life::science (our stories)

 For more information on how to make a gift in support of women physician-scientists at UCSF contact Trish Davenport, Senior Director of Development at trish.davenport[AT] or 415-476-3590.


 WHAT has inspired your career thus far? Why?

When I was in high school, my mom was diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer. It was incredibly stressful time for her and for my family. So from an early age, I was motivated to become an oncologist to help patients like my mom. In college, I was exposed to basic science research which eventually inspired me to apply to MD PhD programs.  I was most motivated to do research that was directly connected to patients. As a graduate student, I worked on pancreatic cancer; this work was mainly using mouse models, although closely mimicked human pancreatic cancer biology. As an Oncology fellow, I moved one step closer by working on patient samples to study how immunotherapy re-shapes the immune response to cancer.

Bridget Keenan, MD PhD

I sought training in neuroscience and neurology because I wanted to tackle one of the biggest economic and medical challenges facing our time - dementia. Seeing patients reminds me how urgently we need to think creatively and critically about the science of brain health and disease. Medicine [has] allowed me to hone my science to the most clinically urgent questions. 

Claire Clelland, MD PhD 



Lea T. Grinberg, MD PhD

UCSF Academic Senate YouTube

Why AdvanceHER? 

AdvanceHER is such an important goal because not only does it inspire other women to see other successful women physician-scientists in senior leadership positions, but we know from data that having diverse leaders improves outcomes. When I was in training, I had many internal debates about whether I could pursue the life of a clinician-scientist, as it seemed too challenging: excel at clinical medicine, surgery, and science. I also knew that I wanted to meet a partner and start a family. Now as a mother of young children who started my family on the later side, I can say from firsthand knowledge that the alignment of one’s personal and professional aspirations does not always match perfectly. Of course, none of this is new. What is newer are family-friendly policies and recognition that women and underrepresented minorities are not being advanced at the same rate, and there is still plenty of room for improvement.

Yvonne Ou, MD

IWD2024 Panel @UCSF - Women in Science discussion 

IWD2024 Panel @UCSF - Women in Science discussion

Moderator: Dr. Carolyn Sangokoya Panelists: Dr. Licia Selleri, Dr. Matilda Chan, Dr. Catera Wilder, Dr. Erica Hutchins,  Dr. Claire Clelland, and Dr. Maya Kotas.  event supported by Dr. Christina Homer 


Share a story about a mentor who made an impact or difference in your career.

My postdoc mentor at UCSF was Zena Werb. She personally experienced a great deal of gender bias, especially early in her career, so was determined to mentor and promote female scientists. She passed away last year and a reflection on her life highlighted the many very successful female scientists that had trained under her. She has left quite a legacy that continues.

Matilda Chan, MD PhD

Why AdvanceHER? 

There are many junior women in the academic medicine pipeline but there are fewer at the highest levels of leadership. We need to understand and mitigate the causes of that. Seeing other women achieve leadership positions shows more junior faculty and trainees that they can too achieve this, and more importantly, its an opportunity for sponsorship of other women.

Bridget Keenan, MD PhD

Anna Molofsky, MD PhD

UCSF School of Medicine YouTube




What advice would you give yourself early on in your career? To a woman entering your field today?

  1. Build a strong network of colleagues and role models, both on the clinical and research sides (or any of your own particular academic/administrative dimensions).
  2. You don’t have to wait until later in your career to lead, inspire, or advocate for others. Start early, stay dedicated, and support your fellow travelers.  
  3. What YOU do/discover/build in your own research lab can change the way we practice medicine in the future.
  4. Keep going! and bring others with you.             

Carolyn Sangokoya, MD PhD





Tippi MacKenzie, MD

UCSF Foundation YouTube



IWD2022 Panel @UCSF - Women in Science discussion


Introduction: Dr. Terri O'Brien Panelists: Dr. Melanie Ott, Dr. Valerie Weaver, Dr. Tejal Desai, Dr. Diana Laird, Dr. Rushika Perera, Dr. Tiffany Scharschmidt, Dr. Doris Wang, and Dr. Fanny Elahi, moderated by Dr. Betsy Crouch.

IWD2021 Panel @UCSF - Women in Science discussion 

Panelists: Dr. Lindsey Criswell, Dr. Elizabeth Watkins, Dr. Tejal Desai, Dr. Hana El-Samad and Dr. Allison Williams, moderated by Dr. Nerissa Ko.

Why BridgeHER? 

Basic science takes a long time--much longer than traditional NIH funding paradigms can offer... During periods of resource famine, it is [usually] the women and minorities who get left behind. They are the ones working overtime dealing with personal responsibilities like caregiving at home, silently reaching their breaking point unsupported because they are afraid that being transparent about those burdens will make them seem less committed to their career. They are the ones who are always struggling to find someone to write them a strong letter, to edit their grants, to encourage them, to nominate them for positions, and therefore are at particular disadvantage when trying to get extramural funding. They are the ones who departments/division chiefs may be less likely to support ad hoc if there is no structured bridge in place because they don't have the benefit of that chief seeing their story as compelling, as them being "just like me when I was his age."

Maya Kotas, MD PhD

Tiffany Scharschmidt, MD

UCSF School of Medicine YouTube


Share a story about when a funding opportunity made an impact or difference in your career.

I was an early recipient of the Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Fellowship, which helped fund my graduate training and medical school. The Jack Kent Cooke foundation funds low income students of high potential. The grant gave me the opportunity to create my own training path by joining a lab I would not otherwise have been able to join during my PhD and pursuing an academic research career that may have been untenable if I were burdened by debt. But most importantly, they believed in me. The confidence they had, or perhaps it was the bet they made, has at times buoyed me to keep going and keep trying to achieve my dream of finding a cure for dementia and training first as a PhD, then as an MD, even when other paths may have been easier.

Claire Clelland, MD PhD

Jennifer Grandis, MD

UCSF School of Medicine YouTube


What do you uniquely bring to research questions because of your training in both medicine and science?

My goal as a scientist is not only to understand basic mechanisms underlying disease, but also to to improve the lives of my patients. I really appreciate the long-term relationships I form with my glaucoma patients, and feel it is important that I provide my patients with hope for what is currently an incurable blinding disease. I provide that hope not only through my clinical and surgical care, but also by tackling research projects that will improve glaucoma diagnosis and treatments. These are some of the reasons I entered my subspecialty - there is still so much to learn and innovate in order to improve our patients' vision and quality of life.

My daughter was at a clinical trial visit, where male nurses performed a physical examination on her. When they left, she said, “Boys can be doctors, too?” To this I replied, “Boys can do anything girls can do.” 

Yvonne Ou, MD

Yvonne Ou, MD

Bright Focus Foundation  YouTube