UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann to step down in spring

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UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann will step down in March to become the chief executive officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UC President Janet Napolitano announced Tuesday.

Desmond-Hellmann, who is in her fifth year as chancellor, will assume her new role effective May 1 while maintaining her faculty appointment at UCSF.

In a letter to her campus community, Desmond-Hellmann noted the progress UCSF has made under her purview, focusing on patients, research, education, people and finances.

“I often describe UCSF to others as an institution with great intellect and innovation coupled with an aspiration of ‘advancing health worldwide,’ devoted at every level to serving the public,” she said in the letter. “I’m looking forward to drawing on my exceptional experiences at UCSF as I take on the role of CEO with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and focus on some of the world’s most difficult challenges.”

In a statement, Napolitano cited the way Desmond-Hellman guided UCSF through “one of the worst fiscal crises in UC’s history” while continuing to push for diversity, transparency and public service.

Desmond-Hellmann, an oncologist by training, was the first woman to serve as the campus’s chancellor, according to a press release from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Previously, she was president of product development at the biotechnology corporation Genentech and led their development and introduction of two gene-targeted therapies for cancer.

“We chose Sue because of her scientific knowledge and deep technical expertise on the foundation’s issues, as well as the organizational and leadership skills required to lead a large, growing and dynamic global organization,” said Melinda Gates, co-chair of the foundation, in the press release. “Sue shares our commitment and passion to create a more equitable world.”

Pending approval of the UC Board of Regents, Napolitano will appoint UCSF School of Medicine Dean Sam Hawgood as interim chancellor during the search for Desmond-Hellmann’s replacement.

Megan Messerly is the executive news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @meganmesserly.