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Behind the 2017 Dean's Forum series: Understanding UCSF

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Original Post Date: 03/06/2017

UCSF brochure
A copy of "Understanding UCSF" circa 1998.

By Sarah Paris

When Talmadge E. King, Jr., MD, arrived at UCSF in 1997, the UC Regents had just approved the development plans for the future of Mission Bay. Mount Zion had only recently become part of UCSF Medical Center. Affiliations with the San Francisco General Hospital and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center were well established, but the academic life of the institution was centered on Parnassus. “Understanding UCSF,” a tiny booklet published by Public Affairs in 1998, was able to summarize the institution with just a handful of key facts.

Since then, UCSF has led the astonishing development at Mission Bay. The Medical Center, under the leadership of Mark Laret, has been transformed into UCSF Health, a complex and ever-growing organization with patient care services that span from Fresno to Santa Rosa. Industry partnerships with other health care providers, life sciences and technology companies are flourishing.

This was the ecosystem King was surveying when he became dean of the School of Medicine in 2015, having served for nine years as chair of the Department of Medicine. Among his first priorities was to make the rounds of campuses and departments to talk to faculty and staff and gain a full understanding of the width and breadth of the school's activities. He was greatly impressed by the expertise and skill among those he encountered. But he also realized that most people’s knowledge of UCSF and its components was fragmented. Decentralization and a complex structure of institutional relationships, hierarchies and affiliations, with many geographical locations, made it difficult for individuals to see the bigger picture. This led him to embark on a series of Dean's Forums to help the school community gain that larger perspective.

Transparency had always been one of King’s guiding principles as a leader. But understanding, for instance, how decisions are reached, requires first of all knowledge of the organization. Brainstorming with his team, King conceived the idea of town halls for the purpose of bringing essential information to a wider audience, in an open forum that would invite questions and discussion.

To better understand what questions and topics people wanted him to address, a survey was sent to nearly 200 staff and faculty considered to be “rising leaders.” Their responses clarified that not one, but a series of forums was needed, each focused on a different mission or theme.

The first Dean's Forum, presented on January 26 to a standing-room-only crowd on the Parnassus campus, set the stage with an overview of the school and the dean’s job. The event was live-streamed and recorded, as is planned for the whole series.

For more information:

Watch the first Dean's Forum


List of 2017 Dean's Forums

January 26, 2017 SOM Overview and Dean's Job
February 27, 2017 Our Clinical Mission
April 28, 2017, 12-1 pm SOM Overview and Finance
June 8, 2017, 12-1 pm Our Research Mission
September 15, 2017, 12-1 pm Our Education Mission