EVCP Expresso – September 2020

Dear Colleagues,

Once again, our state and country are ravaged by the effects of severe climate change – historic wildfires in the San Francisco Bay Area and devastating hurricanes and tropical storms in the Gulf Coast – causing significant damage and loss. Resources are stretched beyond limits, and communities are experiencing emotional stress and trauma. The gravity of the increasing climate crises combined with the pandemic creates an unprecedented health risk factor to an already tragic situation. If you have a few minutes, please check out my remarks about coping with our current situation at the August 21 COVID-19 Town Hall.

Many people within our UCSF community are suffering financially under the strain of the pandemic, and I want to let all of you know that we’ve come up with a program that will allow those of us who have the means to directly help those most in need - it’s called the UCSF COVID-19 Relief Program. There’s one for employees and a similar one for students. From the onset of the pandemic, I know there are many among us who are grateful for having a job that enables us to work from home, not having an exhausting commute or fighting public transportation, nor having to juggle the challenges of child and dependent care. How about transforming some of that gratitude and paying it forward to our co-workers and trainees who are in need, by making a tax-deductible donation? Any amount will help. Join forces with me with your own donation, because together it will make a difference. If you are in a position to give, please consider doing so.

And our nation continues to reel from the injustice and public health crisis of anti-Black racism, most recently experienced with the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Wisconsin. I am at a loss. There is no explanation that could justify taking such action. A few days ago, on August 28, thousands participated in a March on Washington at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial. This also marked the 57th anniversary of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. I quote, “…This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.”

In this month’s Expresso, you’ll read about actions being taken that can make an impact on some of the pressing issues of our time. I provide an update on our work toward practicing anti-racism through safety and security, and I highlight a vital way for everyone to engage with all of the historical issues of our day: VOTE!

This month’s topics:

On a closing note, don’t forget to tune into Faculty Development Day on September 16. The online event aims to provide a warm welcome to new and returning faculty, build community, and answer questions about how to succeed at UCSF. Events like Faculty Development Day are essential to enhancing faculty life.

My inbox is always open, so drop me a line if you have an idea for a future Expresso: [email protected].

To your health and well-being,


Vote Like Your Life Depends On It: An engaged citizenry can make a difference

About this time four years ago, before the last presidential election, I wrote about the strict rules and policy that govern employees’ political activity. You can take any action you like on your own time, but you can’t use University resources to do it, and you can’t associate your UCSF position with your viewpoints. This can be complex and nuanced, so UCSF Advocates has produced a fun, animated video that describes the rules. But, what I can do, and what many folks at UCSF are urging you to do, is vote. Exercise the franchise. Get informed, get a ballot, fill it out, and turn it in early – whether it’s by mail, a designated ballot drop off location, or at a polling place.

And, as part of a larger initiative from the UC Office of the President, I’m pleased with the enthusiasm that UCSF is bringing to the effort to get out the vote. Led by Francesca Vega, our vice chancellor for Community and Government Relations, and Allie Jones, the manager of advocacy and communications in Francesca’s office, and in partnership with Jennifer Rosko, the director of Student Involvement and Programs, UCSF has launched a fantastic UCSF Votes web page, which includes a simple form that can verify whether you’re registered and explain how to register if you’re not. (It’s powered by our partners at Vote.org.) You’ll also be able to learn about voter information events UCSF is co-sponsoring with the League of Women Voters, important initiatives on the fall ballot, and a UCSF Votes Toolkit, including e-signatures, Zoom background, and signage you can use to promote civic engagement.

Alas, all of these efforts are complicated by the coronavirus pandemic. Forums will likely be virtual, and California will be mailing ballots to all residents. In the past, to facilitate voting the city has actually made “ballot boxes” available for people to drop off their ballots. For years, UCSF has proudly hosted these polling stations at Parnassus and Mission Bay. Stay tuned as we hope to do so again.

Another creative way UCSF is helping encourage higher voter turnout is by spreading the word to our patients. “Our voter registration and education efforts are grounded in our public service mission,” Allie says. “I’m very proud that UCSF sees it within our scope and duty to not only encourage our community of staff, physicians, researchers, learners, and alumni to exercise their right to vote, but also the communities we serve. Our UCSF health community is engaged in making sure our patients can navigate the various challenges.”

Also, as Jennifer says, “We are doing everything we can to dismantle the belief amongst our students that their one vote doesn’t matter, not just in the presidential election but also in local elections.” Given our standing as a health sciences university, she explains that the people and measures they choose to vote for can definitively affect access to health care and insurance as well as day-to-day life, so she is helping students make the important decision whether their vote can be more impactful in California or cast in their home state, and helping them register and receive a ballot in time, either way.

In California, you have until October 19 to register, and I urge you to verify your status ASAP and register if you’re not. Then I encourage you to do what you can to get others out to vote.  Visit the UCSF Votes website for information and tips, then talk to everyone you know – November 3 will be here before we know it, and I really do think this is the most consequential election in my life thus far. Mask your face, not your voice. Our future depends on it – VOTE!

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Staying Safe and Free from Bias: A new task force examines police and security

The urgency sweeping the country to achieve racial justice is yet more evidence that we must recommit to do the hard work of abolishing all forms of racism. Under no circumstances should anyone be treated differently because of the color of their skin, but the tragedy is that in this country (and so many other places in the world) it happens all the time. I stand with everyone who speaks up when it happens to them. Not only are they demonstrating immense bravery, they are forced to relive painful experiences. I’ve written several times about the many UCSF initiatives aiming to eliminate discrimination and make good on our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion – but we must do more.

On July 30, Chancellor Sam Hawgood announced the UCSF Anti-Racism Initiative, aimed at “reexamining UCSF’s own institutional structures and practices.” It includes:

  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion training for all faculty, staff, and learners
  • Further anti-racism training for the Chancellor’s Cabinet
  • New required coursework on racism and its consequences in science and health
  • Improved efforts to recruit and hire diverse faculty and staff
  • Re-upping our anti-racism communications, including establishing a new anti-racism webpage and committing to quarterly town halls to learn about racism and its effects as well as to hold leadership accountable.

This month, I’m highlighting one part of the initiative. With the focus that the current anti-racism movement has placed on police, the chancellor has appointed a Safety Task Force, with the goal of ensuring that “UCSF’s policing and security protocols serve our community without discrimination, bias, or unnecessary use of force, and create a safe and welcoming environment for all.” I am honored to co-chair the task force with Vice Chancellor of Diversity and Outreach Renee Navarro.

The 20-member task force met for the first time in late July, planning to submit recommendations to the chancellor within two months to address the following issues:

  • Responsibility and engagement of the UCSF community in maintaining a safe, inclusive environment
  • Best practices for training police and security personnel in diversity, equity, and inclusion with a specific focus on eliminating racial profiling
  • Best practices for doing mental health/wellness checks
  • Accountability and reporting of security and safety activity
  • Assessment of our local community-facing safety activity.

Like many other institutions around the country, we’re asking: Do we need an officer with a badge on certain calls, or could we use some other intervention that might better manage, or in some cases, de-escalate a situation?

For too many years, we have heard accounts from and about people of color being treated unfairly by our own UCSF police and security officers. It’s racial profiling, pure and simple, and despite efforts by the leadership of our police and security personnel to stop this from happening, it continues. The Humans of UCSF Twitter account is documenting some of these stories and asking others to share their experiences. One student wrote, “During my surgery clerkship, a group of us med students went down to the OR, and they slyly stopped me, the only Black student, and asked me to show my ID. The other white students weren’t asked any questions.”

The Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) who run the account have posted their call to stop racial profiling and discrimination at UCSF. “As BIPOC of UCSF, we are tired of being profiled by UCSF employees because of the color of our skin,” they wrote. “Our goal to advance health worldwide through biomedical research and patient care is hampered by constant micro- and macro-aggressions within the University.”

To quote the chancellor, “UCSF’s policing and security protocols must serve our community without discrimination, bias, or unnecessary use of force, and create a safe and welcoming environment for all.” Under Chief Mike Denson, UCSF has adopted a model of “community policing,” including the popular “coffee with a cop” program, and Mike is redoubling his efforts to achieve a complete end to racial bias among his officers. In March, the UCSF Health security team was incorporated into the UCSF Police Department. We currently have 55 sworn officers and almost double the number of security guards. Because security checkpoints have the most interaction with our community at large, our goal is to have our security guards receive training on a par with that provided to our police officers. This should have a very noticeable impact.

The issue is crystal clear: We have a fundamental responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of all who study, seek care, and work at UCSF, as well as our neighbors in surrounding communities, and to be an institution that is free from racism, discrimination, and racial profiling.

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Revitalization of Parnassus: Moving forward in challenging times

Two years ago, an ambitious effort was unveiled to revitalize our Parnassus Heights campus, the anchor of UCSF since 1898. Since the Comprehensive Parnassus Heights Plan (CPHP) was launched, teams have been gathering input, assessing University needs, and determining the feasibility of potential solutions. We also heard from thousands of you, including an impassioned plea from the research community about the importance of keeping – as well as improving and expanding – the innovative and collaborative research at Parnassus.

We held a town hall on August 20 dedicated to the revitalization of Parnassus Heights, outlined in the CPHP. “It’s the bold vision I was hoping for to propel Parnassus Heights into the 21st century,” said Chancellor Sam Hawgood. We are entering an exciting phase – starting design and construction! But, as Brian Newman, senior associate vice chancellor of UCSF Real Estate, said, “We’re moving from the two-year ‘sprint’ of planning to a 30-year ‘marathon’ of implementation.”

And the questions from the audience were excellent, inquiring about the project’s commitment to sustainability (we hope to exceed UC requirements for LEED silver status, going for gold if not platinum), to what’s happening with the School of Dentistry, and whether the blood bank will be located closer to surgical units. All of these are works in progress, with deep stakeholder involvement. I am proud that someone asked about the use of local and racial and ethnic minority contractors (definitely! It’s part of our commitment as an Anchor Institution).

Goals for the first decade include:

  • New hospital; Plans for a new hospital at UCSF Medical Center at Parnassus Heights, necessary due to state seismic regulations effective 2030, received a jump-start in 2018 with an amazing $500 million gift from the Helen Diller Family Foundation. In July, we hired Herzog & de Meuron and HDR as the architectural design team for the project. The goal is to build a hospital for the future – a structure for health and wellness – not only patient care. With cutting-edge design thinking, we’re pushing the boundaries of what a “hospital” represents.
  • New research and academic building: With the hospital anchoring the east end of the Parnassus campus, a new Research and Academic Building, known as the RAB, will take the place of UC Hall (built in 1917) on the west end. We plan to design it to be visually cohesive with the new hospital. It will be joined with campus activities in other ways as well – we value the symbiotic relationship of research, education, and patient care.
  • New housing: Students and trainees struggle to find affordable housing in San Francisco. (That also applies to faculty and staff – but for now, we’re focused on learners.) We plan to add 150 new units at Aldea and update some existing units. Ultimately, we’re looking to add a total of 750 new units there over the 30-year life of the CPHP.
  • Welcoming Irving Street entrance: It turns out that 60 percent of our UCSF community arrives on campus via Irving Street, either entering the Millberry Union parking garage or taking MUNI. But it feels like a gritty back door, and we want people to feel welcomed to a world-class institution! Ideas to transform this front entry include an elevator that highlights our stunning views; retail space with gift shops, eateries, and signs to make wayfinding easier; a “facelift” for the garage, putting a friendlier face to the neighborhood; and fostering a “park to peak” experience that connects our city’s open spaces, from Golden Gate Park to Mount Sutro.

One key to successfully executing the CPHP is the UC Board of Regents. In 1976, the Regents adopted a resolution that capped Parnassus Heights campus space at 3.55 million square feet, which has driven many of our space-related decisions ever since. Our Long Range Development Plan from 2014 is already out of date. “In 2014, if you read the long-range plan, we thought that when we opened Mission Bay, the pressures at Parnassus would be relieved for quite a while,” Alicia Murasaki, our campus architect and assistant vice chancellor of Campus Planning, explains. “But we are the victims of our own success.” Our growth at Mission Bay has spurred growth throughout UCSF, and Parnassus is bursting at the seams. Even with all of our new plans, we don’t want to want to keep clinical care, research, and education close to each other, but we do need more space. We are asking the Regents to recognize this new need. They are scheduled to vote in January 2021 on a new plan that raises our limit to 5 million square feet. (The new hospital consumes the lion’s share of that – 1 million of the extra 1.5 million square feet.)

Thanks to the team in Community & Government Relations, led by Vice Chancellor Francesca Vega and others, we have engaged with many community members throughout this project, both internally and externally, and plan to keep up that dialogue to explain the need for increased space and to learn about their concerns – housing, transportation (e.g., traffic, parking), and open space.

This is where the coronavirus pandemic factors into the equation. Our expanded work-from-home protocol may actually help alleviate some of the transportation issues. Alicia, who chairs our administrative space task force that I wrote about in July, notes that fewer people are coming onsite to work. “Before COVID started, about three percent of our workforce participated in some sort of telecommuting,” Alicia says. “When the pandemic is over, I’m quite sure that more than that percentage of us will participate. I don’t think we know enough about how people are going to work post-pandemic to enable us to redesign everything,” Alicia says. It’s something we’ll be tracking closely in order to use our resources wisely.

It’s important that we all do what we can to succeed in re-imagining our historic Parnassus Heights campus, and your unique perspective and story will go a long way to get us there. Please text “Parnassus” to 52886 or go to ucsf.edu/cphp/advocate to find out how to help our Parnassus campus move forward in the next decade and beyond.

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Dan’s Tip of the Month

Black Lives Matter protester in Flint, MI, with a police SUV in the backgroundI was thoroughly drawn in by the personal journey of Scott Watson, a soon-to-be-retired Black police officer in Flint, Michigan. An individual who dared reject the notion that crime was his only future, he instead made the life-changing decision to choose a path of criminal justice – only to have that choice rocked by the police killing of George Floyd as well as the subsequent protests and insights into how his colleagues really felt. This 40-minute account, “Who Replaces Me?,” was featured in yesterday’s installment of “The Daily,” the New York Times podcast hosted by Michael Barbaro. It sensitively illustrates the dynamic challenges, obstacles, and hurdles that the behemoth of anti-Black racism poses to our society and a personal dilemma at the intersection of the individual and the whole. There’s a lot to unpack from this powerful listen. While you’re doing that, ask yourself – what parallels can we draw to academia?

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