UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH, Delivers First “Last Lecture”

Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann delivered the University’s inaugural “Last Lecture” today in Cole Hall Auditorium, responding to the speakers’ prompt: “If You Had But One Lecture to Give, What Would You Say?” Hundreds of students voted to hear the Chancellor’s hour-long talk, which coincided with the start of UCSF’s Interprofessional Alumni Weekend. The lecture also streamed online (MyAccess login required).

Dr. Desmond-Hellmann was invited to reflect upon the professional, personal, spiritual and cultural experiences that she would have inform her legacy. This somber prompt arises from the popular lecture series known best for the participation of Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch, who spoke shortly before his death from pancreatic cancer in 2008.

Inspired by the examples of Dr. Pausch and the late Steve Jobs, whose 2005 commencement address at Stanford University confronted his own pancreatic cancer, Dr. Desmond-Hellmann began her lecture by recalling her childhood dream to become a doctor. She described the privilege she has since experienced in becoming a healthcare professional, following as her personal compass the question, “are my efforts making a difference to the benefit of human health?”

Sharing three chapters of her career – as UCSF visiting faculty at the Uganda Cancer Institute, as President of Product Development at Genentech, and now as Chancellor of UCSF – Dr. Desmond-Hellmann reflected on the importance of sustainability, on the value of teamwork in patient care, and on the need for the relentless pursuit of excellence. She encouraged audience members to “make a decision to be happy and healthy”, and to live by their own metrics of success.

The lecture was followed by a networking reception for students and alumni.

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Last modified: April 19, 2012