Four honored with UCSF Chancellor Awards for Diversity

Four members of the School of Pharmacy were honored with UCSF Chancellor Awards for Diversity at Mission Bay’s Robertson Auditorium on October 24, 2023, recognizing their outstanding leadership in expanding diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI), and advancing anti-racism, while reflecting the School’s commitment to UCSF PRIDE values.

Executive Vice Dean Sharon L. Youmans, PharmD, MPH, a faculty member in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy, received the Chancellor Award for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership. Two PhD students in Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Sciences and Phar­ma­co­ge­no­mics (PSPG), Jaysón Davidson and Sydney D. Williams, also received the award, as did Christina A. Stephens, a grad student in Biophysics (BP). The PSPG and BP programs are administered by the School of Pharmacy.

Sharon L. Youmans

Youmans received her PharmD from UCSF in 1985 and received the Founders’ Champion Award in 2016 for her contributions to DEI initiatives. She teaches on the topics of public health, communication, and cultural humility, and has been dedicated to centering access and equity in education.

“The work in the DEI space is heart work, and it’s also hard work,” Youmans said in her acceptance speech. “But there’s a lot that I’m able to do and say here [at UCSF] that I know that my colleagues across the country and in other schools of pharmacy cannot do.”

Jaysón Davidson, Christina A. Stephens, and Sydney D. Williams

Davidson, a PhD student in Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmacogenomics (PSPG), focuses on research in the Butte Lab that explicitly involves social determinants and clinical informatics. He is also a Diversity Scholar in the UCSF-Stanford Center of Excellence in Regulatory Science and Innovation (CERSI). Stephens is a PhD student in the Biophysics program, as well as an NSF Graduate Research Fellow and UCSF Discovery Fellow. She is in the Grabe Lab, in the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, where she uses molecular simulation to explore the structure and function of membrane proteins. Williams is a PSPG PhD student as well as a University of California-Historically Black Colleges & Universities (UC-HBCU) Fellow and UCSF Discovery Fellow. Her work in the Lakkaraju Lab is aimed at understanding causal mechanisms of age-related macular degeneration.

Davidson, Stephens, and Williams received the award for demonstrating exceptional leadership of the graduate student organization BE-STEM (Black Excellence in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), which aims to increase Black representation in STEM and to mentor the next generation of Black scientists. The team was acknowledged for expanding student outreach, community-building, and professional development through collaborative action.

In his acceptance speech, Davidson said that being present is ultimately all that’s needed to contribute to DEI, but he said that he appreciates UCSF for empowering him to help others. He also shared a message for all the leaders in the room: “Continue to lead, because you never know who is looking,” he said, “and you never know who you might inspire along the way.”


Video: 3 minutes 18 seconds.


When you’re a Black student at UCSF, especially, you know, if it’s your first time into science, it’s overwhelming the amount of knowledge that you have to acquire, but it’s also overwhelming being in an incredibly White space if that’s not where you’re coming from. And so we wanted to offer sort of a second system to catch some of the additional stress that the students are experiencing and create a more welcoming environment for all scientists of color.

Me, Christina, and Jaysón collectively lead the Black Excellence in STEM Organization here at UCSF. And the main goals of our organization are one, to create community and foster a relationship amongst Black students on this campus. And two, to bring more Black students to this campus so we can grow our community.

BE-STEM was founded in 2020 right after the George Floyd incident when there was a lot of turmoil in the country during the pandemic, and that ignited the spark to bring Black students together on campus. And so working together, we were able to generate a petition to submit to UCSF that really outlined some of the things that we thought really needed to change at UCSF regarding the wellbeing of Black students on the campus. After submitting the petition, we established BE-STEM as a student group, so we had like a number of social events, but the impact that makes on like just seeing people very happy and together and it was people meeting each other for the first time across campuses, that was just like really wonderful to see.

But since 2020, it’s evolved to much more. Now in BE-STEM, not only do we have this community amongst these students, we also have outreach that allows us to go back into the community specifically for high school students. And helping these high school students who are largely first-generation, largely low income, underrepresented, to say, “Hey, no, you’re enough.”

We bring those students here throughout the summer to learn science. And then in the fall we do college prep work to help them with scholarship, with essays, and making sure that they’re choosing the school for them.

BE-STEM affords the opportunity for Black students to come to this campus and feel comfortable and know that they’re valued and that they’re here for a reason.

You’re not just here as some affirmative action choice. You are here because you are a genius in every right.

If we have more Black students on campus who feel comfortable, who are actually enjoying being on campus here as a student, then more Black students will want to come to our school. That’s the goal of BE-STEM, is just to increase the representation of Black people on this campus and to, down the line, bring more and more people here.

As much as it’s hard because it is student-led, it’s still rewarding to know that once I’m done with this PhD, I’m bringing up the next generation of scientists that look just like me.

I hope that BE-STEM always offers a place for Black students that are new to the university to come find a new community and know that they’re gonna be encouraged and built up by the members of the community in terms of their scientific career and their success.

Video: 2 minutes 24 seconds.


I believe that UCSF is a better place when we have diverse students, and I’ve always believed that we will only have a diverse class if we create one. Where anyone who comes from any walk of life will feel that they’re welcome and that they can succeed here.

My name is Sharon Youmans, I currently serve as faculty in the School of Pharmacy, and I am the Executive Vice dean. I started at UCSF back in the mid 1990s, and when I was a student here, I benefited from a lot of diversity work that was done by professors in the School of Pharmacy, and when I became faculty, it was my way to kind of give back.

One of our best diversity initiatives has been our School of Pharmacy post-baccalaureate program, and I serve as the faculty lead advisor. We recruit students who are interested in going to pharmacy school, and our focus is on students from underrepresented communities who need some assistance in strengthening mainly their academic records, but their overall application for pharmacy schools.

So we worked with them for a year and our staff in our admissions office provide them counsel and advice on how to prepare for their interviews. What we wanted to do was to look at the applicant in their totality. They needed to demonstrate that they could handle some academics, but it had to be more than that because we want to educate and graduate pharmacists that reflect the community. We don’t guarantee admission to the school, but they had about a 70% chance of getting in. And then once they get in, I’m able to follow them throughout their time until they graduate, and then I get to call their name as they march across the stage.

So that has been really, really rewarding. Having people who come from all over allows us, I think, to be a richer and more informed institution to address the healthcare needs of anyone who may come here.


School of Pharmacy, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, PharmD Degree Program, PSPG

About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.