EVCP Expresso – April 2019

Dear Colleagues:

Have you ever fallen prey to a particularly good April Fools’ Day prank? I remember being a 4th grader at Monmouth Junction Elementary School in New Jersey, and being told by the teachers that we were going on a field trip (on April 1) to watch the entire Forsgate Dairy Farm being lifted up by an army of helicopters to a new location. Was I ever excited to see that happen! Well, it didn’t – but I did get the opportunity to milk a cow that day.


But, no prank here, we’re looking brightly into the future. This month’s topics:

Also, please check out the updated EVCP international resources webpages that have new information about forming affiliations, best practices, types of partnerships, and FAQs. Faculty, staff, and trainees will find current guidance, practical procedures, and useful links for international work and travel.

Overall, it’s my best practice to not use Expresso as a space to promote events and other activities, but…I encourage you to attend or tune into the upcoming:

Do you know of an administrative issue you want me to address? How about an amazing accomplishment? Or something I haven’t even considered? Maybe you just want to react to something I’ve written. I welcome all replies, so please write to me at [email protected].




No Joking Required: Laughing towards a healthful world

In observation of Stress Awareness Month and World Health Day on April 7, I’m going to push the envelope a bit and encourage you to step outside your comfort zone…to lower the amount of stress in your life.

When was the last time you had a really good laugh? The kind when you’re doubled over, can’t talk, and tears are streaming down your face? Do you remember how good it felt?

Passing by one of the fifth floor classrooms at UCSF’s Osher Center for Integrative Medicine on Divisadero, you can hear laughter – loud, uproarious, nonstop laughter. No work meeting is ever that funny – nor as good for you.

This happy sound is Laughter Yoga, a program that started in India and has spread around the world, promoting the idea that laughter truly is great for the body and soul. Teresa Corrigan, RN, MA, has been leading these free classes for ten years, giving people a workout with belly laughs, guffaws, chuckles, and chortles.

Amazingly enough, it’s done largely without jokes or much in the way of comic prompting. Participants of all ages, genders, ethnicities, income levels, and abilities form a circle and force themselves to laugh. “That’s the beautiful thing about laughter – it’s universal and contagious,” Teresa says. “It’s for everyone.”

Dr. Madan Kataria launched Laughter Yoga with five people in a Mumbai park in 1995. As a health care provider, he knew there must be a way to combat the heaviness of a job in which clinicians see so much pain and suffering. He started with a group telling jokes, but not everyone has the same sense of humor, and the jokes sometimes got a bit blue. Then the idea hit: even faking laughter can bring the benefits of laughter and yoga.

After training with Dr. Kataria, Teresa began helping people in San Francisco make that connection – or perhaps disconnection. You transcend everything that’s on your mind – and truly disconnect. Because when we’re really into the joy of the laugh, we’re not thinking about our to-do list or how late we are. As Teresa sees it, Laughter Yoga is a profound form of meditation.

She ticks off the many health benefits laughter can have, from lowering stress to enhanced breathing and blood flow, and let’s not forget those endorphins! Teresa has conducted one-on-one sessions with patients, both at Osher and at UCSF Medical Center and includes patient visits with laughter as part of her teacher training. Often nurses report that their patients are more relaxed and receptive even after a brief Laughter Yoga practice.

She is now participating in a study with dialysis patients and would love other UCSF researchers to get on board and scientifically document the impacts. She asks people to fill out a form before and after class, and there’s never been less than a 47 percent perceived reduction in stress reported.

Interested but not sure? Watch a video about the class. Unlike most yoga, you don’t need a mat and an expensive studio, and if you can’t make it to class, you can practice on your own! You’ll be glad you did. Namaste.

back to top


ImmunoX: “X” marks the spot…of everything

Immunotherapy has been in the news in recent years, because it holds great promise in the fight against cancer. But why stop there?

In fact, a group of UCSF scientists at Parnassus are moving full steam ahead with investigations into how the immune system – that vital network of immune cells throughout the body – plays a role in the spread, and the possible cure, of far more diseases than we ever imagined. According to Matthew “Max” Krummel, professor in the Department of Pathology, “…a lot of diseases that did not include the immune system as part of their ethos or understanding are now revealing themselves to be intricately connected to this system.”

Max chairs the Bakar ImmunoX Initiative here at UCSF, our ambitious new attempt to do what he calls “radical collaboration.” His vision? To pair immunologists with clinicians and scientists in every disease category to see how the immune system plays a role, both in our understanding of the disease and in our search for ways to combat it.

For example, Max explains, “Atherosclerosis is a disease that in the past was thought of as a cardiovascular disease, but now it’s realized that the base of those atherosclerotic plaques are macrophages, which are immune cells.”

“This is where the X comes from,” he says. “The X is everything.” (By the way, Nicholas Weiler wrote a great article about ImmunoX for UCSF last November.)

ImmunoX – which has received significant philanthropic support – has a few big goals in mind:

  • Develop increasingly sophisticated ways of interpreting the normal immune system and the ways it can go awry.
  • Share data in ways we’ve never done before at a university level.
  • Partner with CoLabs, a new campuswide central lab resource designed to enable cross-disciplinary collaboration. With support from ImmunoX and other partners, CoLabs will give the UCSF research community access to experts, advanced instrumentation, sample analysis pipelines, and tools for analyzing and sharing large data sets. Read more about the origin of CoLabs at Parnassus.

Given our rich tradition of collaboration, it’s quite fitting that ImmunoX launched here at UCSF. “This was the right university to do it at,” Max says. “We have a history of people wanting to do more than they can possibly do on their own, and challenging the university infrastructure to do more.”

We are working quite hard to provide ImmunoX with the space necessary for these ambitious goals that have the collective foresight of its team members, as well as with the CoLabs, another significant aspect of our ongoing effort to reimagine the Parnassus campus. We will get there eventually.

In the meantime, I’m glad that’s not stopping Max and his amazing crew from forging ahead. ImmunoX already released a request for applications for its pilot “coprojects” in February, and another round of RFAs are due this fall. They are also sending out targeted requests to collections of investigators to turn their labs’ favorite technologies into ‘Junior CoLabs,’ platforms that can enter that program and provide technology across the campus and disciplines.

Towards furthering community and inclusivity, ImmunoX hosted Immuno“XX”: Women in Immunology Symposium in October. Immuno“XX” is an exciting community-building initiative organized by graduate students Tara McIntyre, Camillia Azimi, and Casey Burnett. The inaugural event was a huge success, and I am glad to report that it has already secured support for 2019. More details to follow in the coming months.

The response from researchers who want to work within the ImmunoX and CoLabs spheres is fantastic. Keep your eyes peeled...an opportunity just might arise that fits with your area.

back to top


Be an Energy Star: UCSF shines with energy savings

The effects of the U.S. on the world’s climate and natural resources are staggering. In 2018, U.S. carbon emissions surged despite the closure of coal plants. While the U.S. makes up only 5% of the world’s population, we consume almost 25% of the world’s energy!

Many of us are reducing our carbon footprint. At home, the trash bin is rarely full and our recycling and compost bins overflow. We drive electric, hybrid, hydrogen cars…and some don’t own a car. We all must make a concerted effort.

How can we do the same at work? Imagine this: if all 1,200 ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezers at UCSF were replaced with ENERGY STAR models, UCSF’s emissions would be reduced by 8,400 metric tons of CO2, saving $2.1M annually. The estimated annual energy saved would be equivalent to:

  • Powering UCSF’s Long Hospital
  • Powering both HSW and HSE research buildings
  • Driving a car 20,000,000 miles (that’s 40 trips to the moon and back)
  • Burning 9,000,000 lbs. of coal, or
  • Charging over 1 billion smartphones.

As of October 2018, UCSF’s Energy Conservation Policy states that appliances and office equipment purchased with University funds must be ENERGY STAR labeled where available. ENERGY STAR certified products comprise a broad range of items.

ENERGY STAR is the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) labeling program designed to identify and promote energy-efficient products. You’ve undoubtedly seen the labels while shopping for your own appliances. Until a few years ago, there was no way for researchers to easily distinguish between ULT freezer models that used more or less energy. However, in 2015, UCSF participated in the development of the ENERGY STAR rating for laboratory-grade freezers. The label has now expanded to a wide range of residential and commercial appliances and equipment, including over 20 ULT freezer models.

Incentivizing greener purchasing choices is behind the success of the UCSF Office of Sustainability’s ULT Freezer Rebate Program. By promoting energy-saving practices, this program reduces carbon emissions and takes UCSF a step closer to achieving carbon neutrality by 2025. Not only does it lead to significant financial savings, but by reducing the health impacts of air-polluting emissions, the program is clearly aligned with our mission of advancing health worldwide!

Laboratories can consume up to two thirds of the energy used by research universities. Cold storage equipment, particularly freezers with a temperature set-point of -80C° or lower, are some of the biggest energy hogs. The 1,200 ULT freezers housed across UCSF emit 13,000 metric tons of CO2 annually and cost the university over $3M from plug load energy and increased HVAC cooling requirements.

With the expected exponential growth of precision medicine research, risk reduction with cold storage is increasingly critical. The ULT Freezer Rebate Program is key to managing risk and energy demand, and the Office of Sustainability hopes to transition the entire fleet of freezers to ENERGY STAR.

The Office of Sustainability’s program helps labs replace old, energy-gulping freezers with ENERGY STAR-labeled ULTs. The rebate was designed to reduce the price differential between conventional and Energy Star and to invite researchers to play a bigger role in UCSF’s carbon neutral goal. Through multi-department collaboration and commitment to environmental stewardship, the program is a triple-win solution for Facilities Services, the Office of Sustainability, and the research lab community.

Under a recently revised ULT Freezer Rebate Program, researchers can receive a:

  • $4,500 “Replacement Rebate” – decommission an old, energy-inefficient freezer and replace it with a new, ENERGY STAR model.
  • $2,000 “New Purchase Rebate” – purchase a new, ENERGY STAR freezer (without retiring an existing one)
  • $500 “Chill Up Rebate” – set any new or existing ULT freezer at -70C instead of -80C. This simple change reduces energy demand by 25-30%.

Forty rebates were issued this year, contributing to a total of 82 freezers since 2015 and $89,000 in energy savings annually. This results in a savings of over $250,000 over the past four years – not including the indirect energy savings of up to 50% from reduced cooling load of the freezer spaces.

To sweeten the deal, the Office of Sustainability is also offering $1000 for ULT freezer seismic bracing through the UC Be Smart About Safety program. These funds are good until they run out.

Do you have ideas for carbon offsets? UC is releasing a Request for Ideas that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or sequester carbon. Projects must meet UC evaluation criteria and values as well as fulfill UC’s research, education, and public service mission.

And, do you have a competitive streak? Take the UC Cool Campus Challenge, a fun competition between all ten UC campuses! Sign up now, and until April 26 you’ll earn points as an individual or team by pledging to save energy and reduce emissions, sharing stories, and spreading the word. Help UCSF become the Coolest Campus and win fabulous prizes including gift cards, solar chargers, and a grand prize of a Google Home!

back to top


Dan’s Tip of the Month

The Argument logoHave you heard “The Argument” podcast yet? To be sure, the news tells us what’s going on, but very rarely what to make of it. To do just that, New York Times opinion columnists Ross Douthat, Michelle Goldberg, and David Leonhardt take hold of hot topics each week and argue viewpoints across the political spectrum, so we can each decide where we stand and how to intelligently engage with the opposition. Amber Fitzsimmons turned me on to this riveting, fact-based commentary and exercise in civility. Perfect commute listening – the 30+ minutes go by in a flash!

back to top