UCSF Insights

At UCSF, pursuing grand challenges is the culmination of everything we do. We band together, across departments and disciplines and with private companies and public health agencies, to solve some of the world’s most intractable health challenges.

Through the UCSF Insights series, we share the research that is shaping health and health care today. The series explores these insights through the eyes of the UCSF experts on the front lines of astonishing discoveries, giving our audiences an exclusive look into the brilliant minds that are influencing and transforming the field of science today, and ultimately, the health care of tomorrow.


Health Justice, Right Now

Health justice can be dramatically improved, right here, right now. UCSF experts are playing a pivotal role in our communities to better understand the challenges and meet that goal. Why is COVID-19 disproportionately devastating the Navajo Nation? Can a physician’s evaluation prevent an immigrant from being deported? What can we do to prevent the spread of pandemics through California’s prison system? At UCSF Insights: Health Justice, Right Now, clinicians and researchers will share practical solutions – and often, surprising answers – to these questions and others. Join us in understanding the complexities of these issues, and learn how we all can help change the tide.

August 17, 2020


Co-Chair, UCSF Health and Human Rights Initiative
Professor, Family and Community Medicine

Dr. Kivlahan’s Health and Human Rights Initiative partners with local law firms, community groups, and peer institutions to provide life-altering services to asylum applicants. Her work in asylum medicine has put her on the front line of the immigrant conversation in California, around the United States, and internationally. She has trained physicians from around the world in the forensic evaluation of torture, working in partnership with these physicians to create curricula on human rights law, injury identification, and international documentation standards. The HHRI has helped individuals and families find safe passage to the United States from war-torn and strife-ridden nations.

Associate Professor, UCSF School of Medicine
Co-Founder and Faculty Director, UCSF Health, Equity, Action, and Leadership (HEAL) Initiative 

UCSF’s HEAL Initiative is a health workforce-strengthening fellowship working in the Navajo Nation and nine developing countries around the world. Dr. Shamasunder has led HEAL’s response in the Navajo Nation during the ongoing COVID-19 surge. This effort has involved spending several weeks with HEAL's partner-site hospital taking care of COVID-19 patients and supporting UCSF nursing and physician volunteers. HEAL recruited more than 40 UCSF nurses and doctors to join over 50 Indiginous and non-native HEAL fellows already in New Mexico caring for the devastated Navajo Nation community. Throughout the last decade, Dr. Shamasunder has spent several months every year in underserved settings around the world, including South Los Angeles, rural Liberia, Haiti, Burundi, and rural India.

Professor of Medicine at University of California, San Francisco
Director, Amend: Changing Correctional Culture

Dr. Williams collaborates with colleagues from disciplines including criminal justice, public safety, and the law to conduct impact-oriented research and education to improve the health inmates and workers in US correctional facilities. The Amend program integrates principles of normality, dignity, and human rights into US prisons and jails. Dr. Williams has called for improved responses to disability, cognitive impairment, and environmental mismatch among older or seriously ill prisoners; a more scientific development of compassionate-release policies; and a broader inclusion of incarcerated patients into national health data sets and in clinical research. She has consulted for correctional facilities and legal organizations nationwide, including the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the National American Civil Liberties Union.


Past Events:

The Future of Medicine

Today, we may look to the future and see deep uncertainty, with escalating climate change, looming antibiotic resistance, and the intractability of complex diseases like cancer. However, at UCSF, we face such challenges head-on and pioneer novel approaches to solving monumental problems. Hear from the visionaries who are working to mitigate the health effects of climate change, using nanotechnology to make cancer treatments more precise, and designing new drugs to stop the spread of superbugs.

February 27, 2020


Assistant Professor, Department of Radiation Oncology, UCSF School of Medicine

Dr. Anwar is a member of the Bioengineering Core, and a member of UCSF’s Health Innovations via Engineering (HIVE) program. His primary goal is to identify where gaps in diagnostic information and therapeutic tools compromise patient care, develop solutions for these problems, and enable precise, personalized cancer treatment. To accomplish this, Dr. Anwar’s UCSF lab develops ultra-miniaturized sensors that can be placed within the body to provide heretofore unattainable information faster and more accurately than can conventional clinical tests. His expertise in electrical engineering focuses on using integrated circuits – computer chip technology – to develop micro- and nano-scale sensors for cancer detection and imaging. In parallel, he maintains a clinical practice in radiation oncology in which he specializes in radiosurgery for pancreatic cancer and other hard-to-treat cancers.

Associate Professor, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, UCSF School of Pharmacy

Dr. Fraser’s long-term research goals include finding new ways to combat antibiotic-resistant “superbugs.” Dr. Fraser’s lab uses electron microscopy and X-ray crystallography to determine the atomic structures of protein and RNA molecules that the bacteria need to survive and to improve small molecules drugs that can inactivate them. Combining these insights with experiments that mimic the evolutionary forces faced in treatment settings will help us understand how to treat this global pandemic, which causes prolonged illness and otherwise preventable disability and death.

Professor of Medicine, UCSF School of Medicine Internist, Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases, and Global Medicine, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital

Dr. Weiser is an international expert on the ways food insecurity contributes to poor health in patients with HIV and other chronic diseases; she also specializes in designing food security and livelihood interventions that improve health. Dr. Weiser currently works to incorporate climate-change education into UCSF’s mission so students learn about how it will impact the care they will provide. She documents negative health impacts of climate change based on information in publicly available databases, she works on intervention studies that help individuals mitigate or adapt to climate change, and she advocates for the investment of more money into researching how we will need to adapt care and interventions based on her findings.


Our Aging Decoded

Aspects of biological aging can be reversed. UCSF scientists have, in fact, already proven this to be true, but some key questions remain unanswered. Can we make cells from an older adult young again? Why does aging lead to organ failure? Does oxygen deprivation really reverse physiological hallmarks of aging? Our researchers have provided insight into each of these questions, often with surprising results. Join us as we explore the newest breakthroughs in the biology of aging – and look to the future.


Sandler Faculty Fellow and Principal Investigator, UCSF Department of Physiology, School of Medicine

Associate Professor in Residence, UCSF Department of Neurology, School of Medicine
Clinical Staff, UCSF Memory and Aging Center

Associate Professor, UCSF Department of Cell and Tissue Biology, School of Dentistry


Partnering to Achieve Health Equity: Radically Rethinking Care

UCSF challenges the status quo. We ensure that our scientific breakthroughs and clinical innovations reach everyone, with a keen focus on the vulnerable among us. Join us to learn about designing new approaches for treating stroke victims, debunking previous notions about how best to treat children with asthma, flipping the paradigm from treatment to prevention with a focus on food as medicine, and even eliminating HIV transmissions here in San Francisco. 


Professor of Pediatrics, Epidemiology and Biostatistics Director and Chief, Division of General Pediatrics, UCSF

Professor, UCSF Department of Medicine 
Chief, UCSF Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases, and Global Medicine at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital 

Assistant Clinical Professor, UCSF Department of Emergency Medicine at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital 

Associate Professor, UCSF Departments of Medicine and of Epidemiology and Biostatistics 
Founder, EatSF


Leveraging Discovery to Revolutionize Care: Harnessing Technology for Better Health

Advanced technology is allowing UCSF scientists to tighten the loop from discoveries made at the laboratory bench to the patient’s bedside. Join us to experience firsthand how our clinician- researchers use computational approaches to improve women’s gynecological health outcomes, wield fMRI imaging to broaden our understanding of musical creativity, and harness implantable devices to improve pain management.


Associate Professor, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences
Comprehensive Fibroid Center

Professor and Director, Neuromodulation Service,
Division of Pain Medicine
Department of Anesthesia and Perioperative Care

Chief, Division of Otology, Neurotology and Skull Base Surgery
Frances A. Sooy Professor, Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery


Decoding Life to Improve Health: Microbiome, Macro-impact

The microbial colonies that cover our bodies inside and out exist in an interactive and harmonious community that we depend on for our well-being. Join UCSF scientists who are discovering how imbalances among these bacteria, fungi, and viruses can cause disease, and how maintaining a balance may be a key to good health.


Roger Boles, MD, Endowed Professor, Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery,
Director, Division of Rhinology and Sinus Surgery

Professor, Division of Gastroenterology,
Director, Colitis and Crohn's Disease Microbiome Research Core

Professor, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics

For More Info

Courtney Rosselli