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2012 Spencer Foreman Award for Outstanding Community Service

University of California San Francisco School of Medicine

UCSF LogoCommunity service has been part of the culture at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine since its physicians treated thousands of San Franciscans in need after the great earthquake of 1906. Since then, UCSF has strengthened its commitment to service by building lasting partnerships with the community and by creating alignment across the entire UCSF enterprise. 

UCSF’s commitment to true community partnerships is reflected in the infrastructure the university created in 2006 to sustain them—the University Community Partnerships (UCP) Office. The UCP Office manages all academic-community initiatives and is governed by the UCP Council, which is equally composed of individuals from UCSF and local service organizations. “The council has made a significant difference by elevating the importance of meaningful community partnerships based upon shared goals and values,” says Sam Hawgood, M.B.B.S., dean of UCSF School of Medicine. 

Engaged community leaders rate the UCP Office a success. “The UCP Council and Office,” says one, “are helping community members understand the dimensions and dynamics of UCSF and UCSF members understand the complexity of our communities, and how to partner to bring relevance to both.” This mutual understanding has fostered a deeper level of trust between San Franciscans and UCSF. As a result, UCSF-community partnerships unite diverse voices and generate more robust and relevant outcomes. 

The UCSF Clinical & Translational Science Institute (CTSI) is a cross-school, campus-wide program that helps translate research rapidly into improvements in community health. UCSF developed the San Francisco Health Improvement Partnership (SF HIP) so that UCSF researchers and community stakeholders could collaborate on the city’s most compelling health issues. Today, five SF HIP working groups are making a difference in the lives of underserved San Franciscans in the areas of hepatitis B and children’s oral health, among others. “We bring together those who do research with those who use it to improve health outcomes,” says one SF HIP staff member. 

UCSF also partners with the community to ensure that the medical school curriculum supports local needs. The Program in Medical Education for the Urban Underserved (PRIME), a five-year track for working with underserved urban populations, earns students a master’s degree as well as an M.D. degree. Its comprehensive and integrated service component prepares a diverse set of students to become leaders in caring for the urban underserved by teaching them the principles of community engagement. PRIME students disproportionately go on to perform clerkships, research projects, and residencies in underserved communities. 

To train the next generation of service-conscious health professionals from diverse populations, UCSF runs many pipeline programs. The Science and Education Partnership (SEP) with the San Francisco Unified School District has broadened access to quality science education since 1987. SEP received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring for pairing high school students with a UCSF scientist-mentor. Another program, iGEM, combines high school outreach with the Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) competition, in which high school students compete against college students. Students from a local high school with two years of biotechnology education are eligible to work for a summer on a team mentored by UCSF researchers. In the past five years, all iGEM students have pursued higher education in science or engineering. Demonstrating the strength of these partnerships with UCSF, one local teacher noted, “It’s hard to be a science teacher in San Francisco and not interact with UCSF.”

Spencer Foreman Award for Outstanding Community Service

This award honors member institutions with a longstanding, major institutional commitment to addressing community needs.