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Nearly 60 years ago, Oscar Jackson, MD, overcame racial barriers to become the first African American surgeon on record to work at San Francisco General Hospital. Today, through a generous gift to the UCSF School of Medicine, he and his wife, Norma, are helping students committed to serving vulnerable populations pursue their boldest professional aspirations. The Dr. Oscar and Mrs. Norma Jackson Endowed Scholarship Fund is already benefiting its first recipient.
Dr. Jackson arrived in San Francisco in 1962 after completing a surgical residency in the Midwest, followed by military service. Along with his work at San Francisco General, he served as a clinical instructor in UCSF’s Department of Surgery and practiced at Mount Zion, which was likewise one of the few hospitals extending privileges at the time to African American physicians.
Over the course of his career, Dr. Jackson established a private practice based in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood and was known for his dedication to improving the health of all patients, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay for services. He also had a private practice in Vallejo, CA for over 40 years, and was a surgeon at Vallejo General and Kaiser.
Now retired, Dr. Jackson, along with Mrs. Jackson, care deeply about helping medical students succeed and carry on this legacy of service.
The first scholarship recipient, Joshua Cole, is a first-year medical student from Atlanta enrolled in the Program in Medical Education for the Urban Underserved (PRIME-US), a five-year track in UCSF’s School of Medicine. Honored and grateful for the scholarship, Cole says the support “has helped give me an opportunity to attend my dream institution and train among excellent, mission-driven physicians who will prepare me to advance patient care in the 21st century.” He coordinates a homeless ophthalmology clinic and plans to become an ophthalmologist and health equity advocate. “I have enjoyed meeting with community members to discuss their work in equity and care for the underserved,” Cole says.
Along with the scholarship at UCSF, the Jacksons recently created a similar fund benefiting students at Dr. Jackson’s alma mater, the Howard University College of Medicine.
Dr. Jackson earned an undergraduate degree in chemistry with top honors from Howard in 1951 and his medical degree there in 1955. Before moving to San Francisco, he completed a surgical residency at Homer G. Phillips Hospital, the only hospital for African Americans in St. Louis and one of the few U.S. institutions at the time accepting black physicians for their residency.
Dr. Jackson went on to mentor many African American physicians who followed in his footsteps. He also provided leadership to the John Hale Medical Society, the San Francisco chapter of the National Medical Association, a professional organization representing African American physicians and patients, served on the Board of Directors of the Boys Club in Vallejo, and is a member of the Sinkler Medical Association in Oakland, CA.