As the nation’s youngest top-10 medical school, the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA has already made an indelible impact on science and medicine. Across every area of advancement, one common strength has fueled our ability to discover, teach and heal: collaboration.
At the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, collaboration is in our DNA. Dating back to our school’s inauguration on November 2, 1951, Edward A. Dickson, then-chairman of the UC Board of Regents, delivered a commemoration address in which he heralded what we now call “team science” as the cornerstone of complex problem solving: “A new [and] beneficent lesson has been learned in modern research — the essentiality of cooperation; the application to any problem, biological or otherwise, of every specialist, every technique which can be brought to bear upon it. [In] the solution of the great majority of problems which confront us, group research is necessary for the effort.”
Today, a growing body of research has shown that team-based science is significantly more likely than isolated investigation to produce novel solutions that unlock scientific breakthroughs. From mapping the human genome to identifying emerging viruses, our progressively complex biomedical landscape now requires hyperconnected networks of problem-solvers with common interests but also unique skills and expertise. As we write our next chapter, leveraging this strength requires both the right infrastructure and the right culture, which is why we have taken a series of steps to redesign where and how we work together.
In September of 2018, 33 UCLA laboratories and hundreds of biomedical researchers moved from historically siloed units into a new, shared space — the Center for Health Sciences South Tower. The physical amalgamation, which already has yielded more frequent collaboration among our researchers, preceded a deeper cultural one — changing how we think, work and interact. Eight months after the move, the medical school launched the Cultural North Star, a school-wide values system that is designed to harness the exponential power of collaboration by uniting us in our shared mission to heal humankind.
The Cultural North Star comprises three overarching pillars: “Do what’s right,” “Make things better” and “Be kind.” Each pillar is defined by four unique purpose statements, among them: “We seek out diverse voices,” “We are grounded in ethics and data” and “We have the courage to be honest.” These, and nine other guiding principles, were derived from an 18-month culture audit that has helped codify our school’s identity and inform the design and implementation of new Cultural North Star initiatives, including a new values-based recognition program, medical curriculum and professional development strategy.
While building a more collaborative culture will be a slow and organic process, it is critical to our ability to achieve our mission. And our community agrees. Within months of its launch, the Cultural North Star has inspired a stunning display of engagement across our academic enterprise — a moving and contagious phenomenon that has made me deeply proud. With such an extraordinary team of optimists and problem-solvers, I have no doubt that the spirit of discovery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA will continue to unlock the unknown and enlighten the course of human medicine.
Kelsey C. Martin, MD, PhD
Dean, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA