Susan Desmond-Hellmann: Improving Patients’ Lives on a Broad Scale

Susan Desmond-Hellmann:
Improving Patients’ Lives on a Broad Scale


Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH ’88 is driven by the desire to improve therapies for cancer patients. She’d like to see cancer become a manageable chronic disease rather than a fatal one in her lifetime. As president of product development for Genentech in South San Francisco— which helped establish the School’s new center, the Berkeley Center for Health Technology (see page 4)—she has been a key force bringing innovative drugs to cancer patients, including Rituxan, Herceptin, Avastin, and Tarceva.

Desmond-Hellmann recently stepped down from her position at Genentech, where she served in various roles since 1995, including clinical scientist, chief medical officer, and executive vice president of development and product operations. In May 2009, she was named chancellor of UCSF. Her appointment begins on August 3, 2009.

Regarding her new role, Desmond-Hellmann said, “The mosta important thing to me throughout my entire career, whether as physician or manager or clinical scientist, has been to work on things that truly matter for patients, and this new role has the potential to make an even larger impact on patients through all aspects of UCSF’s mission.”

Desmond-Hellmann has received well-deserved recognition throughout her career. The Wall Street Journal ranked her sixth of its “50 Women to Watch” in 2005, and Fortune magazine included her among the “50 Most Powerful Women” in 2001 and 2003-2008. The Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association named Desmond-Hellmann its 2006 “Woman of the Year.” She was named to the Biotech Hall of Fame in 2007 and was appointed to the California Academy of Sciences Board of Trustees in 2008.

Desmond-Hellmann is board-certified in internal medicine and medical oncology and completed her clinical training at UCSF. She earned her master’s degree in epidemiology and biostatistics from the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, where she began planning a research project on the epidemiology of patents with Kaposi’s sarcoma, a viral cancer prevalent among AIDS patients.

On April 9, Desmond-Hellmann returned to the UC Berkeley campus to deliver the 2009 Edward E. Penhoet Lecture on Biology, Behavior, and Environment—named for Chiron cofounder and former School of Public Health dean Edward Penhoet. Her talk focused on the public health implications of advances in biotechnology. She formerly cochaired the steering committee for the School’s fundraising effort, The Campaign for the School of Public Health. end of line

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