Julie's Story (she/her)
If the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, my career path has never been linear. And I have no regrets. The longer, less traveled path has allowed me to meet interesting people, and to trial different experiences that have only made me more steadfast in my pursuit of academic surgery as a surgeon scientist committed to improving our understanding of thyroid cancer and optimizing patient outcomes through innovation and discovery.
I self-identify in a number of ways. I am a surgeon. I am a woman, and was just the seventh woman to finish the Halsted residency program in general surgery at Johns Hopkins Medicine. I am Latina; my father and his family are from Guatemala. I am an immigrant, born in Montreal prior to moving to upstate New York when I was a child. I am LGBT. I have embraced my intersectionality and view it as an extraordinary privilege, as it allows me to understand more dimensions of life, which inform my strategic vision for the scientific community. Most important, I have come to be unafraid, vested to lift others who still feel disempowered in a field like academic surgery and academic medicine, which are hierarchical, white, and heteronormative.
I came to the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) from Duke University on April 1, 2018 (April Fool’s Day; how auspicious!) to become the Leon Goldman, MD Distinguished Professor of Surgery and Chair of the Department of Surgery. I am also Professor in the Department of Medicine and an affiliated faculty member of the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies.
UCSF Surgery is consistently rated as one of the top-five Departments of Surgery in the United States. Simply put, this is my dream job. I remember interviewing at UCSF as a medical student for a surgical internship and thinking what a mystical and magical place UCSF Surgery was. I am the second consecutive woman Chair of Surgery at UCSF, following in the footsteps of Dr. Nancy Ascher, a pioneer in transplant surgery and the first woman Chair. While other Departments of Surgery around the United States appropriately celebrate having their first woman chair, I believe being the second (and the only one that has been second) is momentous, as it demonstrates that having a woman Chair at UCSF is seen as routine, not special.
It is absolutely essential that we accelerate change in academic medicine, and academic surgery in particular. Belonging—not just fitting—is essential for success. In San Francisco, I have finally found my personal and professional home. I am committed to accelerating the processes of change in order to bring diversity, equity, and inclusion to UCSF Surgery, and more broadly to American surgery. I will not pause or rest until that is done.