University of California President Janet Napolitano announced Thursday that UC San Francisco Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann will step down in March to become chief executive officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Napolitano, in a statement to the UC community, said she had accepted Desmond-Hellmann’s decision to leave with “a confluence of emotions.”
“I am grateful to Chancellor Desmond-Hellmann for her many accomplishments as the leader of one of California’s most vital institutions,” Napolitano said.
She noted that Desmond-Hellmann had successfully guided UCSF through one of the state’s worst fiscal crises; led development of the Benioff Children’s Hospital; and helped UCSF draw more research funding from the National Institutes of Health than any other public institution in the country.
“Chancellor Desmond-Hellmann will leave UCSF a better, more vibrant institution than when she arrived in 2009,” Napolitano said. “This is the true measurement of leadership.”
Napolitano will convene a search committee in early January to begin the selection process for the next UCSF chancellor.
“I am determined to do all in my power as president to ensure that UCSF keeps climbing upward on its trajectory of greatness,” Napolitano said. “In the end, the mission is what must remain paramount, whoever its steward might be.”
She will ask the UC Board of Regents to approve UCSF School of Medicine Dean Sam Hawgood as interim chancellor while the search is under way.
Chancellor Desmond-Hellmann, in a letter to the UCSF community, said the decision to leave was difficult, but that she was drawn by the opportunity to address the tough challenges of extreme poverty and poor health in developing countries. The Gates Foundation works with partner organizations around the world to fund innovative ideas aimed at improving health and eradicating hunger and poverty. In the United States it looks for ways to improve public education.
Desmond-Hellmann said her work at the Gates Foundation will be informed by her experiences at UCSF, which has a long public service tradition and aims to advance health worldwide, she said.
“My hope is that my leadership can contribute to creating a more equitable world,” Desmond-Hellmann said.
Desmond-Hellmann will begin at the Gates Foundation in May. She will continue at UCSF through March and has offered to assist in the search for her replacement. She also will maintain her faculty appointment at UCSF, Napolitano said.