UCSF Insights

At UCSF, pursuing grand challenges is the culmination of everything we do. We band together, across departments and disciplines and with private companies and public health agencies, to solve some of the world’s most intractable health challenges.

Through the UCSF Insights series, we share the research that is shaping health and health care today. The series explores these insights through the eyes of the UCSF experts on the front lines of astonishing discoveries, giving our audiences an exclusive look into the brilliant minds that are influencing and transforming the field of science today, and ultimately, the health care of tomorrow.

For More Info

Contact Britt Merchant
Call: (415) 683-8292
Email:  [email protected]

Past Events

Psychedelics as Breakthrough Therapies

Recent research at UCSF and other institutions around the world is showing that psychedelic therapies may have transformative effects across the health spectrum, including real potential as treatments for a broad range of mental health conditions such as depression and eating disorders. Join us to hear from our panel of UCSF experts about this emerging field, and bring your questions for the Q&A portion of the event.

Featured Speakers:
May 23, 2023

Joshua Woolley, MD, PhD
UCSF Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Dr. Woolley is a physician and neuroscientist who directs UCSF's Translational Psychedelic Research (TrPR) Program. The program brings together multidisciplinary scientists and care providers to learn how psychedelic compounds affect the brain and other organ systems. Currently, the TrPR Program conducts mechanistic clinical trials examining psychedelic therapy for depression, bipolar disorder, Parkinson's disease, and chronic pain.

Ellen Bradley, MD
UCSF Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Dr. Bradley is associate director of the TrPR Program as well as lead psychiatrist for the San Francisco Veteran’s Affairs Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education, and Clinical Center (PADRECC). Her work focuses on developing novel treatments for illnesses that span the psychiatry-neurology divide, including neurodegenerative and chronic pain disorders.

Marissa Raymond-Flesch, MD, MPH
UCSF Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine and Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies

Dr. Raymond-Flesch practices adolescent medicine with patients 12-26 years old, including treatment of depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. Her current research focuses on the effectiveness of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of young adults with refractory anorexia nervosa, which typically begins in adolescence and is among the most deadly of all mental illnesses, with a 6%-10% fatality rate.

Robin Carhart-Harris, PhD
Ralph Metzner Distinguished Professor
UCSF Department of Neurology and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Dr. Carhart-Harris, a renowned leader in neuroscience research, focuses on advancing the science of psychedelic compounds, a class of psychoactive substances that change users’ perceptions, moods, and cognitive processes. He has designed human brain-imaging studies involving psilocybin – the compound found in psychedelic mushrooms – LSD, MDMA (ecstasy/molly), and DMT, as well as clinical trials of psilocybin for depression and other mental illnesses.

Hosted by:

Dan Lowenstein, MD
Distinguished Professor of Neurology Education
UCSF Department of Neurology

Catherine Lucey, MD
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, UCSF

Innovations in Combating Pain

For our spring UCSF Insights event, join us to hear from a UCSF Nobel laureate about a world-changing breakthrough in the science of pain and the surprising connection between spider venom chili peppers, and how our bodies sense heat, cold, and chemical irritants. During the panel discussion, UCSF’s leading experts in the field also will explain how we use new technology to study nerve injury and post-surgical pain and explore recent innovations in pain management for children. Afterward, have your questions ready for the live Q&A portion of the event.

April 6, 2022


Dan Lowenstein, MD
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, UCSF
Dr. Robert B. and Mrs. Ellinor Aird Professor of Neurology

Amber Borucki, MD
Director, Pediatric Anesthesia Pain Services, UCSF Benioff Children's Hospitals
Assistant Professor, UCSF Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Care

Dr. Borucki is an anesthesiologist and pediatric pain medicine specialist whose focus is chronic pain conditions in children and eliminating, reducing, or managing pain that occurs after surgery. She also works with patients to prevent post-surgical pain from becoming chronic.

David Julius, PhD 
Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine (2021)
Professor and Chair, UCSF Department of Physiology
UCSF Morris Herzstein Chair in Molecular Biology and Medicine

Dr. Julius was awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on pain sensation. Julius’ work has focused on how our bodies sense heat, cold and chemical irritants, leading to new insights about the fundamental nature of pain and new targets for pain therapy.

Arthur Wood, MD

HS Associate Clinical Professor and Director of Pain Medicine, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital
Associate Professor, UCSF Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Care

Dr. Wood’s research and creative activities focus on peripheral nerve injury, neuropathic pain, and disparities in pain care. His current projects focus on using high-throughput omics technologies to identify biomarkers for nerve injury and studying disparities in the diagnosis and treatment of chronic post-surgical pain.

How UCSF is Revolutionizing Health Care in the Wake of COVID

The US health care system as we know it is transforming as we emerge from the global disruption of the coronavirus pandemic &emdash; and UCSF is leading the charge. Digital health approaches and technologies have fundamentally changed the way hospitals and clinics operate. Infectious-disease experts have doubled down on understanding pathogens and preventing future pandemics. New inter-institutional bridges have already formed to advance scientific research, including drug and therapeutic development. Join us at this virtual event to hear directly from UCSF’s leaders in these fields about how COVID-19 has changed the landscape of research and clinical care.

June 28, 2021


Professor, UCSF Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology
Director, Quantitative Biosciences Institute
Investigator, J. David Gladstone Institutes

Dr. Krogan’s work focuses on integrating proteomics and genetics to study infectious diseases, cancer, and neurological disorders. His lab’s efforts to understand the molecular intricacies of SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – and how it hijacks human cells were integral in developing drugs with strong antiviral effects against the disease.

Associate Professor, UCSF Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism
Director of Clinical Informatics, UCSF Center for Digital Health Innovation

Dr. Neinstein leads digital product and innovation teams toward the goal of empowering patients and physicians to better access, share, understand, and use health information for more connected, collaborative care. His team at the UCSF CDHI focuses on digital transformation of care delivery at UCSF, development and commercialization of novel technologies, and enablement of interoperability and a national digital health ecosystem.

Professor, UCSF Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Dr. Sil researches and builds tools to study the molecular biology of the fungal pathogen Histoplasma capsulatum, which is thought to be the primary cause of fungal respiratory infections around the world. She also studies the local pathogen Coccidioides immitis, which causes valley fever in California’s Central Valley. Her work with UCSF’s multidisciplinary iMicro Initiative strives to better understand microbial pathogens and curb their role in infectious disease. Dr. Sil’s work has been recognized by the Burroughs Wellcome Foundation, the Ellison Foundation, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, where she was an early-career investigator from 2009 to 2015.

The COVID Compass: Finding Our Way Forward

As vaccine campaigns accelerate and new coronavirus variants emerge, we again face the question “What is the new normal?” At our spring UCSF Insights event, The COVID Compass: Finding Our Way Forward, UCSF experts will discuss their outlook on what lies ahead as well as today’s most pressing topics, including updates on the new and current vaccines and the complexities of the SARS-CoV-2 variants. Afterward, have your questions ready for the live Q&A portion of the event and hear from Bob Wachter, chair of the UCSF Department of Medicine, as well as the expert panelists.


Bob Wachter, MD
Holly Smith Distinguished Professor of Science and Medicine­
Lynne and Marc Benioff Professor of Hospital Medicine­
Chair and Professor, UCSF Department of Medicine

April 7, 2021


Medical Director, Ward 86 HIV Clinic at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital (ZSFG)
Director, UCSF-Gladstone Institutes Center for AIDS Research
Professor and Associate Chief for Clinical Operations and Education, UCSF Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases, and Global Medicine at ZSFG

Dr. Dr. Gandhi's research program focuses on identifying low-cost solutions for measuring antiretroviral levels in resource-poor settings, such as determining drug levels in hair and urine samples. She also works on pre-exposure prophylaxis and treatment strategies for HIV infection in women. Additionally, Dr. Gandhi is dedicated to HIV education and mentorship. Recent efforts have been focused on COVID-19 mitigation strategies and education on the COVID-19 vaccines.


Associate Medical Director, UCSF Health Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Prevention
Assistant Professor of Medicine, UCSF Division of Infectious Diseases

Dr. Langelier’s research bridges basic science and clinical medicine through patient-oriented studies using advanced genomic sequencing technologies . His lab develops new infectious disease diagnostics, studies respiratory disease biology, performs surveillance of emerging pathogens, and tracks infectious disease outbreaks both locally and globally. A primary focus at present is understanding the biology of infectious and inflammatory lung diseases – with a particular emphasis on COVID-19- by elucidating host immune, microbiome, and environmental factors that influence infection susceptibility, severity, and outcomes. Dr. Langelier serves on the Executive Committee of the COMET (COVID Multiphenotyping for Effective Therapies) study – a collaborative longitudinal COVID-19 cohort study at UCSF.

Health Justice, Right Now

Health justice can be dramatically improved, right here, right now. UCSF experts are playing a pivotal role in our communities to better understand the challenges and meet that goal. Why is COVID-19 disproportionately devastating the Navajo Nation? Can a physician’s evaluation prevent an immigrant from being deported? What can we do to prevent the spread of pandemics through California’s prison system? At UCSF Insights: Health Justice, Right Now, clinicians and researchers will share practical solutions – and often, surprising answers – to these questions and others. Join us in understanding the complexities of these issues, and learn how we all can help change the tide.

August 17, 2020


Co-Chair, UCSF Health and Human Rights Initiative
Professor, Family and Community Medicine

Dr. Kivlahan’s Health and Human Rights Initiative partners with local law firms, community groups, and peer institutions to provide life-altering services to asylum applicants. Her work in asylum medicine has put her on the front line of the immigrant conversation in California, around the United States, and internationally. She has trained physicians from around the world in the forensic evaluation of torture, working in partnership with these physicians to create curricula on human rights law, injury identification, and international documentation standards. The HHRI has helped individuals and families find safe passage to the United States from war-torn and strife-ridden nations.

Associate Professor, UCSF School of Medicine
Co-Founder and Faculty Director, UCSF Health, Equity, Action, and Leadership (HEAL) Initiative 

UCSF’s HEAL Initiative is a health workforce-strengthening fellowship working in the Navajo Nation and nine developing countries around the world. Dr. Shamasunder has led HEAL’s response in the Navajo Nation during the ongoing COVID-19 surge. This effort has involved spending several weeks with HEAL's partner-site hospital taking care of COVID-19 patients and supporting UCSF nursing and physician volunteers. HEAL recruited more than 40 UCSF nurses and doctors to join over 50 Indiginous and non-native HEAL fellows already in New Mexico caring for the devastated Navajo Nation community. Throughout the last decade, Dr. Shamasunder has spent several months every year in underserved settings around the world, including South Los Angeles, rural Liberia, Haiti, Burundi, and rural India.

Professor of Medicine at University of California, San Francisco
Director, Amend: Changing Correctional Culture

Dr. Williams collaborates with colleagues from disciplines including criminal justice, public safety, and the law to conduct impact-oriented research and education to improve the health inmates and workers in US correctional facilities. The Amend program integrates principles of normality, dignity, and human rights into US prisons and jails. Dr. Williams has called for improved responses to disability, cognitive impairment, and environmental mismatch among older or seriously ill prisoners; a more scientific development of compassionate-release policies; and a broader inclusion of incarcerated patients into national health data sets and in clinical research. She has consulted for correctional facilities and legal organizations nationwide, including the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the National American Civil Liberties Union.

The Future of Medicine

Today, we may look to the future and see deep uncertainty, with escalating climate change, looming antibiotic resistance, and the intractability of complex diseases like cancer. However, at UCSF, we face such challenges head-on and pioneer novel approaches to solving monumental problems. Hear from the visionaries who are working to mitigate the health effects of climate change, using nanotechnology to make cancer treatments more precise, and designing new drugs to stop the spread of superbugs.

February 27, 2020


Assistant Professor, Department of Radiation Oncology, UCSF School of Medicine

Dr. Anwar is a member of the Bioengineering Core, and a member of UCSF’s Health Innovations via Engineering (HIVE) program. His primary goal is to identify where gaps in diagnostic information and therapeutic tools compromise patient care, develop solutions for these problems, and enable precise, personalized cancer treatment. To accomplish this, Dr. Anwar’s UCSF lab develops ultra-miniaturized sensors that can be placed within the body to provide heretofore unattainable information faster and more accurately than can conventional clinical tests. His expertise in electrical engineering focuses on using integrated circuits – computer chip technology – to develop micro- and nano-scale sensors for cancer detection and imaging. In parallel, he maintains a clinical practice in radiation oncology in which he specializes in radiosurgery for pancreatic cancer and other hard-to-treat cancers.

Associate Professor, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, UCSF School of Pharmacy

Dr. Fraser’s long-term research goals include finding new ways to combat antibiotic-resistant “superbugs.” Dr. Fraser’s lab uses electron microscopy and X-ray crystallography to determine the atomic structures of protein and RNA molecules that the bacteria need to survive and to improve small molecules drugs that can inactivate them. Combining these insights with experiments that mimic the evolutionary forces faced in treatment settings will help us understand how to treat this global pandemic, which causes prolonged illness and otherwise preventable disability and death.

Professor of Medicine, UCSF School of Medicine Internist, Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases, and Global Medicine, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital

Dr. Weiser is an international expert on the ways food insecurity contributes to poor health in patients with HIV and other chronic diseases; she also specializes in designing food security and livelihood interventions that improve health. Dr. Weiser currently works to incorporate climate-change education into UCSF’s mission so students learn about how it will impact the care they will provide. She documents negative health impacts of climate change based on information in publicly available databases, she works on intervention studies that help individuals mitigate or adapt to climate change, and she advocates for the investment of more money into researching how we will need to adapt care and interventions based on her findings.