University of California, San Francisco
|Toland Medical College (1864)|
The Medical Department of the University of California (1873)
|Motto||Fiat lux (Latin)|
Motto in English
|Let there be light|
|University of California|
|Endowment||$3.49 billion (2018)|
|Budget||$5.9 billion (2016)|
|Postgraduates||3,129 (Fall 2018)|
255 acres (103 ha)
|Colors||UCSF Teal and Navy Blue|
The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is a public research university in San Francisco, California. It is part of the University of California system and it is dedicated entirely to health science. It is a major center of medical and biological research and teaching.
UCSF was founded as Toland Medical College in 1864, and in 1873 it affiliated itself with the University of California, becoming its Medical Department. In the same year, it incorporated the California College of Pharmacy and in 1881 it established a dentistry school. Its facilities were located in both Berkeley and San Francisco. In 1964, the school gained full administrative independence as a campus of the UC system headed by a chancellor, and in 1970 it gained its current name. Historically based at Parnassus Heights and several other locations throughout the city, in the early 2000s it developed a second major campus in the newly redeveloped Mission Bay. As of October 2018, nine Nobel laureates have been affiliated with UCSF as faculty members or researchers, and the University has been the site of many scientific breakthroughs.
The UCSF School of Medicine is the oldest medical school in the Western United States and is highly ranked by international and national rankings of prestige and funding. The UCSF Graduate Division offers 19 PhD programs, 11 MS programs, two certificates and a physical therapy program. UCSF is ranked 5th among research-oriented medical schools in the United States and ranked 3rd for primary care by U.S. News and World Report and is ranked 1st among medical schools in the world by the Academic Ranking of World Universities (Clinical Medicine, 2019).
The UCSF Medical Center is the nation's 7th-ranked hospital and California's 2nd highest-ranked hospital according to U.S. News & World Report. With 25,398 employees, UCSF is the second largest public agency employer in the San Francisco Bay Area. UCSF faculty have treated patients and trained residents since 1873 at the San Francisco General Hospital and for over 50 years at the San Francisco VA Medical Center.
- 1 History
- 2 Campus
- 3 Academics
- 4 UCSF Health
- 5 Research
- 6 Student life
- 7 Notable people
- 8 References
- 9 External links
The University of California, San Francisco traces its history to Hugh Toland, a South Carolina surgeon who found great success and wealth after moving to San Francisco in 1852. A previous school, the Cooper Medical College of the University of Pacific (founded 1858), entered a period of uncertainty in 1862 when its founder, Elias Samuel Cooper, died. In 1864, Toland founded a new medical school, Toland Medical College, and the faculty of Cooper Medical College chose to suspend operations and join the new school.
The University of California was founded in 1868, and by 1870 Toland Medical School began negotiating an affiliation with the new public university. Meanwhile, some faculty of Toland Medical School elected to reopen the Medical Department of the University of the Pacific, which would later become Stanford University School of Medicine. Negotiations between Toland and UC were complicated by Toland's demand that the medical school continue to bear his name, an issue on which he finally conceded. In March 1873, the trustees of Toland Medical College transferred it to the Regents of the University of California, and it became The Medical Department of the University of California. At the same time, the University of California also negotiated the incorporation of the California College of Pharmacy, the first pharmacy school in the West, established in 1872 by the Californian Pharmaceutical Society. The Pharmacy College was affiliated in June 1873, and together the Medical College and the Pharmacy College came to be known as 'Affiliated Colleges'. The third college, the College of Dentistry, was established in 1881.
Expansion and growth
Initially, the three Affiliated Colleges were located at different sites around San Francisco, but near the end of the 19th Century interest in bringing them together grew. To make this possible, San Francisco Mayor Adolph Sutro donated 13 acres in Parnassus Heights at the base of Mount Parnassus (now known as Mount Sutro). The new site, overlooking Golden Gate Park, opened in the fall of 1898, with the construction of the new Affiliated Colleges buildings. The school's first female student, Lucy Wanzer, graduated in 1876, after having to appeal to the UC Board of Regents to gain admission in 1873.
Until 1906, the school faculty had provided care at the City-County Hospital (San Francisco General Hospital, 1915-2016, but Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center (SFGH) since 2016), but did not have a hospital of its own. Following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, more than 40,000 people were relocated to a makeshift tent city in Golden Gate Park and were treated by the faculty of the Affiliated Colleges. This brought the school, which until then was located on the western outskirts of the city, in contact with significant population and fueled the commitment of the school towards civic responsibility and health care, increasing the momentum towards the construction of its own health facilities. Finally, in April 1907, one of the buildings was renovated for outpatient care with 75 beds. This created the need to train nursing students, and, in 1907, the UC Training School for Nurses was established, adding a fourth professional school to the Affiliated Colleges.
Around this time, the Affiliated Colleges agreed to submit to the Regents' governance at the urging of President Benjamin Ide Wheeler, who had come to recognize the problems inherent in the existence of independent entities that shared the UC brand but over which UC had no real control.
Post-War 20th century
The schools continued to grow in numbers and reputation in the following year. One notable event was the incorporation of the Hooper Foundation for Medical Research in 1914, a medical research institute second only to the Rockefeller Institute. This addition bolstered the prestige of the Parnassus site during a dispute over whether the schools should consolidate at Parnassus or in Berkeley, where some of the departments had transferred. The final decision came in 1949 when the Regents of the University of California designated the Parnassus campus as the UC Medical Center in San Francisco. The medical facilities were updated, and the departments returned to San Francisco from Berkeley. During this period a number of research institutes were established, and many new facilities were added, such as the 225-bed UC Hospital (1917), the Clinics Building (1934), the Langley Porter Clinic (1942) and the Herbert C. Moffitt Hospital (1955). In 1958, the addition of the Guy S. Millberry Union offered dorms and services for students.
The school gained more independence in the 1960s, when it started to be seen as a campus in its own right instead of as the medical center of the UC system. The four departments were renamed as "School of ..." and the Graduate Division was founded in 1961. Further along this line, in 1964 the institution obtained full administrative independence under the name University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, becoming the ninth campus in the University of California system and the only one devoted exclusively to the health sciences. The first Chancellor under the new independent configuration was John B. de C.M. Saunders, previously Provost, who had a strong preference for medical training over research. This stance led to his resignation and the naming of Willard C. Fleming, DDS, as the second Chancellor in 1966. Fleming brought balance between clinicians and researchers and a new found stability to the administration. By the end of the 1960s, the university was starting to become a leading research center, also bolstered by the opening of Health Sciences East and Health Sciences West the same year.
Under the guidance of the third Chancellor, Philip R. Lee, the institution was renamed to its current form, the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Lee also was crucial in guiding UCSF through the turmoil of the late 1960s and worked to increase minority recruitment and enrollment. By then, UCSF had already reached the top ranks of US schools in the health sciences through its innovative programs that blended basic science, research, and clinical instruction. This stature was further augmented by Francis A. Sooy, fourth Chancellor, who dedicated his ten years to recruiting the top physicians and scientists in the field.
Late 20th century
The 1970s saw a dramatic expansion of UCSF, both in its medical capacities and as a research institute. The increase in researchers, physicians and students brought a need for additional space. The nursing school opened its own building in 1972 and the medical center opened the Ambulatory Care Center in 1973. The discovery of recombinant DNA technology by UCSF and Stanford scientists in the mid-1970s opened many new avenues of research and attracted more people. On the clinical side, great advances in patient care, diagnostics, and treatments advanced UCSF's reputation in the health field. 1975 also saw the opening of the UCSF Center in Fresno.
Julius R. Krevans, the fifth Chancellor from 1982 to 1993, was a strong advocate of biomedical research and public policy in the health sciences. During his tenure, UCSF rose to become one of the leading recipients of NIH funding. This led to the need for new space, and additions included the Marilyn Reed Lucia Child Care Center in 1978, the Dental Clinics Building (1980), the new Joseph M. Long Hospital in 1983 (which was integrated with the existing Moffitt Hospital), Beckman Vision Center and Koret Vision Research Laboratory (1988), and Kalmanovitz Library (1990).
Due to the space constraints of the Parnassus Heights campus, UCSF started looking into expanding into other areas of the city. The university opened UCSF Laurel Heights in 1985 in the Laurel Heights neighborhood. Initially intended for pharmacy school laboratory research and instruction, neighborhood concerns pushed the university to instead employ the building for academic desktop research, social and behavioral science departments, and administrative offices. On the western side of the city, the university acquired Mount Zion Hospital in 1990, which became the second major clinical site and since 1999 has hosted the first comprehensive cancer center in Northern California. Under the chancellorship of Joseph B. Martin, UCSF engaged in a health merger with Stanford Health and laid the groundwork for the expansion into Mission Bay.
A pivotal moment in UCSF history was the deal between Vice Chancellor Bruce Spaulding and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown for the development of the Mission Bay campus in 1999. The development of a second campus in San Francisco was planned carefully and with business and community input. The Mission Bay neighborhood was occupied by old warehouses and rail yards. Initially, the campus consisted of 29.2 acres donated by the Catellus Development Corporation and 13.2 acres donated by the City and County of San Francisco. A later addition of a 14.5-acre parcel brought the total campus area to about 57 acres. The Mission Bay expansion was overseen by a one-year chancellorship of surgeon Haile Debas. Under his guidance, UCSF further increased its lead in the field of surgery, transplant surgery, and surgical training. The Mission Bay Campus doubled the university's research and provided new opportunities for biomedical discovery and student training. The first phase of construction cost $800 million and included four research buildings, a community center, a student housing complex, two parking structures, and development of large open spaces.
Scientist J. Michael Bishop, a Nobel Prize in Medicine recipient, became the eighth Chancellor in 1998. He oversaw one of UCSF's transition and growth periods, including the expanding Mission Bay development and philanthropic support recruitment. During his tenure, he unveiled the first comprehensive, campus-wide, strategic plan to promote diversity and foster a supportive work environment. During this time, UCSF also adopted a new mission: advancing health worldwide™.
In 2009, Susan Desmond-Hellmann became the ninth Chancellor and first woman to lead UCSF. She was tasked with guiding the university through the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2007–2008. In the same year, UCSF professor Elizabeth Blackburn won the Nobel Prize for Medicine and in 2012 UCSF professor Shinya Yamanaka won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
The 2010s saw increased construction and expansion at Mission Bay, with the Smith Cardiovascular Research Building, the UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay, the Benioff Children's Hospital in 2010, the Sandler Neuroscience Center in 2012, Mission Hall and the Baker Cancer Hospital in 2013. The Children's Hospital was named after Marc Benioff, who donated $100 million toward the new facility. In 2011, expansion also resumed at the Parnassus campus, with the construction of the Regeneration Medicine Building, a $123 million construction designed by New York architect Rafael Viñoly. The Stem Cell Center was named in honor of Eli Broad, who donated $25 million to the cause of research for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s disease, HIV/AIDS, and cancer.
In 2014, UCSF celebrated its 150th anniversary with a year of events. That same year Neonatologist and Dean of the UCSF School of Medicine Sam Hawgood, MBBS, became the tenth Chancellor. In 2015, the Mission Bay campus saw the grand opening of the new UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay, a 289-bed integrated hospital complex dedicated to serving children, women and cancer patients.
Since 2015 UCSF has increased its focus on novel biomedical research and has attracted many acts of philanthropy. UCSF became one of the three institutions (together with UC Berkeley and Stanford University) which comprise the Biohub, which is housed on the Mission Bay campus. The project consists of a medical science research center funded by a $600 million commitment from Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg and UCSF alumna pediatrician Priscilla Chan, his wife. In January 2017, UCSF announced a $500 million gift from the Helen Diller Foundation to increase financial aid for faculty and students, invest in cutting-edge research projects, and expand scholarships for dental, medical, nursing and pharmacy students. This gift is tied with that of Nike Inc. co-founder Phil Knight for the largest single donation ever to a public university. In 2017, UCSF launched a capital campaign, The Campaign, to raise $5 billion to increase the endowment and funds for research and medical services. In 2018, UCSF received a commitment of $500 million for the construction of a new hospital, which will be built at Parnassus, replacing the Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute.
UCSF operates four major campus sites within the city of San Francisco and one in Fresno, California, as well as numerous other minor sites scattered through San Francisco and the San Francisco Bay Area.
The Parnassus Heights campus was the site of the Affiliated Colleges, which later evolved into the present-day institution. The site was established along Parnassus Avenue in 1898 on land donated by Mayor Adolph Sutro. At the time, the site was in the remote and uninhabited western part of San Francisco, but its medical facilities became vital in saving lives when 40,000 people were hosted in the nearby Golden Gate Park after the 1906 earthquake. In the early 1900s, the medical research operations of the medical center were split between Parnassus and UC Berkeley, and discussions arose about which site should become the center of medical activity. In 1914, the Hooper Foundation for Medical Research decided to move its research work to the Parnassus site, becoming the first medical research foundation in the United States to be incorporated into a university. This expansion led to a 1949 decision by the UC Board of Regents designating the UCSF campus, rather than UC Berkeley, as the main site for all medical sciences of the UC system. The 20th century saw remarkable growth, with the expansion of new research institutes and facilities, which led to the administrative independence of UCSF and the selection of John B. de C.M. Saunders as the first Chancellor in 1964.
Parnassus serves as the main campus of the University and includes administration offices, numerous research labs, the 600-bed UCSF Medical Center, the Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute, the Mulberry Student Union, and the UCSF Library. Additionally, the Schools of Dentistry, Pharmacy, Medicine, Nursing are also located at Parnassus. It also houses the UCSF neurology outpatient practice that serves as a referral center for most of northern California and Reno, Nevada. UCSF's Beckman Vision Center is also located at the Parnassus campus. It is a center for the diagnosis, treatment, and research of all areas of eye care, including vision correction surgery. Also located on the Parnassus campus is the UCSF Fetal Treatment Center, a multidisciplinary care center dedicated to the diagnosis, treatment, and long-term follow-up of fetal birth defects.
UCSF's Mission Bay Campus, also located in San Francisco, is the largest ongoing biomedical construction project in the world. The 43-acre (17 ha) Mission Bay campus, opened in 2003 with construction still ongoing, contains additional research space and facilities to foster biotechnology and life sciences companies. It will double the size of UCSF's research enterprise over the next 10 years. The biotechnology company Genentech contributed $50 million toward construction of a building as part of a settlement regarding alleged theft of UCSF technology several decades earlier.
Also located on the Mission Bay campus, the Arthur and Toni Rembe Rock Hall was designed by César Pelli and opened in February 2004. The building is named in honor of Arthur Rock and his wife, who made a $25 million gift to the university. Byers Hall serves as the headquarters for the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3), a cooperative effort between the UC campuses at San Francisco, Berkeley, and Santa Cruz. The building is named after venture capitalist Brook Byers, co-chair of UCSF's capital campaign that concluded in 2005 and raised over $1.6 billion.
Additionally, the William J. Rutter Center, designed along with the adjacent 600-space parking structure by Ricardo Legorreta, opened in October 2005 and contains a fitness and recreation center, swimming pools, student services, and conference facilities. The building is named in honor of William J. Rutter, former Chairman of the university's Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics and co-founder of Chiron Corporation. A housing complex for 750 students and postdoctoral fellows and an 800-space parking garage also opened in late 2005. And a fourth research building, designed by Rafael Viñoly and named the Helen Diller Family Cancer Research Building, opened in June 2009. Two additional research buildings designated for neuroscience and cardiovascular research are currently in the planning and design phase. A new specialty hospital focused on women, children, and cancer on the Mission Bay campus opened in February 2015.
Other centers, institutes, and programs
The Mount Zion Campus contains UCSF's NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, its Women's Health Center, the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine and outpatient resources. The San Francisco General Hospital campus cares for the indigent population of San Francisco and contains San Francisco's only Level I trauma center. The hospital itself is owned and operated by the City and County of San Francisco, but all of its doctors are UCSF faculty physicians and UCSF maintains research laboratories at the hospital campus. The earliest cases of HIV/AIDS were discovered at San Francisco General Hospital in the 1980s. To this day SF General Hospital has one of the world's leading HIV/AIDS treatment and research centers.
UCSF is also affiliated with the San Francisco VA Medical Center and the J. David Gladstone Institutes, a private biomedical research entity that has recently moved to a new building adjacent to UCSF's Mission Bay campus. They are also affiliated with UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland (formerly Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland).
UCSF has its own police department, which serves its two major campuses as well as all satellite sites within the city and South San Francisco.
UCSF cooperates with the Hastings College of Law, a separate University of California institution located in San Francisco. This includes the formation of the UCSF/Hastings Consortium on Law, Science, and Health Policy. The program offers an LLM and MSL Degree program for health and science professionals. The Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies is a partner in this consortium.
UCSF is home to the Industry Documents Library (IDL), a digital library of previously secret internal industry documents, including over 14 million documents in the internationally known Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, the Food Industry Documents Archive, Chemical Industry Documents Archive and the Drug Industry Documents Archive. The IDL contains millions of documents created by major companies related to their advertising, manufacturing, marketing, sales, and scientific research activities.
University of California, San Francisco is unique among University of California campuses in that it performs only biomedical and patient-centered research in its Schools of Medicine, Pharmacy, Nursing, and Dentistry, and the Graduate Division, and their hundreds of associated laboratories. The university is known for innovation in medical research, public service, and patient care. UCSF's faculty includes five Nobel Prize winners, 31 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 69 members of the Institute of Medicine, and 30 members of the Academy of Arts and Sciences. UCSF confers a number of degrees, including Master of Science, Doctor of Philosophy, Doctor of Pharmacy, Doctor of Medicine, Doctor of Dental Surgery, and Doctor of Physical Therapy in a variety of fields.
|U.S. News & World Report||15|
USNWR graduate school rankings
|Medicine: Primary Care||3|
USNWR departmental rankings
|Biochemistry / Biophysics / Structural Biology||5|
|Immunology / Infectious Disease||1|
|Neuroscience / Neurobiology||3|
UCSF is considered one of the preeminent medical and life sciences universities. In 2016, the Academic Ranking of World Universities, published annually by Shanghai Jiaotong University, ranked UCSF third in the world for Clinical Medicine and Pharmacy and fifth in the world for Life and Agricultural Sciences. Previously, UCSF had been second in the world for Clinical Medicine and Pharmacy from 2007-2015, ceding the #2 position to the University of Washington in 2016. The professional schools of the University of California, San Francisco are among the top in the nation, according to current (2013) U.S. News & World Report graduate school and other rankings. The schools also rank at or near the top in research funding from the National Institutes of Health. UCSF is ranked 5th among research-oriented medical schools in the United States and ranked 3rd for primary care by U.S. News and World Report. As of 2016, UCSF is ranked 1st among medical schools in the world by the Academic Ranking of World Universities (Clinical Medicine, 2019).
- 6 Nobel Prize winners
- 53 members of the National Academy of Sciences
- 100 members of the National Academy of Medicine
- 3 MacArthur Foundation “geniuses”
- 18 Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators
- 38 NIH Innovator and Young Innovator Awards
- 9 members of the Royal Society
- 65 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
- 68 members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
- 2 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences winners
- 4 National Medal of Science winners
- 6 Shaw Prize winners
- 10 Lasker Award winners
School of Medicine
The UCSF school of medicine is the oldest in the Western United States. In 2016, the School of Medicine was the number one recipient of National Institutes of Health research funds among all US medical schools for the fifth year in a row, receiving awards totaling $518 million. This figure rose from 2010 when the School of Medicine received a total of $475.4 million in NIH funds, but was still the largest public medical school recipient. Also in 2012, the school of medicine received the most funding from NIH in medicine for the first time (receiving funds totaling $448.7 million), and maintains this distinction as of 2016.
In 2016, the School of Medicine launched the Bridges curriculum, more than half of which is dedicated to diagnostic reasoning.
In 2017, 8,078 people applied and 505 were interviewed for 145 positions in the entering class.
The Graduate Division, established in 1961, is home to 1,600 students enrolled in 31 degree programs (both PhD and Masters) and 1,100 postdoctoral scholars. Programs are based basic, translational, clinical, social, and populational sciences, and focus on the understanding of the mechanisms of biology, analyzing the social, cultural, and historical determinants of health, alleviating human disease, reducing health disparities, and advancing health worldwide. U.S. News & World Report. In 2018, UCSF graduate programs ranked 1st in immunology and molecular biology, 3rd in neuroscience, 4th in cell biology and biochemistry, fifth in biochemistry/biophysics/structural biology.
School of Nursing
The School of Nursing was established in 1907, following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, which lead to UCSF becoming active in providing health care in San Francisco. It is recognized as one of the premier nursing schools in the United States. In the U.S. News & World Report for 2016, the UCSF School of Nursing tied for 2nd overall in the nation. UCSF also ranked in the top 10 in all six of its rated nursing specialties, including ranking #1 for its psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner program, and ranking #2 for its family nurse practitioner program. Previously, in 2012, the nursing specialties were ranked as #1 for adult/medical-surgical nurse, family nurse practitioner and psychiatric/mental health nurse programs, and #2 for its adult nurse practitioner program.
The School of Nursing in 2016 ranked first nationally in total NIH research funds with $7.85 million, for the 10th time in the last dozen years. This was the second year in a row that all four of UCSF's professional schools (Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Dentistry) ranked first for "federal biomedical research funding in their fields." 
School of Pharmacy
Founded in 1872, it is the oldest pharmacy school in California and the western United States. For 39 consecutive years it has been the number one pharmacy school by NIH funding, with close to $29 million in 2018.
In 2015, U.S. News & World Report ranked the UCSF School of Pharmacy number three in its "America's Best Graduate Schools" edition. In 2014, the School of Pharmacy also ranked first in NIH research funding among all US pharmacy schools, receiving awards totaling $31.8 million. The UCSF School of Pharmacy was also ranked as the top program in the US, according to a 2002 survey published in The Annals of Pharmacotherapy, which weighed key criteria, including funding for research and the frequency of scientific publications by faculty, that are not considered in other rankings. In 2013, the UCSF pharmacy program implemented the multiple mini interview, developed by McMaster University Medical School, as a replacement for the more traditional panel interview as the MMI had shown to be a better predictor of subsequent performance in school.
School of Dentistry
Founded in 1881, the School of Dentistry is the oldest dental school in the state of California and in the Western United States. It is accredited by the American Dental Association and offers the Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS), PhD in Oral and Craniofacial Sciences, MS in Oral and Craniofacial Sciences, and MS in Dental Hygiene degrees.
The School of Dentistry in 2016 ranked first among all dental schools in NIH research funding for the 25th consecutive year, with $19.5 million in awards. In Quacquarelli Symonds's first ever Dentistry Subject Ranking in 2015, UCSF was ranked 24th in the world.
UCSF Medical Center
In 2019, U.S. News & World Report named the UCSF Medical Center the 7th hospital in the nation, the 2nd in California, and the 1st in San Francisco. UCSF ranked among the top 10 nationwide in eight specialties: neonatology; nephrology, neurology & neurosurgery; ophthalmology; psychiatry; pulmonology & lung surgery; rheumatology; urology.
The UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay opened February 1, 2015 and hosts three hospitals (UCSF Benioff children's hospital, UCSF Betty Irene Moore Women’s Hospital, and UCSF Bakar Cancer Hospital) and an outpatient facility. Overall, the 6-story medical center covers 878,000-square-foot and has 289 beds. It also has 4.3 acres of green space, including 100,000 square feet of ground landscaping (making it one of the greenest hospitals in the US) and 60,000 square feet of rooftop gardens.
UCSF is among the world's leading institutions in biological and medical research. Its departments span all fields of biomedical science, from basic to translational sciences. In 2016, it spent $1.13 billion in research and development, the 4th most nationally, 61% of which is funded by the Department of Health And Human Services and the NIH.
- The discovery of oncogenes and the conversion of normal cellular genes can be converted to cancer genes (Nobel Prize in Medicine, J. Michael Bishop and Harold Varmus, 1989)
- The techniques of recombinant DNA, the seminal step in the creation of the biotechnology industry, together with Stanford
- The precise recombinant DNA techniques that led to the creation of a hepatitis B vaccine
- The first successful in-utero fetal surgery (Michael R. Harrison)
- First to clone an insulin gene into bacteria, leading to the mass production of recombinant human insulin to treat diabetes
- First to synthesize human growth hormone and clone into bacteria, setting the stage for genetically engineered human growth hormone
- First to develop prenatal tests for sickle cell anemia and thalassemia
- Discovery of prions, a unique type of infectious agent responsible for a variety of neurodegenerative diseases (Nobel Prize in Medicine, Stanley B. Prusiner, 1997)
- Development of catheter ablation therapy for tachycardia
- Discovery of the molecular nature of telomeres
- Discovery that missing pulmonary surfactants are responsible for the death of newborns with respiratory distress syndrome; first to develop a synthetic substitute for it, reducing infant death rates significantly
- The first care units for AIDS patients and pioneer work in treatment of AIDS
- First to train pharmacists as drug therapy specialists
- First university west of the Mississippi to offer a doctoral degree in nursing
- First to develop an academic hospitalist program (and coined the term "hospitalist") (Robert M. Wachter)
- First high volume HIV counseling and testing program at the UCSF Alliance Health Project
- First US medical school to offer an elective for medical students to get academic credit for editing health-related articles on Wikipedia.
- On June 5, 2015, surgeons at UCSF and California Pacific Medical Center successfully completed 18 surgeries in the nation's first nine-way, two-day kidney transplant chain in a single city.
There are more than 180 registered campus organizations at UCSF. These groups and clubs cover a broad range of interests, including educational, social, cultural, artistic, recreational, political and spiritual. Every year, these organizations sponsor more than 1,200 activities and events.
The student government at UCSF consists of the Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA), which serves the collective interests of graduate and professional students. It aims at improving student life on a university and system-wide level with dialogue, action, and activities between students, faculty, and staff. It focuses on discussing University policy, informing constituents, advocating student interests, fostering relationships between academic programs, strengthening connections to better support students, and initiating actions and proposals, 
Synapse is the student newspaper at UCSF. It was founded in 1957, and since 1997 the newspaper has been both in print and online. In the fall 2015 the newspaper rebranded from Synapse: The UCSF Newspaper to Synapse: UCSF Student Voices. The mission of Synapse is to serve as the forum for the campus community, and it covers campus news and events, entertainment, and restaurant reviews, and a wide range of feature stories, editorials, and weekly columns, to the entire UCSF community. The newspaper focuses heavily on science and health, but it also covers arts, national news, and opinion articles.
UCSF students are eligible to become University of California student regent, a position on the University of California Board of Regents created by a 1974 California ballot proposition to represent University of California students on the university system's governing board. Student regents serve an approximately one-year term as 'student regent-designate', followed by a one-year term as a full voting member of the Regents. Virtually any UC student in good academic standing may apply to be student regent. Traditionally, the position alternates between undergraduate and graduate students as well as between the various UC campuses.
- John Bertrand deCusance Morant Saunders (1964–1966)
- Willard Fleming (1966–1969)
- Philip Randolph Lee (1969–1972)
- Francis A. Sooy (1972–1982)
- Julius R. Krevans (1982–1993)
- Joseph B. Martin (1993–1997)
- Haile Debas (1997–1998)
- J. Michael Bishop (1998–2009)
- Susan Desmond-Hellmann (2009–2014)
- Sam Hawgood (2014–present)
Notable alumni and faculty
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- Bruce Alberts, 2016 Albert Lasker Special Achievement Award for fundamental discoveries in DNA replication and protein biochemistry, 2012 National Medal of Science
- Andy Baldwin – bachelor for the tenth season of The Bachelor
- J. Michael Bishop – former UCSF Chancellor. Nobel laureate in Medicine (1989), worked to discover the cellular origin of retroviral oncogenes
- Elizabeth Blackburn, professor of biology and physiology at UCSF, Nobel laureate in Medicine (2009), discoverer of the ribonucleoprotein enzyme, telomerase. Appointed a member of the President's Council on Bioethics in 2001 and fired in February 2004, reportedly for her public disagreements and political differences with Council chair Leon Kass and the Bush Administration, particularly on the issue of therapeutic cloning.
- Herbert Boyer, National Medal of Science (1990) and Shaw prize 2004, cofounder of Genentech
- Richard Carmona – former Surgeon General of the United States
- Priscilla Chan – pediatrician, spouse of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
- John Clements, first to isolate pulmonary surfactant and to develop it artificially
- Terence Coderre – Professor of Medicine and the Harold Griffith Chair in Anaesthesia Research at McGill University
- Eric Coleman is an American geriatrician and academic. His is currently a professor at the University of Colorado. His research concerns care transitions. Coleman was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2012.
- Haile T. Debas, former UCSF Chancellor; former Dean, School of Medicine; founding Executive Director, Department of Global Health Sciences
- Joseph DeRisi biochemist, specializing in molecular biology, parasitology, genomics, virology, and computational biology, in 2004 was named a MacArthur fellow (the "Genius" award), in 2008 was awarded the 14th Annual Heinz Award for Technology, the Economy, and Employment, and in 2014 he received the John J. Carty Award for the Advancement of Science from the National Academy of Sciences, in 2016 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.
- Michael V. Drake – former University of California, Irvine Chancellor; former University of California Vice President-Health Affairs; current president of Ohio State University
- Laura J. Esserman, surgeon and breast cancer oncology specialist, named in TIME Magazine's 100 most influential people in the world in 2016.
- Paul Ekman, who showed that human emotional expressions were universal and developed the Facial Action Coding System
- Richard Feachem, founding Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (2002–2007)
- David E. Garfin, made significant contributions to electrophoresis in both the engineering and biology communities.
- Diana E. Forsythe, anthropologist noted for her work on artificial intelligence and medical informatics
- Julie Gerberding – Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Stanton Glantz, regarded as the Ralph Nader of the anti-big-tobacco movement
- Jere E. Goyan, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
- Walter S. Graf, cardiologist, pioneer in creation of emergency paramedic care system
- Victoria Hale, both alumna and professor, founded the nonprofit pharmaceutical company The Institute for OneWorld Health, 2006 MacArthur Fellow
- Joseph Gilbert Hamilton, Hamilton studied the medical effects of exposure to radioactive isotopes, which included the use of unsuspecting human subjects
- Eva Harris, professor in the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, and the founder and president of the Sustainable Sciences Institute. She focuses her research efforts on combating diseases that primarily afflict people in developing nations, 1997 MacArthur Fellows Program
- Michael R. Harrison – developed the initial techniques for fetal surgery and performed the first fetal surgery in 1981, and then went on to establish the UCSF Fetal Treatment Center, which was the first of its kind in the United States.
- Griffith R. Harsh - Vice Chair of the Stanford Department of Neurosurgery and the Director of the Stanford Brain Tumor Center. He is also the spouse of Meg Whitman.
- Ira Herskowitz, geneticist, noted for his work on cellular differentiation, 1987 MacArthur Fellows Program
- Julien Hoffman – professor emeritus of pediatrics; senior member of the Cardiovascular Research Institute
- Wolfgang Holzgreve – pioneer in maternal-fetal medicine, involved in the introduction of chorionic villus sampling and methods of non-invasive prenatal testing
- Dorothy M. Horstmann (1911–2001), virologist who made important discoveries about polio.
- Nola Hylton, radiologist and pioneer in the use of Breast MRI
- Janet Iwasa, cell biologist and animator
- David Julius worked on ion channels, Shaw prize in 2010
- Sarah H. Kagan is an American gerontological nurse, and Lucy Walker Honorary Term Professor of Gerontological Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a MacArthur Fellow.
- Yuet Wai Kan, Lasker Award (1991) and Shaw Prize (2004)
- Selna Kaplan - former professor of pediatrics; pediatric endocrinologist
- Stuart Kauffman is an American medical doctor, theoretical biologist, and complex systems researcher who studies the origin of life on Earth. He was a professor the University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Calgary. He has a number of awards including a MacArthur Fellowship and a Wiener Medal.
- Uzma Khanum, sister of Pakistani Politician Imran Khan.
- David Kessler – former dean of the UCSF School of Medicine and Yale University School of Medicine, and former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration in the Clinton Administration
- Peter Kollman – developer of the AMBER force field in molecular dynamics simulation and an internationally renowned computational chemist
- Herbert Daniel Landahl, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Biophysics and Mathematical Biology-Basic research in mathematical biophysics of the central nervous system, cell division dynamics, population interactions, and control of insulin bioynthesis.
- Arthur Lander, M.D. PhD Developmental biologist at University of California, Irvine
- Jay A. Levy, who, along with Robert Gallo at the National Cancer Institute and Luc Montagnier at the Pasteur Institute, was among the first to identify and isolate HIV as the causative agent in AIDS
- Richard Locksley, medical doctor, professor and researcher of infectious diseases at the University of California, San Francisco
- Michael Marletta is currently Ch and Annie Li Chair in the Molecular Biology of Diseases at the University of California, Berkeley. 1995 MacArthur Fellow.
- C. Cameron Macauley, photographer and film producer
- Wendy Max, professor of Health Economics
- Michael Merzenich, Professor emeritus neuroscientist – brain plasticity research, basic and clinical sciences of hearing pioneer – CEO Scientific Learning, Posit Science
- Thomas Novotny, former Assistant Surgeon General
- Dean Ornish, who first established that coronary artery disease could be reversed with lifestyle changes alone, author of the few bestseller books on the subject of healthy lifestyle choices
- Laura Otis is an American historian of science, and Professor of English, at Emory University, 2000 MacArthur Fellows Program
- William W. Parmley – Former Editor of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and General Authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- Stanley Prusiner – Nobel laureate in Medicine (1997), discovered and described prions
- Shuvo Roy, Inventor of artificial kidney
- William Seeley, alumni, neurology professor at UCSFv, where he leads the Selective Vulnerability Research Lab. He is a 2011 MacArthur Fellow.
- Steve Schroeder – Former CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
- John Severinghaus - anesthesiologist & pioneer of the carbon dioxide electrode used in the first arterial blood gas analyzer
- Michelle Tam, creator of Nom Nom Paleo and James Beard Foundation Award nominated cookbook author, blogger, and food writer
- Julie Theriot, microbiologist, professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine, and heads the Theriot Lab. She was a Predoctoral Fellow, and Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, 2004 MacArthur Fellows Program
- Phillip Thygesson – ophthalmologist, trachoma researcher, Thygesson Disease.
- Thea Tlsty, professor of pathology, known for her research in cancer biology
- Kay Tye – neuroscientist
- Harold Varmus – Nobel laureate in Medicine (1989), worked with J. Michael Bishop to discover the cellular origin of retroviral oncogenes. Also served as director of the National Institutes of Health during the Clinton Administration, as president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center from 2000 to 2010, and currently as the director of the National Cancer Institute.
- Paul Volberding, whose pioneering work in the early days of the AIDS pandemic was noted in Randy Shilts' book And the Band Played On
- Robert M. Wachter, a prominent expert in patient safety, who coined the term hospitalist and is considered the academic leader of the field of hospital medicine. Wachter is now chair of UCSF's Department of Medicine.
- Peter Walter molecular biologist and biochemist, Shaw Prize (2014) and Lasker Award (2014)
- Ted Wong - United States Army Major General, Chief of the U.S. Army Dental Corps (2011-2014)
- David A. Wood former head of the Cancer Research Institute and former president of the American Cancer Society.
- Ron Vale molecular motors particularly on kinesin and dynein, he has received the Lasker Award (2012) and the Shaw Prize (2017)-
- Pablo DT Valenzuela – co-founder of the American biotech company Chiron Corporation, the first Chilean biotech company Bios Chile, and of Fundacion Ciencia para la Vida in Santiago Chile.
- V. Sasisekharan, proposed an alternate model for the Watson-Crick double helix
- Eric M. Verdin, MD - fifth President and Chief Executive Officer of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging
- Rachel Wilson, professor of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School, 2008 MacArthur Fellow
- Shinya Yamanaka, who developed for reprogramming adult cells to pluripotential precursors, thus circumventing an approach in which embryos would be destroyed. Yamanaka won Shaw prize in 2008 and the Nobel prize for Medicine in 2012.
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