June 1, 2016
Ahhhh, June! The days are getting longer and we have more time to enjoy the outdoors. Everything is in bloom and the spectrum of green reflected in the canopy of nearby Golden Gate Park is a wonder to behold. (Remember—I’m based at Parnassus!) Conserving the beauty of the park involves the work of many—not the least of which includes folks hunting for financial resources, people with a future vision, and experts who can problem-solve the myriad challenges of maintaining a living entity.
UCSF is no different.
This month, I’ll highlight philanthropy and the resource-finding effort of our University Development and Alumni Relations team; value-driven leadership and the impact of adaptable vision and staying true to yourself; and efforts to confront the challenge of becoming a stronger industry partner:
- A Good Time to be Breaking Records: The impact of philanthropy on our work at UCSF
- Football, Education, Leadership, and Dreams: Words of wisdom from Michael Drake
- Finding the Sweet Spot: Looking to enhance clinical research while fostering industry relations
I hope you find something inspiring or at least enlightening in those items. Please share your thoughts with me at [email protected], and let me know what you’d like to see in future issues of Expresso.
A Good Time to be Breaking Records: The impact of philanthropy on our work at UCSF
On the heels of April’s stunning announcement that Joan and Sandy Weill and their family foundation pledged $185 million to UCSF—the largest single gift in our history—to support our work in neuroscience (which I highlighted last month), I thought it would be appropriate to step back for a larger look at the impressive achievements of our fundraising arm, the office of University Development and Alumni Relations (UDAR), and how these folks do what they do.
Like the Golden State Warriors, UDAR keeps setting records and then breaking them the next year. I am still rather blown away by the latest results of the Council for Aid to Education, which showed that UCSF was ranked #1 in fundraising among public universities in 2015 and #4 among all universities (behind Stanford, Harvard and USC—think of all the institutions below us, and we don’t even have a football team!)
Jennifer Arnett, Associate Vice Chancellor in UDAR, shared with me some of the reasons for this run of success, and it starts with our amazing faculty.
“We don’t raise money by ourselves,” she says. “We raise money in partnership with our faculty, UCSF leadership, and our volunteers. The results reflect the excellence of our schools, our researchers, our clinicians, and our students. It’s their excellence—and the confidence the donor community has in them—that drives our work.”
In addition, UCSF has invested in building and retaining a really strong group of fundraisers and support staff. UDAR has decreased turnover among our top fundraisers since John Ford joined us as vice chancellor in 2012. Most people are initially surprised to hear that UDAR has 155 staff members. This might sound like a lot, but I learned that UCSF’s record-breaking results are accomplished with this relatively small development team. In fact, UCSF has one of the lowest “costs per dollar raised” in the business—if not the lowest.
It also helps that the Bay Area, from which 90 percent of UCSF fundraising comes, has experienced such remarkable economic growth (the downside of this is, of course, the impact on the cost of living for so many).
While major donations like the $185 million Weill gift draw lots of media attention, many other smaller gifts are just as vital. Collectively, gifts at every level can be directed to endow chairs and distinguished professorships, ease the way for our students, and help support high-risk/high-reward research projects that the NIH might not fund but which, as Jennifer says, “help keep us at the cutting edge of discovery.” Many people are also predicting that the pendulum of federal funding for research is not going to swing back to much higher pay-lines for a while, making alternative sources of funding (e.g., philanthropy) more important than ever.
We have had some other hugely effective gifts: our largest donor, Chuck Feeney, gave $100 million last year to support faculty, students, research programs, and UCSF Health. In 2013, Sir Michael Moritz and his wife, Harriet Heyman, made a lead gift to establish what has become—with over 1,000 additional gifts and a commitment from UCSF—an $80 million endowment to support PhD programs. Last year, UCSF garnered $20 million from the Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) when we emerged the winner in a competitive process.
It's also notable that gifts are not an end unto themselves. A relatively small grant can launch a research effort that can have a big impact. Philanthropist Herb Sandler and his late wife Marion helped establish UCSF's Program for Breakthrough Biomedical Research (PBBR), and researchers have parlayed that into $500 million in additional grants from the NIH and elsewhere over the past eighteen years.
Another interesting tidbit: in the past year, UCSF has received 24,000 gifts ranging from $1 to $185 million. Jennifer says about 175 gifts fell in the range between $250,000 and $5 million.
UDAR’s plans for the future include boosting our endowment, which at $2 billion may sound robust, but is actually quite small compared to schools like Harvard ($37 billion) and Stanford ($22 billion). A bigger endowment means that the schools can offer attractive aid packages to students and more dependable salary support to faculty, among other things—a major competitive advantage.
In the past year I’ve learned a lot more about UDAR’s strategic approach to philanthropy, and I’ll be upfront about the fact that, unfortunately, our crystal-clear, high priority needs (e.g., more affordable housing, better salaries for everyone to deal with the high cost of living, recruitment and retention packages for faculty, student aid) do not automatically reflect the interests or vision of potential donors. Jennifer says that UDAR cannot “chase funding for needs.” Rather, UDAR fundraisers work to understand UCSF’s priorities—the priorities of the institution, as well as of the departments and faculty UDAR fundraisers support—while simultaneously building relationships with donors. “Imagine that we have a list of the most important things we need to accomplish. We don’t get to tackle that list in order,” Jennifer says, but instead can follow a donor’s passion when it aligns with something on the list. “Then you make the match,” she says.
I’ll close with this: I’ve now had the chance to witness first-hand just how extremely hard Team UDAR works on our behalf, and the great expertise they bring to this work. It’s a never-ending challenge, and one that will always seem to fall short in the minds of some. But I am very grateful for their absolute dedication to doing everything they can to help us find success, both individually and collectively.
Football, Education, Leadership, and Dreams: Words of wisdom from Michael Drake
UCSF was honored last month with a visit from an old friend, president of The Ohio State University (OSU) Michael Drake, MD. Not only is he one of our alumni, but he also served as an assistant dean in the School of Medicine as well as vice president-health affairs at UCOP before going on to take the helm of UC Irvine and then OSU. Michael ostensibly returned for his goddaughter’s graduation from the School of Medicine and agreed to give a talk on leadership while he was here.
His talk was peppered with lots of wonderful anecdotes, not all from the world of education. Of course, at OSU, he has become well-versed in football, and he relayed a story of Buckeye alum Archie Griffin, the only person to win the Heisman Trophy twice. Griffin told this year’s OSU graduates of his inauspicious debut in 1973, in which he committed the unpardonable sin of fumbling. Coach Woody Hayes nevertheless gave the freshman another shot the next week, and he set a school record for rushing.
The lesson, Michael said, was simple. “When you mess up, and you will mess up in a big way, your job is to get back on your feet with the future that’s in front of you,” he said. “You can go from a mistake to an opportunity and actually exceed your dreams.”
In his own life, Michael has adopted what he called “values-driven leadership,” based on seven principles:
- Respect yourself and others.
- Be curious. Foster your intellect.
- Conduct yourself with integrity. “Be trusted. Say what you mean and mean what you say.”
- Maintain compassion and empathy. “Care about other people.”
- Appreciate the circumstances people come from. Maybe there’s a good reason someone has a different point of view.
- Have passion and commitment. “Put in a real effort.”
- Have fun. “These are our only lives, and we should be able to enjoy them.”
Michael may have had his tongue in his cheek when he urged us to “do all seven of these, simultaneously, all the time.” But he was clearly sincere when he said, “If things come up and you don’t know what to do, think of these values. What would a person do if these things were true for that person? That’s been really helpful for me to think about.”
And, he said, feel free to make your own list of what’s important to you.
I loved receiving that thoughtful, experience-based, inspiring list of values—it seems rather obvious that we would all do well to take note of them. I took notes on all of them, and I want to weave them into my approach to leadership.
Michael’s talk was also a reminder that ultimately, leaders really do have an enormous responsibility to use their best judgment for the good of the people they serve. People who do that best—like Michael and, I can safely say, our own chancellor—are extremely intelligent, balanced, and thoughtful. They’re good listeners, and they have a worldly perspective. They can appreciate the diversity of perspectives we have as human beings. Take all of that and apply it with a sense of humility and purpose—not for ego gratification or your legacy or self-glorification—but for the people who look to you for guidance and direction.
It’s a great talk. If you missed it, you can watch it online.
Inspired? I’m glad to include this list of a few of the opportunities for professional and leadership development that UCSF offers to academic and staff employees as well as students:
- CORO – Council on Faculty Life
- ABOG – Academic Business Officers Group
- Skillsoft – Learning & Organization Development
- Graduate & Professional Student Association – Student Academic Affairs
Finding the Sweet Spot: Looking to enhance clinical research while fostering industry relations
It’s a common complaint, especially from the pharmaceutical industry, that academic institutions can be difficult and complicated partners with respect to clinical trials. We hear that criticism quite a bit about UCSF, and we’re working to address it.
First steps included engaging external experts who identified challenges and made recommendations based on their discussions with people at UCSF and in industry. Associate Vice Chancellor Jenny Grandis, who oversees clinical and translational research, says, “We are trying really hard to operationalize those things we think are most pressing and to come up with solutions to some of these really important problems.” The last administration laid the groundwork for changing the status quo, and Jenny wants people to know, “We have not forgotten about it.”
While the initial 2014 recommendations from the consultants to build the Office of Clinical Research were fairly high-level, Jenny’s team is working on a strategic plan, with the objective of a deeper dive into both the identified challenges and recommendations. Once we determine potential solutions we will begin implementation. Eunice Stephens leads this new office and effort.
The recommendations included:
- developing a supportive, transparent, and efficient infrastructure,
- working to align with industry expectations,
- ensuring industry timelines are clearly communicated and incorporated into contracting processes,
- infusing the value of clinical research into our organizational culture.
In addition to recommendations, the consultants also identified obstacles:
- Industry has labeled UCSF as being “one of the most bureaucratic academic medical centers” for clinical research.
- The time it takes to start a study can be twice as long as that of our peer institutions.
- Clinical research support is made up of several cultures and processes, and the systems, although sometimes similar, are developed and managed separately, creating a thicket of bureaucracy.
- From an internal point of view, often our faculty and staff find it difficult to conduct clinical research or successfully connect to a support system—encountering similar issues in terms of bureaucracy, time to set up a trial, etc.
Their findings did take note of our strengths, praising our “phenomenal investigators … tremendous entrepreneurial culture … [and] very strong Office of Technology,” and confirmed, “UCSF is moving in the right direction.”
“Clinical research represents a substantial part of our enterprise,” Jenny says. She continued that “clinical research represents a significant portion of our NIH-funded grants and a major source of revenue for the medical center. It’s important here. The question is, how can we do it better?”
The recommendations won’t be easy to implement, but the work has begun. Our sister institutions UCLA and UCSD also went through a similar exploration to identify gaps and shortcomings in their processes related to clinical research, and tapping into their efforts in this direction, we have engaged the same outside organization to help us.
Our overall objectives are to:
- establish a consistent process for study start up,
- provide a consistent and transparent financial strategy for performing coverage analysis,
- institute clear pricing for study budget development,
- provide expertise and training to perform charge separation.
Everyone can appreciate that there are understandable reasons for tension between industry and academia. We certainly don’t exist solely to serve industry, and we need to keep doing the things we do well that are part of our mission. We do, however, need to figure out the right balance—the sweet spot. While academic researchers are freed from having to justify the profit-potential of their work, Jenny points out that “industry is mission-critical to bringing new treatment options to our patients.” The goal, as we continue on this journey, is to reimagine the clinical and translational research environment at UCSF into one that serves both our faculty and industry in reaching their goals—which will ultimately help our patients.
Dan’s Tip of the Month
Despite the horror stories, I’m guessing most of you are like me when it comes to passwords: 1) I don’t typically choose those with maximum security (how many of us opt for a suggested password like Cpv#n8aTPr5tZ?); 2) it’s a challenge to keep track of them all (from credit cards to Netflix and beyond); and 3) I haven’t had an efficient system for secure password storage. Well, life changed when I found 1Password—it’s an app that really does what it claims. It's not cheap, one-time $60 or $5/month, but worth every penny in time saved and peace of mind.