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    Friends and Colleagues Celebrate UCSF’s Nancy Milliken, MD

    On the announcement of the retirement of Nancy Milliken, MD—Founding Director of the UCSF National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)—her friends and colleagues looked back on the mentorship and accomplishments of this inspirational leader who has done so much to change women’s healthcare for the better.

    Laura Esserman, MD, MBA
    Director, UCSF Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center
    Alfred A. de Lorimier Endowed Chair in General Surgery
    Professor of Surgery and Radiology, UCSF

    I have had the pleasure of working closely with Dr. Milliken since I arrived at UCSF. Nancy is a true leader and visionary. She is the epitome of imagine, conceive, and achieve. She knew that care for women was given short shrift. She imagined that care for women could be personalized and better. She conceived of a center of excellence and drew other likeminded individuals to work with her as leaders to achieve it. Over the decade she has doggedly pursued excellence in research and care and the attention and importance of her efforts has led to the transformation of women’s health.

    She was a champion for me and helped me to navigate the difficulties in creating a comprehensive center for the treatment of women with breast cancer. She advocated for the national trials and programs we built that have led to dramatic improvements in the care of women with breast cancer, to do more for those with the most risk (I-SPY TRIAL) and less for those with the least aggressive cancers, to drive improvements in screening, and helping us to launch the WISDOM trial, our national trial testing a personalized approach to breast cancer screening vs. annual screening for all ( https://www.thewisdomstudy.org/ ).

    Her amazing leadership skills made all the difference in making it possible to succeed, and she helped to galvanize attention and resources for programs like mine and others as we strove to change the landscape of women’s health.

    Villy Wang, JD
    Founder, President & CEO
    President, SF Film Commission

    Nancy Milliken has been a monumental game changer not only in women’s health, but for supporting the health and wellness of women in an holistic and inclusive approach. We’ve had the pleasure to work with Nancy, Dixie Horning, and UCSF from BAYCAT Studio’s inception. By being one of our first clients, Nancy helped us develop a model to deepen our partnership and impact by having young women and non-male teenage storytellers share their stories to inspire others. We wouldn’t be here without her dedication, mentorship, and commitment to building long lasting relationships. 

    Edward Machtinger, MD
    Professor of Medicine, UCSF
    Director, Women’s HIV Program
    Director, Center to Advance Trauma-informed Health Care

    When I first became director of the Women’s HIV Program at UCSF in 2004, the historic program was in dire straits—it was struggling financially and had no institutional support. Nancy took the program and me under her loving and powerful wing. She loaned me her very capable development officer, mentored me personally and professionally, and provided the program with the institutional blessing of her Center of Excellence.

    The program is now stronger and bigger than ever; it is considered a national model of care for women of color living with HIV.  We now lead the emerging field of trauma-informed health care. And my career has blossomed in ways I could never have imagined. None of this would have happened without Nancy’s vision and embrace.

    Maddie Deutsch, MD
    Director, USCF Gender Affirming Health Program
    Primary Care Specialist

    Nancy has been a key mentor and supporter in our efforts to develop, launch, and grow the UCSF Gender Affirming Health Program. From our early incubation as an embedded service within the Women’s Health Center, our growth over the past 9 years to a stand-alone multidisciplinary facility would not have been possible without Nancy’s wisdom, patience, and guidance.

    Daniel Grossman, MD
    Professor, UCSF
    Director, Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health

    Nancy has been a mentor to me since I worked with her as an ob/gyn resident in the late 1990s. When I joined the UCSF faculty in 2015 as the director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), Nancy opened so many doors and worked tirelessly to make sure that our program—and its focus on abortion research—was recognized by the university for our important contributions to the field. She has also been a strong supporter of our efforts to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion at ANSIRH. Nancy is a strategic thought partner, a friend and confidante, and she has helped to amplify the impact of our work in countless ways.

    Joyce Dorado, PhD
    Professor of Psychiatry, UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences

    Dr. Milliken has been a superb, longstanding, and beloved mentor to me, promoting my growth over the course of my career. When we needed it most, she was instrumental in buttressing HEARTS (Healthy Environments and Response to Trauma in Schools), a program that I co-founded with Dr. Miriam Martinez that has touched the lives of many thousands of students and educators by creating trauma-informed, healing centered schools. Dr. Milliken has always gone above and beyond, serving as my “guardian angel” and supporting me through very challenging times. I am eternally grateful to Dr. Milliken for her wisdom, compassion, and generosity of spirit, and I can honestly say that I would not be where I am today if not for her.

    Baylee DeCastro, MPP
    Senior Manager, Pediatrics
    UCSF School of Medicine
    Executive Director, UCSF Center for Child and Community Healt
    Original Youth Steering Committee Member, First Young Women’s Health Conference

    I first met Nancy 23 years ago as a high school student participating in the Youth Steering Committee for the First Annual Young Women’s Health Conference. I was 15 and reeling from trauma. I skipped school more often than I attended. I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere. I was confused when I was nominated for a city-wide Youth Steering Committee, but soon learned Nancy had instructed teachers to nominate a young person with potential, who wasn’t necessarily a standout leader—someone who might not otherwise have an opportunity. When I met Nancy I had major doubts about my own survival, much less any goals for the future. Nancy was the first person who saw ability in me. She saw so much more than I could see in myself.

    Over the last twenty years, Nancy has made so many introductions to people in her network for me, I could fill a phone book. There wasn’t a number she wouldn’t dial if she thought it would open a door on the journey to my dreams. Today, I’m the Executive Director of the UCSF Center for Child and Community Health. I pinch myself every day—from a kid who didn’t see a path to survival, much less a career in my future, today I get to lead an organization promoting health equity. Today I get to spend my days changing the very systems that could prevent the harm I experienced as a kid. Today, I get to “be the Nancy” for so many young people who walk through our doors, many of whom have experienced violence, so they too can heal and lead change.

    At a time when I felt powerless, Nancy made me feel like I had the power to lead. At a time when I felt voiceless, she made me feel like my voice was the most important in the room. Nancy was my earliest mentor and she’s my beloved friend and advisor. Her patience, wisdom, integrity, humility, imagination, persistence, and love changed my life. To this day, when I leave time with Nancy, I feel like nothing is impossible. If I can make a fraction of this difference, with young people and families we partner with through the Center, I’ll know we are making an important difference.

    Patricia Robertson, MD
    Founder, Lyon-Martin Clinic
    Professor, Ob/Gyn, Reproductive Services
    UCSF School of Medicine

    Under the leadership of Dr. Milliken, the UCSF Center of Excellence of Women’s Health was an early supporter of the UCSF/Kaiser Undergraduate Research Internship, often providing stipends for 2 of the 16 under-represented-in-medicine pre- meds from University of California, Berkeley, of whom 15% are LGBT. This program is in its 14th year of providing a summer research experience with clinical shadowing and leadership training with ten years of mentoring. About 70 alums are currently in medical school, nursing school, residency, fellowship, or in practice. 

    Amy P. Murtha, MD
    Chair, UCSF Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Services
    Perinatologist

    In 2018, I accepted the position as Chair for the UCSF Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences and moved across the country to San Francisco. One of the very first persons to welcome me was Dr. Nancy Milliken. She invited me into her home for dinner and through the course of the evening shared stories and insights about the department and particularly about the Center of Excellence.

    I very much appreciated her warm welcome and insider perspective on this department and city that I was soon to call home. What came through that evening were Nancy’s values and passion. As I learned more about the programmatic reach of the CoE, it was clear that this entity, under Nancy’s leadership, had made a considerable impact on our department, UCSF, and the city. This connection and partnership with Nancy greatly impacted my early days as a new leader at UCSF, and as the years have passed, I have continued to see the fruits of her passion for reproductive justice, gender and race concordant care, and equitable access to health care bear fruit for our patients and our community.

    Her fierce advocacy and the CoE’s financial support of research and education have sown the seeds for future leaders to develop and continue this work. Nancy is a force of nature, and I look forward to her continued strategic input and thoughtful partnership.

    Published on May 5, 2022