and molecular biologist David Julius, who received the 2021 Nobel Prize and a 2022 UCSF Medal. Julius and his team co-discovered key mechanisms for sensing heat, cold and touch, a finding that can be used to develop new therapeutics for pain.
Molecular biologist Natalia Jura, the 27th recipient of the Byers Award in Basic Science, was another example of the “best of UCSF science.” Jura and her team are using cryo-electronic microscopy to capture how a HER2 mutation results in multiple types of breast cancers.
Translating the science into practice are UCSF pediatricians Morton Cowan and Jennifer Puck. They are leading a clinical trial – fast tracked by the FDA – to treat children born with Artemis-SCID with gene therapy.
To support these and other scientists’ work, UCSF has embarked on the revitalization of Parnassus Heights campus. The goal is to foster an environment of collaboration across research and patient care. As part of the revitalization, investments in the community include job creation, workforce training, enhanced transportation and housing.
“We are laying the groundwork for a reinvigorated campus where those who are engaged in our mission areas of research, education and patient care have the facilities and tools to achieve new levels of success,” Hawgood said.
Integration + Partnership
During his address, Hawgood announced the integration of the clinical practices of UCSF School of Dentistry and UCSF Health. The initiative would bring dental faculty practices under the UCSF Health brand. The first dental clinic will be built at China Basin near UCSF Health’s primary care practice.
“Oral health has a direct impact on overall health,” said Hawgood. “This integration will bring greater health benefits for our patients through a more holistic approach to care.”
UCSF also is committed to partnering with its neighbors, among them educational institutions that inspire children to take an interest in the life sciences. One such partnership is with the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). The Science and Health Education Partnership, first launched with SFUSD in 1987 to introduce school children to the wonders of science, will be expanded to engage high school students in health, biotechnology and the life sciences near UCSF’s Mission Bay campus.
Another educational partnership is with the San Joaquin Valley PRIME-+ program. Jointly led by UC Merced, UCSF Fresno and the UCSF School of Medicine, the program expands medical education and care delivery to the Central Valley community.
Financial Health + Today’s Realities
Hawgood described the state of the University as “strong” with a solid financial future backed by its 10-year financial plan. But he cautioned that the University must remain vigilant in the face of challenges, such as inflationary pressures, weakened investment performance and increased borrowing costs.
“To achieve our long-term goals, we need to be efficient, spend our public funds responsibly, and identify savings that can be redirected to support our strategic priorities,” he said.
Donors and supporters have contributed greatly to the University’s financial health. A recent example being an anonymous donor’s pledge of $25 million each to UCSF and UC Berkeley to help launch the Computational Precision Health Program. The joint doctorate program is designed to advance computing and data science with biomedicine and health.
Unity + Strength
Turning toward the community and culture at UCSF, the chancellor reflected on how faculty, staff and learners rise to the challenges they face.
“While the word is divided by war, politics, religion, culture and distrust of science, the people of UCSF have remained resilient, standing united and drawing strength from one another,” said Hawgood.
UCSF has a history of individuals who have fought for equal opportunity, equity and inclusion – including two recipients of the 2022 UCSF Medal, the University’s highest honor. The Black Caucus called attention to racism and discrimination, and galvanized change at UCSF starting in 1968, and Jennie Chin-Hansen, RN, MS ’71, FAAN, an alumna of the UCSF School of Nursing, was recognized as a national leader in health care for the elderly.
Hawgood also paid tribute to Dan Lowenstein, MD, who will step down as executive vice chancellor and provost at the end of the year. Lowenstein will continue to teach and conduct research at UCSF.
“Dan’s contributions reflect the best of what we do when we pair our pursuit of innovation in the health sciences with compassionate service,” said Hawgood.
The chancellor recognized those in the UCSF community who have championed diversity, equity and inclusion in the LGBTQIA community.
Hawgood acknowledged the need for continued investment and improvements in UCSF’s culture and is committed to funding efforts around wellbeing, social justice and future of work, and optimizing the culture at UCSF by helping leaders to create conditions where everyone can thrive and do their best work.
“We have made incredible progress against our key four goals this year,” said Hawgood. “As we look forward to 2023, we must keep a focus on these goals, which provide a roadmap to our future regardless of what comes our way.”