Video: The Inspiring Story of Former UCSF Chancellor Haile T. Debas

Dr. Haile T. Debas is UCSF chancellor emeritus and dean emeritus of the School of Medicine, as well as a Professor of Surgery. He is also the founder and executive director of Global Health Sciences and director of the UC Global Health Institute. (Photo: UC News)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, April 30, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – When Haile T. Debas was a young man growing up in Ethiopia, his dream was to become a fighter jet pilot, but when he was turned down by the Ethiopian Air Force, he turned his attention to studying medicine and ended up becoming the head of the The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) – one of the leading educational institutions of medical science and health research in the world.

In a video released earlier this month, the UCSF Public Affairs office announced that Dr. Haile was one of four internationally renowned innovators and leaders who were recognized by UCSF for their outstanding contributions to advance health worldwide. The current Chancellor, Susan Desmond-Hellmann, bestowed the university’s highest honor and presented the UCSF Medal to Haile T. Debas at the 2012 Founder’s Day Banquet on April 5th.

According to UCSF, Dr. Haile was born in Asmara, Eritrea in 1937 and completed his undergraduate studies in Addis Ababa where his early academic achievement was rewarded with a top student award by Emperor Haile Selassie. Following undergraduate training, he received his M.D. in Canada from McGill University in 1963, and completed his surgical training at the University of British Columbia. His postgraduate training included a year as a research fellow at the University of Glasgow/Western Infirmary in Scotland, and two years at UCLA as a Medical Research Council Scholar in gastrointestinal physiology. In 1987, Haile came to UCSF as Chair of the Department of Surgery. During his tenure, UCSF became one of the country’s leading centers for transplant surgery, the training of young surgeons, and basic and clinical research in surgery.

Dr. Haile served as Dean of the UCSF School of Medicine from 1993-2003. Under his leadership, the school became a national model for medical education, an achievement for which he was recognized with the 2004 Abraham Flexner Award of the AAMC. In 1997, Haile T. Debas was appointed the seventh Chancellor of UCSF, agreeing to accept the appointment for a period of one year. He currently serves on the United Nations Commission on HIV/AIDS and Governance in Africa and on the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy of the National Academy of Sciences.

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5 Responses to “Video: The Inspiring Story of Former UCSF Chancellor Haile T. Debas”


  1. 1 Anonymous Apr 30th, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    It is true that destiny is not a chance. It is a choice…what a journey, congrats!

  2. 2 Ellias Ma-tawkal Apr 30th, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    How inspiring indeed! I wonder for all his distinction why Emperor Haile Selassie did send him to the best medical school in Edinbrea, Scotland , where the late Dr Asrat went also.Herr Docktor was the first man who arranged a tumutous red-carpet well-come for Issays Afeworki immediately after the independance of Eritrea at USCF campus in San Francisco.As a matter of fact that he was planning to open a hospital by collecting old beds and equipment where he was a Dean. Alas, nothing came of any of it.Haile, like Professor Bereket was a graduate of Winget Haigh school. Like Bereket, Haile loved Eritrea and want their respective country separted on clearly defined lines. As a young man I find Dr. Meheret Ayalew, an Ethiopian awe-inspiring.

  3. 3 Ras Mitat May 1st, 2012 at 10:59 am

    I don’t know about his stand on East-African politics? But, at the end, does that really matter? For me, the world is a shared-space. His private views on other matters does not change the fact that his professional impact and influence as an African is undeniable. Congratulations Professor Haile T. Debas!

  4. 4 Tazabi May 1st, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Dr Haile is one of a kind where his likes come only ones in a blue moon! I think this interview only gives a glimpse of what he has done to his profession and service to the world community. Otherwise, his accomplishments and contributions would fill volumes!!!

    His fellow country man

  5. 5 Mimi May 1st, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    Congratulations Dr. Haile. I am very proud of your great work.

    A big heart felt thank you to Tadias for always featuring positive and inspiring Ethiopian stories. I appreciate your website a lot!

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