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A Strategy To Ensure The Future - Report from the School of Medicine Leadership Retreat 2018

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by Mitzi Baker

“We will share and develop big, bold ideas that will inspire and challenge all members of the School of Medicine over the next five years,” declared Dean Talmadge E. King, Jr., MD, in his welcome address at the 2018 School of Medicine Leadership Retreat. With this year's theme being the evolving strategic plan for the school, he stressed the goal of developing “a shared understanding of what the school as a whole needs to accomplish, both to ensure that it continues to thrive and to provide solutions to some of the most challenging problems in medicine and science.”

Held January 11 and 12 in the Presidio, the event gathered around 150 top leaders from the school and across UCSF to weigh in on a series of proposed priorities and contribute ideas and viewpoints, from ethical ideals to practical challenges, to set a course for the future.

Retreat participants, which included UCSF deans, faculty and staff from the School of Medicine, and leaders from the Schools of Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy, the Graduate Division and UCSF Health, were called upon to evaluate and bring fresh ideas to the table to foster innovation and improve the health of our communities.

The Leadership Retreat was just one key event in the development of the strategic plan. A framework has been in the works for months, beginning with a steering committee established to guide the process and ensure that as many voices as possible were included.

retreat participants voting
Retreat participants Matthew Bucknor, Catherine Gillis and Rupal Shah casting votes

“This is a living process, not one that started in September and ended today," said Catherine Lucey, MD, the school's executive vice dean as well as vice dean for education. The planning prior to the retreat involved 26 steering committee members, 104 working group participants, 30 working group and affinity group meetings, and 57 stakeholder interviews.

King noted that while obviously not all 11,000-plus members of the School of Medicine could be included in the planning, the organizers strived to reach the largest, most diverse group possible. “When we finish the retreat, we will involve all of those communities in the effort to make the school the best place it can be,” he said.

Napolitano on Moral Leadership

The retreat was kicked off the evening of January 11 by an on-stage conversation between King and UC President Janet Napolitano. Several of Napolitano’s points resonated throughout the next day of the retreat. “Last night, we talked about UCSF providing moral leadership and while there are a lot of differences across the many ideas, I think the themes that underlie them are pretty constant and hold true to UCSF School of Medicine,” said Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, MD, PhD, chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and inaugural vice dean for population health and health equity.

Enthusiasm for Progress

With a diverse array of perspectives from the school’s top researchers, clinicians and administrators, the retreat provided fertile ground for lively discussions, with an enthusiastic melding of ideas on how to make UCSF more visible as a leader in the community.

“One idea that I think is really important is that we make sure our missions move together in the same direction,” said Michael Cabana, MD, MPH, professor of Pediatrics, Epidemiology and Biostatistics and director of the Division of General Pediatrics. He was particularly inspired by the idea of making UCSF a “whole health hub,” a one-stop healthcare provider that helps UCSF investigators connect with the community and develop long-term relationships rather than one-time projects.

Improving the environment for basic science was another recurring topic. Expanding the number of graduate students was among the ideas championed by David Morgan, PhD, professor of Physiology, and the school’s new vice dean for research. “Graduate students are the fuel that direct a lot of the research at UCSF,” he said.

Alesia Woods, finance director for Physiology, was also encouraged by this theme. “As a long-term basic science manager, the one thing that stood out for me is that there is ongoing conversation about the basic science community. It gives me hope that something is going to happen soon,” she said.

Alesia Woods, Maria Novelero, Richard Capra
SOM Department managers Alesia Woods, Maria Novelero, and Richard Capra
Photos: Elisabeth Fall

A focus on data sciences and technology was equally welcomed by participants. “I think we are seeing more recognition that we collect a lot of data at the School of Medicine, whether it is clinical or research,” said Atul Butte, MD, PhD, director of the Institute for Computational Health. “It is up to us now to take all that data and turn it into better education, better clinical care and the most amazing research in the world.”

Next Update: Dean's Forum, March 6

All the discussions were captured by scribes and will be synthesized in the coming weeks and considered for the final version of the strategic plan. Dean King will provide an update to the community at the next Dean’s Forum on March 6.

“We think big, but stay grounded in reality,” said King. “We will chart a course that will allow the School of Medicine to truly advance health worldwide.”