A History of Global Health at UCSF

The seeds of global health sciences at UCSF sprouted in the early 20th century, with responses to local and global crises.

UCSF responded to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, setting up mobile medical centers in Golden Gate Park.

The UCSF Mobile Dental Clinic originated in the mid-1960s to provide care to underserved communities in California, including migrant farm workers and their children in the Central Valley.

During the Vietnam War, UCSF physicians treated some of the most seriously injured Vietnamese children evacuated to the US through the Committee of Responsibility, a nationwide organization of medical professionals and private citizens.

Today, we still respond to global health emergencies, from the Ebola epidemic to the earthquake in Haiti, to the Zika virus.

In the early 20th century, many individual doctors and researchers had an interest in global health.

A pioneering thoracic surgeon and innovator, Leo Eloesser (1881–1976) worked in Russia establishing the first thoracic surgery clinic, in Spain as a medic in the Spanish Civil War, and in Mexico and China solving rural medical problems. In San Francisco, he treated Frida Kahlo, who painted his portrait, which hangs in Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

Interested in tropical medicine, William Everett Musgrave (1869–1927) served as a professor, chief of clinics and dean at the University of the Philippines. He also was director of the Philippines General Hospital. In 1918, Musgrave came to San Francisco to be director of hospitals at the University of California.

From its earliest roots, global health at UCSF has been collaborative, with partnerships for education, research and clinical care abroad and among the UC campuses.

From 1954 to 1966, UCSF's School of Medicine helped establish medical education programs at University of Indonesia, graduating the first class in 1959.

Founded to eradicate trachoma worldwide, the Proctor Foundation (1947–present) has evolved into a major research and teaching unit at UCSF to prevent and treat blindness.

The Hooper Foundation (1914–present) was the first academic medical research foundation in the US. In 1959, it turned to international research in tropical diseases, taking greater interest in epidemiology, genetics, and the study of people in increasingly complex societies.

The International Center for Medical Research and Training, established in 1960 by the NIH with UCSF, UC Berkeley, and UC Davis, helped develop research and teaching in tropical medicine and infectious disease at facilities in Malaysia, Singapore and Mexico. It attracted faculty to UCSF’s Department of International Health, now the Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic was a turning point in UCSF's response to global health.

Beginning with its groundbreaking work in San Francisco in the 1980s, UCSF became the leader in HIV/AIDS treatment and research.

As early as 1986, UCSF took its research and treatment knowledge and skills to other parts of the world, and the San Francisco model of care is now the global standard.

UCSF also provides education and research to improve care for HIV-infected people in underserved and vulnerable populations.

The Pacific AIDS Education and Training Center, founded in 1987, increases the numbers of trained healthcare professionals working with HIV-infected patients.

International Traineeships in AIDS Prevention Studies provides training for local researchers and conducts research on the prevention of HIV transmission in low- and middle-income countries.

The Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (CAPS), founded in 1986, is one of the world’s largest research centers dedicated to social, behavioral and policy science approaches to HIV.

The UCSF-Gladstone Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) promotes multidisciplinary HIV research in the basic, clinical and behavioral sciences. The research has helped to define the lifecycle of HIV and pave the way for many currently used medications.

Sustainable East Africa Research in Community Health (SEARCH), directed by Dr. Diane Havlir of UCSF, Dr. Moses Kamya of Makerere University, Uganda, and Dr. Maya Petersen of UC Berkeley, is a community-led approach in Uganda and Kenya to treating HIV and building chronic care systems in the process

In 1996, then School of Medicine Dean Haile Debas united more than 50 UCSF HIV/AIDS programs and laboratories under the umbrella of the AIDS Research Institute (ARI). ARI scientists have worked in Africa, Asia and South America. Today ARI leads a team of scientists working on a cure for HIV/AIDS.

Beginning in the late 1990s, UCSF’s deeply ingrained culture of collaboration led to increasing numbers of successful global health partnerships with academic and other institutions in the US and abroad.

UCSF’s partnership with Makerere University in Uganda spans the campus with joint research programs in HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; joint education programs in surgery; opportunities for medical residencies; and other collaborations to improve healthcare capacity.

In 2005, UCSF and Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences in Tanzania began a partnership that enables each institution to share its expertise in education, research and clinical care. With a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, they created a program to increase the number of Tanzanian health professionals.

In 2009, UCSF formalized partnerships with Aga Khan University—including a project to develop models of primary health care delivery across East Africa and Asia to reduce maternal, newborn and child mortality—and with King’s College London, which collaborates to promote global surgery initiatives and develop global health graduate curriculum.

In 2003, UCSF signaled its commitment to global health by establishing Global Health Sciences (GHS), a pioneering program dedicated to improving health and reducing the burden of disease in the world's most vulnerable populations.

Former UCSF Chancellor Haile T. Debas founded Global Health Sciences and served as its first executive director. He has been a catalyst for many global health organizations, including the system-wide UC Global Health Institute and the Consortium of Universities for Global Health.

Jaime Sepulveda followed Dr. Debas as executive director in 2013 and under his leadership, GHS became the Institute for Global Health Sciences (IGHS) in 2017.

IGHS harnesses UCSF’s expertise in the health, social and biological sciences to train tomorrow’s global health leaders, improve health and reduce the burden of disease in the world’s most vulnerable populations.

In the IGHS education programs—the nation’s first master’s degree in global health and a growing PhD program—students explore critical health challenges and develop solutions through focused training and mentorship by world-renowned faculty.

Through training, technical assistance and technology development, IGHS works with partners around the world to strengthen health systems, build capacity and increase financing for global healthcare.

IGHS researchers generate groundbreaking insights to advance health around the world with expertise in HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, mother, newborn and child health and more.

A hallmark of IGHS is the remarkable leaders who have come together to solve global health problems. These include

Sir Richard Feachem, founding executive director of the Global Fund,

Dr. Eric Goosby, UN Special Envoy on Tuberculosis and former ambassador-at-large and US Global AIDS Coordinator under President Obama,

Dr. George Rutherford, coordinating editor of the Cochrane Collaborative Review Group on HIV Infection and AIDS, and

Dr. Dilys Walker, founder of the Maternal and Newborn Health Research Cooperative at IGHS.

As interest in global health has grown, UCSF’s programs have expanded. Today scholars, clinicians and researchers across the campus participate in global health opportunities, and more than 250 faculty members are affiliated with the Institute for Global Health Sciences.

Training programs include a global health concentration for medical students, residents and fellows; a global health minor in the School of Nursing, the Global Oral Health program in the School of Dentistry and educational exchanges for School of Pharmacy trainees.

Across UCSF, schools and departments offer clinical and research rotations and fellowships in low-resource countries. Examples: the Global Health Bootcamp jump starts health professionals’ careers in global health; the Center for Global Surgical Studies sends trainees to Cameroon to improve access to quality surgical care; the Institute for Global Orthopaedics and Traumatology improves care of underserved populations through academic collaborations.

Currently, almost 600 UCSF researchers are working on more than 1,000 projects in nearly every country in the world. Their research focuses on everything from mental health to how to increase access to and improve use of essential medicines.

At UCSF, we are driven by the idea that when the best research, the best teaching, and the best patient care converge, we can deliver breakthroughs that help heal the world.

Photo Credits (alpha order): Lubowa Abubaker, Steve Babuljak, Olumide Bolarinwa, Paul Joseph Brown, CAPS, Cindy Chew, Robert Durell, FACES, Elisabeth Fall, Chris Goodfellow, Farrah Kashfipour, Susan Merrell, Obieze Nwanna-Nzewunwa, The Proctor Foundation, James Rodríguez, San Francisco Examiner, Hebe Stackpol, Stephanie Tache, John Tewel, Gene Tupper, UC Regents, UCSF archive, World Bank

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IGHS Svendsen

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