Oral Histories

​We're proud of the many faculty, students, trainees and staff who have helped make UC San Diego School of Medicine a leader in education and research. We asked some of our earliest faculty members and other leaders what brought them here, what they are most proud of, and what makes our school unique. Here's what they said.

Ellen Beck, MD
Clinical Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health
Director, Student-Run Free Clinic Project
Came to UC San Diego in 1987

"Our greatest accomplishment has been seeing our community partners, passionate students and myself and other physicians and faculty work together to create the Student-Run Free Clinic Project. I think UC San Diego is unique in having an equal passion for wonder, wisdom and justice."

Joan Heller Brown, PhD
Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology
Chair, Department of Pharmacology
Came to UC San Diego in 1975

"Whether they are faculty, postdocs or students, when I describe the atmosphere here, I tell them it's like being a kid in a candy store – it's the best you can possibly have."

David Cheresh, PhD
Vice-Chair for Research and Development, Department of Pathology
Associate Director, Institute of Engineering in Medicine (IEM)
Associate Director of Innovation and Industry Alliances, Moores Cancer Center
Came to UC San Diego in 2005

"What we try to do as scientists, is not only make basic discoveries, but make discoveries that impact patients."

Jack Dixon, PhD
Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology, Cellular & Molecular Medicine, Chemistry & Biochemistry
Came to UC San Diego in 1971

"When I came down to visit to see if this was going to be a good place for me, what I really saw was that there were lots of terrific faculty here. This was a place where the action was."

Mark H. Ellisman, PhD
Distinguished Professor of Neurosciences
Director of National Center for Microscopy and Imaging (NCMIR)
Director of Center for Research in Biological Systems (CRBS)
Came to UC San Diego in 1972

"We created a medical school that was both a power house in science, and over time, clinical specialties that were leveraging new discoveries."

Steven Robert Garfin, MD
Interim Dean of the School of Medicine
Orthopedic Surgeon
Came to UC San Diego in 1969

"I applied to internships around the country. I liked UC San Diego the best because it added flexibility. I wasn't sure if I wanted to be a surgeon or an internist and I could do both with an internship here."

Gordon Gill, MD
Professor Emeritus of Medicine and of Cell and Molecular Medicine
Came to UC San Diego in 1968

"You really had a hunting license to explore research questions that were important to you. That was a very important component in the early days of the school."

Gabriel G. Haddad, MD
Chair of Pediatrics
Physician-in-Chief and Chief Scientific Officer at Rady Children's Hospital - San Diego
Came to UC San Diego in 2005

"What I believe we have achieved is having the clinicians and the researchers under one roof, respecting each other for exactly what they do. There is nothing like asking a question at the bedside and solving it in the lab and going back to the bedside to treat patients."

Lindia Willies-Jacobo, MD
Clinical Professor of Pediatrics
Assistant Dean for Diversity and Community Partnerships
Came to UC San Diego in 1983

"I'm especially passionate about mentorship of students traditionally underrepresented in medicine. Having been one of those students, the topic is of upmost importance to me. I've learned a lot about mentorship and also take pride in feeling as though I've been able to contribute back to the UC San Diego community in that way."

Bill Jessee, MD
Alumnus of the School of Medicine's Charter Class (Class of 1972)

"I decided that, despite the fact that it was new and unproven, UC San Diego would be a good place for me, with lots of opportunities for the kind of medical education that I wanted to craft for myself. I made that choice, and I think it was a good one."

Charles Nager, MD
Co-Director of Women's Pelvic Medicine Center
Chair and Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences
Came to UC San Diego in 1978

"When I sit back and think about my career and what I'm most proud of, it would be contributing to this educational environment and training the next generation. That is what truly inspires me."

Kirk L. Peterson, MD
Edith and William M. Perlman Professor of Clinical Cardiology
Director Emeritus, Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center
Came to UC San Diego in 1970

"We've been very successful in not only cloning ourselves as academicians, but also at the same time successful at producing cardiologists who go out into the world, many of them here in San Diego County, to take care of ill patients. I have a lot of pride in the fact that we've done that."

Maria Savoia, MD
Dean, Medical Education
Came to UC San Diego in 1976

"I really hope that over the course of my career I have helped others to become better doctors."

Doris A. Trauner, MD
Distinguished Professor of Neurosciences and Pediatrics
Came to UC San Diego in 1972

"What brought me here was the people. The thing that has not changed here is the outstanding work in neurosciences."

Ajit Varki, MD
Distinguished Professor of Cellular and Molecular Medicine
Came to UC San Diego in 1980

"All possibilities are wide open, you can do things at UC San Diego you cannot do anywhere else."

John West, MD, PhD, DSc
Emeritus Professor of Physiology
Came to UC San Diego in 1968

"UC San Diego has many faculty members who have extraordinary national and international reputations. Our team was successful in getting the first-ever measurements of human physiology on the summit of Mt. Everest."