May 24, 2023

Announcing the Appointment of Julia Adler-Milstein as the Founding Chief of the new DOM Division of Clinical Informatics & Digital Transformation (DoC-IT)

Dear Colleagues:

Last year, I announced our intent to create a Division of Clinical Informatics and Digital Transformation (DoC-IT) in the Department of Medicine (DOM). Guided by a multidisciplinary task force led by Sara Murray and Urmimala Sarkar, I came to believe that a division in the DOM unifying our many initiatives and people in clinical informatics – in areas ranging from research to clinical care and operations to education to policy development and advocacy – would yield enormous advantages to our department and UCSF more generally. 

I couldn’t be more thrilled to announce that the founding chief of this new division will be Julia Adler-Milstein, PhD, professor of medicine and the director of our Center for Clinical Informatics and Improvement Research (CLIIR). Julia is an exceptional academic leader – a highly productive and collaborative researcher, educator, and thought leader. She asks crucial questions and answers them with diverse and novel methods. She is also uniquely skilled at team building, including within UCSF’s complex informatics ecosystem, across the nation and, indeed, the globe. She is ideally positioned to build an internationally acclaimed academic unit in this burgeoning and remarkably dynamic field. 

Julia received her BA in Human Biology from Stanford in 2001, and her PhD in Health Policy from Harvard in 2011. She then joined the faculty at the University of Michigan, where she distinguished herself as the nation’s top expert in the intersection of health policy and health IT. I was delighted when, in 2017, we were able to recruit her to UCSF to launch CLIIR, whose focus is both health IT policy and, increasingly, how best to leverage our digital tools to make healthcare better, safer, more equitable, more satisfying for patients and clinicians, and less expensive. In a 12-year faculty career, she has authored more than 150 peer-reviewed articles in NEJM, JAMA, Health Affairs, and other top journals. She is currently funded with 16 grants totaling over $2.5M in direct costs per year, including 11 federal grants and several others from major foundations, such as the John A. Hartford and the Gordon and Betty Moore foundations. She is an editor of the book, Diagnosing in the Home: The Ethical, Legal, and Regulatory Challenges and Opportunities of Digital Home Health, founder of the National Research Network for Audit Log Research, and associate editor of the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA). She is also an AMIA board member. CLIIR has flourished under her leadership, with four faculty and seven staff, more than $20M in grant funding, and collaborations on over 50 publications with 25 different UCSF coauthors. In the health policy sphere, she has advised many federal agencies, including the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and the U.S. Congress.

Her accomplishments have been widely recognized. She received the Alice S. Hersh New Investigator Award from AcademyHealth in 2017 and the Don Detmer Award for Health Policy Contributions in Informatics from AMIA in 2018. In 2019, she was elected to the National Academy of Medicine, one of the youngest NAM inductees in recent history. 

DoC-IT is described in more detail here. Its primary physical home will be in Koret Hall, at the west end of the Parnassus campus. While much of its early activity is likely to focus on the UCSF Health system, we are designing it to be a cross-site division, and so faculty at ZSFG and the VA will actively engage in its activities. It will become the primary academic home for CLIIR faculty and our highly successful Clinical Informatics fellowship. It will oversee the UCSF Digital Collaborative, which brings together leaders of UCSF’s digital community. Julia is also planning major divisional initiatives in digital health equity, artificial intelligence, and diagnostic excellence.

Over the next several months, Julia will meet with DOM faculty who are potentially interested in moving their primary appointments into DoC-IT; we expect that most faculty who do so will retain secondary appointments in their current, generally clinical, divisions. In addition to serving as the primary divisional home for interested faculty, DoC-IT will become a hub for DOM academic informatics activities, such that other DOM informatics-oriented faculty may choose to have secondary appointments in the new division. There may also be secondary appointments for interested faculty from other departments in the School of Medicine or other UCSF schools. The process for a secondary divisional appointment in DoC-IT is described here.

I am grateful to the members of the DoC-IT search committee, led by Gabby Schmajuk, chief of the Division of Rheumatology at the San Francisco VA Medical Center. I also truly appreciate the active engagement of Chancellor Sam Hawgood, EVP and Provost Catherine Lucey, Dean Talmadge King, and UCSF Health CEO Suresh Gunasekaran, who were immensely supportive of this division and Julia’s appointment. A final note of gratitude to the Division of Hospital Medicine and its chief, Margaret Fang. DHM has served as the home of CLIIR and the Clinical Informatics fellowship since their founding, and has been exceptionally gracious in ensuring a seamless transition as these units migrate to the new division.

I believe that the next decade will see breathtaking advances in the digital transformation of healthcare – with it will come tremendous opportunities for improvement, accompanied by very real challenges. With the launch of DoC-IT and the selection of Julia Adler-Milstein as its founding chief, I am confident that we are even better positioned to be a – if not the – national leader in this crucial space.


Robert M. Wachter, MD
Chair, Department of Medicine