General UCSF Medical Education News

AOC Initiative Marks First Academic Year with Progress and Plans for the Future

 |  By Cora Palmer
AOC Initiative Retreat

AOC Initiative Retreat

This fall marks the completion of the first full academic year of the UCSF School of Medicine’s Anti-Oppression Curriculum (AOC) Initiative – the three-year process of evaluation, reflection, and redesign to move the entire four-year Bridges Curriculum towards an anti-oppressive approach. This initiative is being led by Denise Connor, MD and is a foundational element of the broader Anti-Oppression Charter, overseen by Associate Dean for Curriculum, John Davis, PhD, MD.

Denise Connor, AOC Initiative Director, said, “The mission of the AOC Initiative is to work towards a curriculum that can support and prepare all UCSF medical students in becoming physician leaders with the mindset and skills to partner with patients and communities to combat oppression and optimize health for all.”

A Year of Progress

The first year of the AOC Initiative focused on laying a foundation by assembling a core team, seeking advice from outside consultants, completing a curriculum-wide needs assessment in collaboration with curricular leaders, setting the vision, and building infrastructure for sustainable change. Critical to this work have been the contributions of the AOCI-Student Collaborative. At the same time, the Initiative team pivoted to address critical concerns raised by medical students about the Health and the Individual/Health and Society Course that required deep focus and attention.

Dr. Connor notes, “The greatest asset of the AOC Initiative is the incredible people who are involved. Having a diverse group of faculty, students, and staff who are deeply committed to this work has made the conversation deeper and helped to clarify – and at times, shift – the priorities of this work.”

AOC Initiative Timeline
A visual highlighting progress made during the AOC Initiative's first year. Click on the image for an enlarged view of the timeline graphic. For a description of progress, please see the AOC Initiative Timeline and Progress page.


Over the past academic year, the AOC Initiative team had the opportunity to work with and learn from Camara Jones, MD, MPH, PhD, the 2021-2022 UCSF Presidential Chair, and a renowned expert on naming, measuring, and addressing the impacts of racism on the health and well-being of the country. Dr. Jones provided input into the vision and goals of the AOCI, as well as the approach to curriculum review and adaptation, led several faculty development workshops for both the AOCI team and larger school community, and shared her expertise in large group sessions for School of Medicine medical students and many other faculty, staff, and learners across campus. 

Michelle Guy, MD, AOC Initiative Associate Director for Faculty Development, said, “We had the pleasure of working with, and learning from, Dr. Camara Jones, and the work that she did with us to identify how is racism showing up here [at UCSF] is something that I still think about every day.”

Dr. Jones’ work at the university level with the Office of Diversity and Outreach provided opportunities for the AOC Initiative to build collaborations focused on anti-racism across the health professions schools.

Dr. Connor said, “Dr. Jones encouraged all of us to, in her words, build ‘more porous institutional walls,’ to foster connections and partnerships both within our university, between the many schools, departments, divisions and roles, and between UCSF and the communities we serve. Her vision for inclusion and collaboration will continue to be a guiding light for the AOCI.”

One way that this call for increased collaboration has already been realized is the Inclusive Skin Color Project. Medical students and other learners need inclusive examples of dermatologic conditions across the full range of skin tones to enable them to develop their foundational clinical knowledge in a way that will foster excellent, equitable patient care. In response to this need, the AOC Initiative partnered with the UCSF Library and members of the Department of Dermatology to develop a new site with collated resources to help trainees and practicing clinicians better recognize dermatologic findings in individuals across the entire spectrum of skin tones.

Plans for the Future

As the AOCI moves into its second year, the Initiative will continue to be guided by a commitment to collaboration. The team will continue to partner with curricular leaders in adapting curricular materials to align with our anti-oppressive aims, while also working together to envision and design new sessions to deepen engagement and learning about anti-racism and anti-oppression. Initial best practices related to the representation of race and ethnicity, and sex and gender in the curriculum will be shared with the School of Medicine community with a plan to continue to enhance these recommendations over time. The team will continue to strengthen connections with the Center for Faculty Educators to consider how faculty development can best align with anti-oppressive efforts in the curriculum, with the Student Experience Team to deepen the support available to students as they navigate their medical education, and with the Evaluations Team to continue to collaborate on the launch of a new approach to curricular evaluation that prioritizes anti-oppression.

In addition, in partnership with the Medical Education Deans and the UCSF Center for Community Engagement, the AOCI is working with community leaders to consider new processes and approaches to partnership on the Bridges curricular efforts. Community members have the ability to bring critical expertise and perspectives to anti-oppressive efforts in the curriculum, and the AOCI aspires to engage community members in envisioning a model for respectful and intentional collaboration in medical education that can lay a foundation for ongoing partnership in the curricular space.

As the AOC Initiative progresses, there will be many opportunities to share experience, expertise, and input. Interested in participating in the AOC Initiative? Please explore the AOCI webpage and the Getting Involved page.