December 3, 2018
With another year heading into the home stretch, I am taking time (and this issue) to reflect on 2018 and look ahead to 2019.
But I’m going to start by sharing a story, a little parable I’ve told many times that seems to resonate. It helps explain how things get done at UCSF today and will progress into the future.
Two friends are walking along a path next to the river, as they do every Sunday morning. They’re enjoying this particularly beautiful morning when they suddenly hear screams for help. Very soon, around a bend in the river, they see a child drowning in the current. One of the pair immediately jumps in, hauls the child back to shore, and administers first aid. They call 911, and the child is whisked away to the hospital.
Their walk continues. Twice more they encounter someone near drowning. As the same person prepares to jump in one more time, she sees her friend running away up the path. She calls, “Hey, where are you going? I’m going to need your help with this one! I don’t think I can do it by myself.”
And her friend hollers back, “I’m going to go up the path to find out why these people are falling into the river in the first place.”
This is a favorite of mine, because in life we need people who are always willing to jump into the river. They are the salt of the earth, and here at UCSF they are the extraordinary health care professionals (our nurses, pharmacists, dentists, physicians, therapists, and so many others) who come to work every single day (and night!) to deliver the very best care that modern medicine has to offer.
But we also need people who run ahead to understand what the heck is going on, so that the care we offer tomorrow, or a year from now – or a hundred years from now – will be better than it is today. We have made many great advances over the years, many of them in this still-new century. But ask yourself: How well are we providing for our patients, in terms of treating their illness without any side effects, or being able to cure someone who has a disease, or interceding before someone gets ill in the first place? There’s obviously a tremendous amount of work yet to do. Progress at UCSF means embracing and promoting research as formative and foundational to our mission.
2018 – What a year
Yes, we have made advances in the past year within our overarching mission of advancing health worldwide and serving the public – from the launch of reimagining Parnassus to making a commitment towards tackling the crisis of homelessness. If you didn’t attend Chancellor Sam Hawgood’s State of the University address, I encourage you to watch it online – the firsthand stories will inspire you.
The chancellor’s remarks also touched on staff engagement at UCSF. While this year’s engagement survey results informed us that overall engagement is holding steady, some groups reported significantly less engagement than their co-workers. Most concerning to me is that black and Hispanic staff generally had lower engagement scores than their white and Asian colleagues, and staff who are represented by unions generally felt less engaged than non-represented staff. I know I speak for so many among us when I say that we are committed to making strides so that our workforce reflects the communities we serve and the students we teach.
Beyond our university, it has been a very, very difficult year (some might say pre-apocalyptic). The many destructive hurricanes in the East, devastating wildfires that struck California, in particular the Camp Fire, and horrific loss of life and injury due to senseless gun violence left many feeling helpless and alone.
And then there’s the political landscape. Undocumented immigrants face escalated attempts to find and deport them. (Read the chancellor’s email about Assembly Bill 21 and what to do in circumstances that involve immigration enforcement activity at any UCSF location or targeting a member of the UCSF community.) Words cannot describe the horror of the separation of children from their parents crossing the southern U.S. border and the lukewarm attempts at reunification. A few weeks ago, our country had a midterm election that featured such divisive rhetoric and stirred up so much emotion, punctuated by acts of hatred and violence, that it shook many of us – including me – to our core.
In the aftermath, however, I see signs of hope, another lens on who we are as a society and the direction we must pursue. Women, underrepresented populations, and young people turned out in record numbers. In fact, the country as a whole set a record, when for the first time more than one hundred million people voted in a midterm election. I saw people with a newfound sense of purpose getting involved. Make no mistake about it – the only realistic means we have for moving our country in the direction of attaining justice and freedom for everyone is by using the collective power of our vote. I realize that the system itself remains flawed in terms of equal representation for all, but demographic trends make it very likely that things can and will improve.
My colleague, Dr. Catherine Lucey, wrote recently about an ancient Jewish concept known as tikkun olam, “to heal the world.” Certainly, this year demonstrated that we, as a whole, are sorely in need of healing, which our community excels at worldwide.
2019 – Looking forward with optimism
Back here at our UCSF home, I see a bright horizon:
- A more family-oriented UCSF with family-friendly policies for faculty and additional support and resources through myfamily.ucsf.edu
- Further success of UCSF: The Campaign, with major support going to faculty and trainees
- Refinement of our space policies to allow us to achieve far more efficient utilization of our current space
- Progress on the merger of both clinical and research activities at Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland
- Roll-out of the Parnassus master plan, with an exciting interim benchmark coming by this summer
- Expanded equity and inclusion through programs sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Outreach:
- More fulfilling engagement fostered by initiatives from Learning and Organization Development (L&OD):
- Follow-up Staff Engagement Town Hall on January 30
- Efforts that shape and support an inclusive strengths-based culture through strengths finder exercises as well as diversity and inclusion training created in tandem with UCSF Health and School of Medicine and School of Nursing initiatives
- Enhancements to existing L&OD professional and organization development programs and introduction of new leadership programs.
So, whether we are progressing toward a truly inclusive, diverse, and engaged community, providing state-of-the-art care to the patients we serve, creating new programs and constructing buildings, making incredible scientific discoveries, or attracting and teaching the very best of the next generation – whether we are jumping into the river or running up the path – ever onward! With the amazing and talented people in our community, there is no limit to what we can envision and accomplish in the coming year.
Finally, one thing I always look forward to is hearing from you, so if you have a topic for 2019 or advice of any kind, let me know at [email protected].
With love, peace, and joy,
Dan’s Tip of the Month
A fantastic gift for a young person in your life, The Sneetches tells a cautionary tale from the unique perspective of the great Dr. Seuss. The classic story has an important message for everyone, and should you need a refresher, you can watch a short video or this longer version – either will bring back your memories of this oldie but goodie.