About the Campus

History of Parnassus

A tent city formed in Golden Gate Park after the 1906 earthquake

Tent city in Golden Gate Park after the great 1906 earthquake in San Francisco.

From its origins following the California Gold Rush, UCSF established itself along Parnassus Avenue in 1898 on land donated by San Francisco Mayor Adolph Sutro. At the time, Parnassus Heights was in the remote western part of San Francisco, but its medical facilities suddenly became a central player in saving lives when the 1906 earthquake and fire struck. With much of San Francisco — even its hospitals — destroyed in the disaster, a tent city arose in Golden Gate Park, housing 40,000 people near the growing health sciences institution. 

In 1914, the prestigious Hooper Foundation for Medical Research selected Parnassus as the site for its research work, creating the first medical research foundation in the United States incorporated into a university. Hooper investigators contributed to an expanding research enterprise on Parnassus that led to a 1949 vote by the UC Board of Regents designating the campus, rather than UC Berkeley, as the main site for all medical science.

The 20th century was a period of remarkable growth, with the addition of new research institutes and facilities, culminating in administrative independence and the selection of John B. de C.M. Saunders, MD, as UCSF’s first chancellor in 1964. 

The Campus Today

Many departments in the School of Medicine, ranging from Anesthesia and Perioperative Care to Surgery, call Parnassus home, and it is the base for the School of Dentistry. Many departments from the schools of nursing and pharmacy also are located on “the hill.”

The UCSF Parnassus campus is home to a network of comprehensive patient care services for adults through the UCSF Helen Diller Medical Center at Parnassus Heights, Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital and Clinics, and the UCSF Dental Center. The facilities treat both inpatients and outpatients.

The UCSF research enterprise spans many locations, but the Parnassus and Mission Bay campuses are the two principal sites for the majority of the distinguished research for which UCSF is known. In addition to laboratories that are distinguished for their leading work in basic science, Parnassus is the site of a number of centers and institutes that focus on specific areas within the health sciences, uncovering the ways the human body works and discovering ways to combat many illnesses.

Other facilities and services on Parnassus include the Kalmanovitz Library, the University’s bookstore, a lively food court, a conference and fitness center at Millberry Union, and a child care center.

Much of the public art that has become a UCSF hallmark over the years can be found on the Parnassus campus, including sculptures by Beniamino Bufano and Jim Campbell and a mural by Douglas Cooper.

Woman walking past a historical mural at the Parnassus Heights campus

A Vision For the Future

Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCSF.

The Parnassus campus has grown to become a city within the city, with an average daily population of 16,000 people, including faculty, staff, students, patients and visitors. 

The campus continues to thrive, and in February 2011 celebrated the grand opening of the Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building, the new headquarters of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCSF. Designed by internationally renowned architect Rafael Viñoly, the building provides a dramatic statement of UCSF’s commitment to the Parnassus site.

The $123 million building, paid for by state and private funds, is designed to foster intensive collaboration and a cross-pollination of ideas among scientists representing a broad spectrum of labs and disciplines. The researchers’ goal is to develop strategies for treating a variety of diseases and conditions, such as birth defects, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, spinal cord injury and cancer.

Since the opening of the new UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay in 2015, clinical care on Parnassus has transitioned into focusing on high-end adult surgical and medical services, including emergency medicine, while UCSF Medical Center at Mount Zion has become a major outpatient hub, offering advanced diagnostic and therapeutic services. In 2018, the clinical complex was renamed the UCSF Helen Diller Medical Center at Parnassus Heights to recognize the Helen Diller Foundation's landmark $500 million commitment to support the planning of a new hospital, which is expected to open its doors to patients before 2030.

What’s Located Here

Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research

In one of the largest and most comprehensive programs of its kind in the United States, this center allows basic science researchers to carry out studies aimed at understanding disease progression and treatment strategies for a broad spectrum of disorders.

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Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost's Office

The Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost occupies a unique and important role at UCSF, supporting diverse interests and campus constituencies, as well as the community at large.

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Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital and Clinics

UCSF Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital and Clinics (LPPHC) consists of an adult inpatient unit, an adult partial hospitalization program, an adult intensive outpatient program, and adult/child outpatient services.

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School of Dentistry

Founded in 1881, the School of Dentistry is driven to advance oral, craniofacial and public health through excellence in education, discovery and patient-centered care.

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School of Medicine

Consistently ranked among the nation’s top medical schools, the UCSF School of Medicine strives to advance human health through a fourfold mission of education, research, patient care and public service.

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School of Nursing

The UCSF School of Nursing fosters excellence, diversity, and innovation through rigorous coursework designed to prepare future leaders in the fields of patient care, research, health policy, and academia.

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School of Pharmacy

The UCSF School of Pharmacy focuses on improving health through precise therapeutics—medicines, medical devices, and diagnostic tests.

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UCSF Diabetes Center

Internationally renowned for excellence in patient care, cutting-edge science, and lifesaving patient education, the UCSF Diabetes Center aims to be a one-stop resource for all patients with diabetes.

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UCSF Helen Diller Medical Center at Parnassus Heights

UCSF Helen Diller Medical Center at Parnassus Heights is home to both inpatient and outpatient services, as well as research institutes and educational facilities.

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UCSF Library

The UCSF Library is one of the preeminent health sciences libraries in the world, containing an expansive collection of the world’s health sciences knowledge base. 

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Millberry Fitness & Recreation Center

The Millberry Fitness & Recreation Center offers visitors state-of-the-art equipment, an indoor pool, a Spinning studio, and a dedicated free weight room.

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Campus Planning Projects

Parnassus Heights Re-Envisioning Process

UCSF’s historic Parnassus Heights campus is home to its four professional schools, a hospital, dental center and outpatient clinics and a robust research community, as well as myriad services open to the public. UCSF’s process to re-envision our Parnassus Heights campus will identify potential improvements that would further neighborhood goals for the physical environment in the areas surrounding the campus.

Project details

Parnassus Heights Renovation Projects

In November 2014, the UC Regents approved UCSF's Long Range Development Plan for the next 20 years of development. Parnassus campus construction began in summer 2015 with two building demolitions and the renovation of the Clinical Sciences Building.

Project details

Fifth and Kirkham Traffic Calming

Neighbors near the Parnassus Campus expressed concern about on-going traffic issues near the campus, especially along Fifth Avenue. UCSF staff worked with the residents to develop conceptual plans for pedestrian safety and traffic-calming improvements for the Fifth Avenue & Kirkham Street intersection. UCSF is fully funding the project and working with City officials to implement the improvements. 

Project details