EVCP Expresso – April 2022

Dear Colleagues,

“Nobody’s going to steal my joy!” “You have earned this spot. You are worthy.” These impassioned words expressed by Senator Cory Booker to Supreme Court nominee and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson said it all. Also known as KBJ, she is now virtually certain to be the first Black woman to join the Supreme Court, but she will not be the last. Senator Booker spoke about the shoulders upon which Judge Jackson stands…imagine the next generation who will stand upon hers.

Those approximately 20 minutes of exuberance are juxtaposed against the appalling war that has raged in Ukraine since late February, with the loss and upheaval of so many lives. It’s particularly heartbreaking to see civilian casualties, and I know that we are all distressed by the horror of bombs devastating hospitals and schools. I encourage you to read the Chancellor’s messages on how to support the people of Ukraine and his reminder that if you need help dealing with a stressful situation, we are here for you.

I am grateful for the many members of the UCSF community who have expressed their own heartbreak and demonstrated their need to help. One way is to donate to the UCSF Scholars at Risk Program. The following is an update from colleague Jess Ghannam, who is spearheading the effort:

The UCSF Scholars at Risk Program is working to secure support for two individuals. We have a current Ukrainian scholar at UCSF who lost all his funding after the war broke out and is trying to survive in the Bay Area. His wife and parents remain in Ukraine and continue to fear for their lives. His ability to support his family in Ukraine is precarious as is their safety. A second scholar is a Ukrainian medical student, originally from Zimbabwe, who had to flee her training at the Odessa National Medical University after the invasion. She became a refugee and is living in Romania with a local family. Our plan is to bring her to our Institute for Global Health Sciences Program as a student. Both are facing hardships that may take years to overcome, and our goal is to help support them during this crisis.

Please give what you can – thank you!

As for this month’s Expresso, the topics are:

I also encourage you to tune into the 14th Annual Chancellor’s Leadership Forum on Diversity & Inclusion on Thursday, April 28, running from noon to 1:15 p.m. This is an excellent opportunity for UCSF community members to hear from senior leadership about diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism initiatives at UCSF. Please register today.

Spring has sprung, and I hope you’re getting outside to enjoy the bounty that the season brings. What is it about spring that you’re looking forward to? Please drop me a line at [email protected].



Pandemic Impact on Research Dollars: What we know

Last month, we observed the two-year anniversary of the COVID-19 shutdown, including an unprecedented halt to most research conducted at UCSF. In the early days of the pandemic, we expected that research funding could very well take a big hit.

But overall, it didn’t – at least that’s what preliminary data indicates.

As reported by the Office of Sponsored Research and Budget Office, our numbers regarding overall funding for research compared to pre-COVID did not see a downturn.

  • In both 2019-2020 and 2020-2021, UCSF was awarded $1.7 billion in research funding (excluding ZSFG patient care contracts).
  • For 2021-2022, through February, we have executed $1.2 billion in new funding compared to $1.1 billion last year.
  • Between March 2020 and mid-March 2022, UCSF submitted 845 COVID-19 related proposals with 366 being awarded – the amount requested was approximately $1.3 billion with approximately $299 million awarded.
  • Furthermore, women faculty in the assistant and associate professor ranks have been as successful as men during this timeframe based on the data we have.

David Morgan, vice dean for Research in the School of Medicine, explains, “It looks like the pandemic didn’t really slow us down that much in terms of number of proposals and awards. There was little difference between the genders. It seems the giant ocean liner of UCSF keeps chugging along.”

However, I’m aware the COVID-19 tail is long, and these statistics don’t in any way diminish our attention to the adverse and disproportionate impact on women. Although we are adjusting to life with COVID, we haven’t yet seen the full repercussions of the pandemic. Lagging indicators won’t tell the story of its toll until next year, so we mustn’t be lulled into a false sense of security.

Even as we have made important strides toward equality for women, women typically end up shouldering more of a family’s child and elder care responsibilities, and disruptions brought on by the pandemic created a burden that fell disproportionately on caregivers, particularly working people with young children or seniors at home – especially during the turbulent days of 2020. Schools and childcare centers shut down, and people found themselves trying to work from home while also serving as primary caregiver and teacher.

For our research community, we know that many women faculty were pushed to the limit writing grants and papers as well as getting things done in their labs. All of us need to recognize just how fatigued and burnt out these faculty are given the extra work necessary to try and keep up with the range of responsibilities at work and home.

We know this is a national problem. The NIH is keeping a close eye on Women, Science, and the Impact of COVID-19. Cited on that webpage: “Since these increased childcare responsibilities began, the percentage of female STEMM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine] authorship has dropped from 35.9% in December 2019 to 20.2% in April 2020. Women in STEMM have consistently authored 20% of working papers since 2015 but have contributed only 12% of the publications related to COVID-19 research.”

At UCSF, we took measures, such as the faculty relief fund, to prevent adverse effects to faculty who were forced by the pandemic to care for their families. And I wrote last year about an initiative to review individual circumstances in considering faculty advancement.

We also saw funding sources that enabled shifting areas of research to investigate the novel coronavirus. The Sandler Program for Breakthrough Biomedical Research set up a program in April 2020 to award grants focused on COVID-19, providing a significant opportunity for some people to pivot their research.

“We have a lot of ambitious, driven people here,” Dave says. “There are a lot of people burning the candle at both ends. That was certainly true among health care workers, but it also applied to those keeping their labs running.”

How did caregivers manage responsibilities at home while continuing to submit competitive grants? It was a remarkable accomplishment but is not sustainable. We’re going to need to do everything we can to foster their long-term success. As part of this, it’s vital for all of us to recognize and respect the huge differences in opportunity created by the pandemic and ensure that we look out for those who have been adversely affected – i.e., take care of one another.

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Perking Up Parnassus: Small actions make a big difference

We have endured many years of construction at our longtime home on Parnassus Heights, and we’re in for many more years, as old buildings get demolished and new ones like the hospital and the Parnassus Research and Academic Building or PRAB are built as we transform our campus. To hear more about our grand vision for reimagining this campus, take a look at this video recap of the Future of Parnassus Town Hall.

All this construction activity, not to mention the constant flow of traffic, can cause things to feel a little chaotic with temporary elevator, hot water, cold water, and heating shutdowns and trucks and cranes in our midst.

But especially now that more and more folks are coming back to work and study on site, UCSF’s Facilities and Real Estate teams are going the extra mile to spruce up the campus and make it as welcoming and enjoyable as possible.

“There’s a lot of beautification efforts happening,” says Sean Aloise, Facilities Services assistant director.

  • For starters, look at Saunders Court, which had long felt like a work in progress. The grassy courtyard nestled among the tall buildings has new picnic tables and brightly colored chairs, “which changes the whole vibe right away,” Sean says. People are already gathering in the sunshine or fog to eat lunch, celebrate birthdays, or just take a break outdoors. While the picnic tables need to be removed in mid-summer for other projects to proceed, we have additional bench seating along the periphery of Saunders Court.
  • Facilities is also improving the area at Third and Parnassus Avenue, near the UCSF Marilyn Reed Lucia Child Care Study Center and beloved Bufano bear sculpture, adding benches, better lighting, and plant beds.
  • Morgan Vaisset-Fauvel, Parnassus landscape and grounds program manager, installed the tree lights you may have seen along Parnassus Avenue, a great way to make the space feel a little warmer at night and on foggy days. The intent is to make employees and patients feel welcome as they’re coming back to Parnassus.
  • The landscape and ground teams are putting in new drought-tolerant plants throughout the campus, further enhancing our springtime celebration.
  • Considered the primary gateway to our Parnassus campus, the Irving Street entrance was treated to new plants and paint last fall.

Not all the projects are about beautification; some have a practical aspect, too. We’re replacing the dry cooler and vacuum pumps in the Medical Sciences Building (MSB), which will increase efficiency, save on utility bills, and lower our carbon footprint by one metric ton per year. Other projects include upgrades in support of our research community, e.g., relocation of the Gnotobiotic Core Facility and the FISH (Fluorescence in situ Hybridization) lab renovation.

We’re also repairing many ADA buttons used to open doors in MSB and the Health Sciences towers, which were not working properly. The old wireless system will now be hard-wired and should work well for years to come.

I extend a personal thanks to all the hard-working folks in Facilities Services, Campus Life Services, Real Estate Services, Landscaping Services (note the theme…) and other units who listen to our suggestions and make these improvements. They may not be on the same scale when compared to larger UCSF construction projects, but as Jane Goodall once said, “Cumulatively, small decisions, choices, actions, make a very big difference.”

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A Very Special Poem: “The Invitation”

I have often shared my affinity for poetry. With some of us returning to campus after years away, I turn to one particularly provocative poem – “The Invitation,” by Canadian storyteller and spiritual counselor Oriah Mountain Dreamer – which I learned about from my fellow travelers to Alabama two years ago.

In a way, even though this poem was first published in 1999, I see it as metaphor for the struggles, resilience, and resurrection that we have experienced living through the pandemic. The poet starts off innocuously enough, with a sentiment that might resonate with a lot of people who feel trapped in the rat race, but once it opens the door to those passionate feelings, it moves full throttle into life’s big questions.

In the past two years, as we saw so much upheaval – from our polarized political system, the way science was pitted against sentiment, the need for a racial reckoning, and now the senseless way a superpower can wage war on its neighbor – we also saw a need to stay in touch with our own humanity and that of others. To sit with pain. To see beauty, even when it’s not pretty. To live with failure.

So, please take breaks from the non-stop work cycle and settle in and get to know yourself a little better:

The Invitation

By Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon...
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shriveled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

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Dan’s Tip of the Month

red roses, lilies, and other flowers at the doorway of You See FlowersSoon after the COVID-19 shutdown I learned that Pam Jackson – the longtime owner of You See Flowers – took down her shingle during the pandemic. What had been an ever-present fixture on the Parnassus campus and a vibrant, colorful, breath of fresh air at the entrance of Millberry Union East for decades turned dark, empty, and forlorn. Luckily, Pam was able to sell the business, and the new owner, local San Francisco resident Eduardo Alvarado, is fashioning beautiful bouquets and floral arrangements that will once again brighten patient rooms, grace podiums, dress up tables as centerpieces, and be given to commemorate celebrations and awards. So, just in time for April showers (hopefully) to bring May flowers, please join my shout-out to cheer the return of You See Flowers to our vendor community. With our support, this little shop on the corner can continue to blossom.

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