EVCP Expresso – July 2019

Dear Colleagues:

With the Fourth of July holiday just days away, I’m reminded of the words in the Declaration of Independence asserting that “all … are endowed … with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The constant flow of news about accelerated and increased ICE raids (and when they will take place), as well as reports of the deplorable conditions under which thousands of children are being detained, are making many of us question the direction in which our country may be headed. A nation controlled by intimidation and fear is not the land of opportunity that I know and love. Amid feelings of anxiety, frustration, sadness, and most of all helplessness that may rise to the surface, I offer these reminders:

Now, I am glad to present you with this month’s issue of Expresso, in which I highlight three areas that stand to make a positive difference in people’s lives.

I’m very enthusiastic about a new initiative under way at UCSF, one that takes note of our position as an “anchor institution” in San Francisco. My hope is that we can use that status to be a force for positive change in our community. Also included is an update on how the Office of Academic Affairs is using technology to help with the advancement process. Then we’ll take a trip back in time for the first lunar landing (exciting!) and learn about the strong connection between space travel and UCSF.

Speaking of travel… I’ve been having a lot of fun reading your responses to my UCSF Bucket List poll about your favorite places on the planet. Although we’ve received a good number, we want to give more folks a chance to weigh in, so we’re keeping the poll open through the summer!

And consider making a trip to Golden Gate Park and taking one more step toward a better world by joining UCSF at AIDS Walk San Francisco on July 14.

Remember, you can always drop me a line at [email protected] about a topic you’d like to learn more about.



UCSF as Anchor Institution: It’s about the people

Do you remember when corporations started pulling up roots and moving their headquarters out of urban cores, sometimes abandoning cities that had been their home for generations? A ready photo collection of abandoned office buildings is a sad testament to this trend. However, while companies may come and go, other major employers – like universities and health systems – remain moored to their communities…. and UCSF is certainly not going anywhere!

The label bestowed upon these permanent powerhouses? Anchor institutions. These institutions make a conscious decision to help raise up their neighboring communities – in addition to the important work they conduct on a daily basis to support their overarching missions.

The idea seems tailor-made for UCSF. Not only are we an institution with a mission of advancing health worldwide, but we also are committed to improving the health of people in the San Francisco Bay Area and to addressing disparities in health care that have adverse effects on many underserved communities.

That, to me, is the key. We know that many factors determine people’s health – beyond who their health providers are or what medication they’re taking (although those things are important) – e.g., employment, housing, education, and many social issues people face. As an anchor institution, we can’t completely change all of those things, but we can acknowledge their impact on people’s health, and we can strive to make positive advances to improve the situation.

Our colleague Howard Pinderhughes, chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences in the School of Nursing, made an impassioned plea on this topic at the 2015 School of Medicine retreat. As he says, “The anchor institution model and initiative are among the most promising strategies for us as an institution to actually have an impact on health equity, through improving and affecting what are called the social determinants of health.... What an anchor institution does is use the economic infrastructure of an institution to provide opportunities for employment as well as for business in under-resourced and underserved communities.”

UCSF already has a variety of such initiatives under way: we have many partnerships with community organizations and we train people so they can qualify for jobs here. We provide care at community health clinics and at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center.

However, a new report, written by an Anchor Institution Assessment Steering Committee and jointly funded by UCSF and the San Francisco Foundation, shows that we can do a lot more. We are the second largest employer in San Francisco; we can increase our efforts to train and hire San Francisco residents. We buy millions of dollars in goods every year; we can make sure some of those goods are produced and sold by local small businesses. We invest millions of dollars in our endowment; as an anchor institution, we can explore ways to direct some of that investment to vendors and banks within the city.

I’m excited by these and other possibilities that the steering committee recommended, and that was just phase one. I’m even more eager to see the action plan that gets produced in phase two.

Please read more online about UCSF as an anchor institution, and if you are really interested, you can check out the 136-page report, “Advancing Health Equity in San Francisco: Assessing UCSF’s Anchor Institution Capacity” – the result of a year-long effort.

I urge you to learn more and consider getting involved (send an email to [email protected]). UCSF is a member of the greater San Francisco community, and we all have a part in making it healthier and stronger.

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Making a Splash: Tracking scholarly activity in the Advance system

These days, whenever we want to know something, we have oceans of data we can tap. Open a database, type in a few simple keystrokes, run a few queries, and Shazam! – you have an answer, right? Well, not quite. It seems we’re missing out on some fundamental questions about faculty at UCSF, e.g., what proportion of our UCSF basic scientists are women? Or, who are the basic scientists in the clinical departments? “These are fairly common requests, but there are no campus systems that contain this information,” says Brian Alldredge, vice provost for academic affairs.

In an attempt to answer that and other pertinent inquiries, Brian has a new initiative that all faculty, at some point or another, will experience. He and his team have built a new “splash page,” going live today – July 1 – on the Advance site, which we all use, particularly when we’re approaching a promotion.

After you log in, but before you get to the areas where you can take care of the business you’re looking to do, you’ll have to “self-identify your primary creative/scholarly activity.” You’ll get to pick one area from a relatively short list that was vetted by a number of faculty stakeholders.

Brian realizes that some people may be frustrated about not finding an exact match for their research focus or that they can’t check more than one box, especially when many of us wear multiple hats. But the flip side is avoiding a time-consuming and cumbersome survey that would frustrate people. “The perfect is the enemy of the good,” Brian says. He goes on to explain: “This is a relatively low-tech solution to an important problem. We could invest a lot more time and effort to refine it, but as a starting point, it’s a great way to gather information that’s actionable to help faculty.”

Knowing people who identify as primarily basic scientists, or behavioral scientists, or education researchers, to name only three, will also help us target communications. If a new lab core unit comes online, we could send an email to everyone who would most likely be interested in that – and not have to spam those who don’t care.

We also can use this new insight to answer important questions, such as: “Are women in the basic sciences advancing in their career promotions at the same rate as their male colleagues?” (Sure, we could venture a guess, but wouldn’t it be great to have real and continuously updated data?)

The information is strictly for internal purposes only and will not be publicly available. One nice thing about the splash page is, once you fill it out, it will vanish until you ask to change it or you have a new academic advancement action.

Want to know more? Check this link to read Brian’s announcement to the campus. Or, feel free to reach out to [email protected].

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UCSF’s Space Odyssey: Health to the stars and back!

From my earliest memories, I’ve always been fascinated with things that fly. I loved building model rockets with my dad as a little boy. I went to New York City in 1962 to see John Glenn’s ticker tape parade. By the time I was in high school, I thought I’d be an astronaut myself, and even applied to – and was accepted at – the Air Force Academy.

Ultimately, as you can probably tell, my career took a different turn. I also fell in love with the wilderness and decided to go to the University of Colorado Boulder, where I could climb mountains – up, up, up to the sky. Eventually I found science and medicine and my home at UCSF. But I never lost my fascination with space travel. Even to this day, I build and launch model rockets and airplanes and still dream of getting a chance to see earth from orbit, though I’m beginning to realize that probably won’t happen in my lifetime.

So as you can imagine, I’m tremendously excited this month as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. I’ve been loving the BBC podcast “13 Minutes to the Moon,” about the crucial final stages of that incredible voyage.

And I’m thrilled to report that one of our esteemed colleagues, Aenor Sawyer, the director of the UCSF Skeletal Health Service, took on another role earlier this year as chief health innovation officer for NASA’s Translational Institute for Space Health, known as TRISH. (I’m playing my own small part, by serving on TRISH’s Scientific Advisory Board as well as on the National Academy of Medicine’s committee advising NASA on health in space.)

Through her UCSF appointment, Aenor is working to get us, and the entire UC system, more involved with NASA’s cutting-edge work. The work is absolutely critical. Not only is TRISH working on figuring out how to keep astronauts healthy as they go to space for longer periods and farther from Earth’s nurturing atmosphere, but as with so much of NASA’s mission, that work also helps to advance science here at home – from telemedicine, to studying the effects of a harsh environment on muscles and bones, to coping with the isolation of extended periods in a remote, confined place.

“There is significant overlap between terrestrial healthcare needs and the problems encountered and being solved for in space. Many of today’s health tech innovations, with specific adaptations, will address space needs and, in return, the technologies designed to mitigate health risks in space will also serve us on earth.” Aenor says. “It’s an absolute bi-directional value exchange.”

Like me, Aenor grew up an avid space fan. “I was an Air Force brat at the time of the Moon landing,” she says. Her father was a pilot at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio (that’s Wright as in Wilbur). When the Apollo missions took off, “we were glued to the TV,” she remembers. “It blew the lid off any limitations we had thought of. The sky was not the limit. There is no limit.”

Aenor notes that it’s amazing to look back and see all that was accomplished with what now seems to be rudimentary technology, right down to the canvas bags the astronauts took to space. She says the anniversary has the power to reignite prior curiosity and excitement as well as spark new researchers and innovators to unlock the untapped potential of space exploration.

While TRISH has been a collaboration between NASA, Baylor University, MIT, and CalTech, Aenor’s involvement helps bring the whole UC system’s involvement to the next level. She’s joined by a number of UCSF scientists, including the famed former astronaut Millie Hughes-Fulford, a longtime professor of biochemistry and biophysics, Marlene Grenon, Sonja Schrepfer, Tammy Chang, and Tobias Deuse in Surgery, and Charles Chiu who applies novel genomic technology to infectious disease.

Aenor’s appointment includes the charge to build the UC Space Health Innovation Program. UC has long been a contributor to space exploration. Several UCSF PIs, highlighted in UCSF Magazine (see page 6), have been very active in space health research, including Thomas Lang, who has been studying the effect of space travel on bones for decades, as well as Jeffrey Lotz, who is conducting research in collaboration with UC San Diego into the effects of microgravity on the spine. In addition to research, UC has a rich history in space medicine which includes Dr. Charles Berry, a UC Berkeley graduate and a UCSF medical intern in 1948, who became NASA’s medical director of manned space craft during the Gemini and Apollo missions. Aenor explains, “Establishing a network of UC space researchers will allow for increased collaboration, visibility, funding, and educational opportunities as well as career development for those interested in space exploration.”

To “launch” this exciting effort – yes, the pun is intended – UCSF and TRISH will host the first Space Health Innovation Conference at UCSF this November 2. If I’m still tethered to the planet, I’ll see you there.

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Dan’s Tip of the Month

 Colleague David Teitel, current chair of the Academic Senate, recommended that I read Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher. Acclaimed by NPR and The Boston Globe, this piece of fiction is a brilliant, close-to-home parody of the world of academia, in which the protagonist is a beleaguered professor of creative writing and literature at a small and not very distinguished liberal arts college. His life is a tale of woe told through a series of hilarious letters of recommendation that he is endlessly called upon by his students and colleagues to produce. Each is a small masterpiece of resentment, flagging spirit, and passive-aggressive strategies. If you’re not howling with laughter somewhere along the way (it’s a quick read), then, perhaps, you’re taking the academic life too seriously!


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