Zuckerberg San Francisco General Continues 166-Year Tradition of Opening Doors to All

I’ll never forget how I felt when I first visited San Francisco General Hospital more than 30 years ago. I was an East Coast medical student on a visiting rotation, and the effect on me was immediate: I was inspired and knew I would be happy working there. When I learned the next year that I would be doing my medical residency there, I felt as if I’d hit the jackpot. The hospital represented not only the best of science, but the best of public service. Since opening in 1850 to cope with a Gold Rush cholera outbreak, the hospital has helped train generations of doctors caring for immigrants, refugees, and newcomers of every stripe speaking many languages.

San Francisco’s residents, elected officials, and business leaders have long recognized the hospital’s vital role in improving public health, providing broad access to coverage and care, and serving as the city’s only Level 1 trauma center. They have demonstrated that understanding by providing tremendous financial, philanthropic, and political support.

The new San Francisco General Hospital inpatient tower (Photo by Avram Goldstein)The new building was financed by an $887.4-million bond approved by San Francisco voters in 2008 with astonishing support (84% voted to approve). Few votes are that much of a landslide! Organized opposition was nonexistent, and many private donors and organizations stepped up to provide more than $150 million in additional funds to outfit the hospital with cutting-edge equipment and patient-friendly furnishings that enhance care. The largest private donors were Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, pediatrician Priscilla Chan, who practices at “The General.” The couple contributed $75 million.

Whimsical heart-shaped sculptures in amusing poses appear on the grounds (Photo by Avram Goldstein)Throughout my training, into the ’90s when I served as director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health and oversaw the hospital, and right through today as CHCF collaborates with colleagues and administrators there, my enthusiasm for The General has never waned. I have always been deeply moved by the hospital staff’s esprit de corps. Physicians, nurses, residents, researchers, public health experts, and students are everywhere on the bustling campus, helping the community and advancing science.

Patients and families have access to a rooftop garden with spectacular views of the city (Photo by Avram Goldstein)