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First Class of Bridges Curriculum Graduates from the UCSF School of Medicine

UCSF Commencement

UCSF Commencement

When the Class of 2020 started medical school in 2016, this group of students helped pioneer the new Bridges Curriculum, which represented a major shift in medical education. Now, this group, who graduated on May 18, will join the workforce during a global pandemic and are well equipped to serve the patients in their communities, solve some of the biggest challenges in health care today, and contribute to the mitigation of the COVID-19 as future physician leaders. 

This year, the UCSF School of Medicine held its first ever virtual commencement, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program, which included an inspirational keynote by Associate Dean David Wofsy, a student speech by new alumnus Dr. Nathan Kim, and surprise cameos from Mayor London Breed, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, Dr. Sue Desmond-Hellman, Actor Katherine Heigl, 49’ers Coach Katie Sowers, and alumna Dr. Priscilla Chan, was highly personalized and provided opportunities for loved ones near and far to share in the celebration.

Watch the UCSF School of Medicine 2020 Commencement Ceremony

“I want every one of our graduates to be someone I would willingly have care for one of my loved ones. I look at the class of 2020 and I feel like we got there,” said Executive Vice Dean and Vice Dean for Medical Education Catherine R. Lucey, MD, MACP. “Every single person in that class has incredible talents, core skills, compassion and knowledge to provide care for any one and to do so in a way that’s patient-centered, evidence-based and high quality. I’m looking forward to seeing how the world changes because of this group of students.”

Dr. Lucey revamped the curriculum when she started her role at UCSF to better serve students and the communities of patients in the Bay Area. “We redesigned the curriculum because we realized there’s a tremendously different way of practicing medicine now than there was 20 years ago,” Dr. Lucey said.  

"We redesigned the curriculum because we realized there’s a tremendously different way of practicing medicine now than there was 20 years ago."

Catherine R. Lucey, MD, MACP

Executive Vice Dean and Vice Dean for Medical Education
UCSF School of Medicine

Unlike other medical schools, the Bridges Curriculum has enabled the UCSF School of Medicine to achieve full clinical science and basic science integration throughout students’ four years of medical school and expanded the types of science that students would need to prepare them to confront the types of challenges that exist in today’s healthcare. Solving problems like healthcare disparities, obesity, substance use disorders, cancer and pandemics requires that physicians know how to read and incorporate scientific findings in population health, social and behavioral health and systems engineering, in addition to the traditional basic sciences. In students’ first quarter, they are embedded into a front-line care delivery unit through the Clinical Microsystems Clerkship (CMC), in which they work with an interprofessional team to measure and improve patient experience (satisfaction, quality, and safety). 

“One of the best parts of my training at UCSF has been my clinical training and a large part of that is being able to hone clinical skills from very early on,” said new alumna Lakshmi Subbaraj. Her CMC project, located at the UCSF Family Medicine Center at Lakeshore, involved a needs assessment and questionnaire about oral health. The questions were ultimately integrated into the initial visit questionnaire that Lakeshore now gives to all its patients to better integrate oral health care and primary care. “During my third year I returned to Lakeshore for my longitudinal clerkship and it was nice to go back and see those questions in practice.”

Unlike traditional medical school content, Bridges’ Inquiry Curriculum teaches a “habit of mind.” Each step of the four-year curriculum advances the learner, first to a sophisticated consumer of biomedical science, and then to a producer of new knowledge. 

“One of the highlights of Bridges was my Deep Explore project as a fourth year medical student, which gave me a chance after core clerkship to think about what am I interested in as a specialty and what area I wanted to gain more expertise in,” said class of 2020 graduate Sarah Takimoto. Takimoto focused her research on patients with substance use disorders and transitions of care from inpatient to outpatient settings. She will be entering residency in Internal Medicine-Primary Care at UCLA. 

The UCSF School of Medicine’s coaching program also sets it apart from other schools. “Every person who graduates from UCSF should feel there is a faculty member who knows them well and has helped them become their very best person as a physician,” Dr. Lucey said. “We’re really proud of the coaches who put their blood, sweat and tears into this program.”  

“Personally, for me as someone who doesn’t have anyone in my family in medicine or health care, mentorship was very important for me, which is why I feel the coaching program was very strong,” Subbaraj said. “UCSF is a large public institution with many amazing faculty and clinicians, but it can be overwhelming as a student to find that mentor that we’re looking for. Having a built-in point person for questions or to be able to find and reach out to other mentors is super helpful.”

The curriculum was named Bridges to represent the relationships between the medical school and foundational scientists, clinical care delivery systems, communities and other health professions. “We wanted to create bridges across all of the organizations and communities solving health care problems together,” Dr. Lucey said. 

Not only are the Class of 2020 the pioneering Bridges class, but they are also graduating in the midst of a pandemic. “The COVID pandemic has shown that there is nothing UCSF students, trainees, faculty, and staff can’t do if they put their mind to it,” Dr. Lucey said. “These students are well prepared and will be great contributors to addressing this crisis.” 

Subbaraj is thankful that the pandemic has given her a crash course in public health and communication. “Having to parse through media, literature and answer questions from the community in response to the virus are experiences that we are getting early on,” she said. 

Subbaraj said she is excited for the next phase of her training, although she can’t deny some anxiety about gaining more responsibility and starting her career in the midst of a pandemic.

“I’m very proud and privileged to be a part of the UCSF family and honored to graduate with my classmates who have inspired me through all of these years.”

Lakshmi Subbaraj

2020 Graduate, UCSF School of Medicine

 “Nothing can take away from the Class of 2020’s accomplishments,” said Subbaraj, who will start her residency this fall in internal medicine at UCSF.  “I’m very proud and privileged to be a part of the UCSF family and honored to graduate with my classmates who have inspired me through all of these years.”