Areas of Distinction/Pathways to Discovery

In addition to choosing a track to individualize your experience and gain exposure to a core group of faculty for mentorship, you may also enter an area of distinction (AOD)/Pathway to Discovery during the PGY2 and PGY3 years.

A few key points and frequent questions about the AODs/Pathways:

  • Residents choose their AOD/Pathway during their intern year, except for Molecular Medicine. Applicants interested in Molecular Medicine must choose this AOD when applying for internship.
  • It is certainly not a requirement to choose an AOD/Pathway, but the majority of the residents choose to do so.
  • With the exception of PRIME and Molecular Medicine (only for categoricals), residents from any of the tracks may enter any of the other AOD/Pathways.

Descriptions of the AODs/Pathways 

Health Professions Education (HPE) Pathway

This program is geared for residents who are interested in making medical education part of their future career plans--including academic medicine faculty positions (clinician educators and general medicine research), medical education research, and medical education administration. Participants will obtain hands-on experience teaching and mentoring on the UCSF campus and join a local community of like-minded faculty and trainees. Residents will participate in didactic curriculum specifically addressing issues of how to improve one's teaching, curricular development, medical education research, learning theory, assessment and evaluation, education technology, and leadership skills. Participants will also complete a mentored scholarly project relating to medical education and will formally teach medical students on the UCSF campus.

Important website:

HPE Pathway Director: Carrie Chen, MD [email protected]

Co-Directors of HPE Pathway (* designates Department of Medicine contact)

Clinical Research Track - PRIME Program

The Clinical Research Track or PRIME Program, (also known as "Program in Residency Investigation Methods and Epidemiology" or "People Really Into Medical Epidemiology") is an area of distinction that focuses on outpatient clinical training, behavioral medicine, and clinical research skills. PRIME Residents may go into subspecialty or primary care fields. The Evidence Based Medicine (EBM) and clinical research training that make up a large part of the PRIME curriculum teaches residents the fundamentals of clinical evidence by giving them the skills in clinical research methods, mentoring, and protected time to complete a clinical research project during residency. EBM curriculum is taught through participation in the Resident TICR course as well as continuity sessions during other outpatient months.

Our goal is to give the residents a chance to "try out" a career in clinical outcomes research during residency by completing an academic "PRIME project". These projects range from educational interventions (e.g. an examination of residents' screening habits for domestic violence) to secondary data analyses in outcomes research (e.g. evaluation of kidney disease as a predictor of revascularization outcomes); to meta-analysis (e.g., examination of the test-characteristics of alpha-feto protein levels in screening for hepatocellular carcinoma). Residents pursue topics that they feel passionate about and that can be utilized to become experts in their field. Approximately 60% of PRIME projects are accepted for publication.

Important website links:

Faculty Contacts:

Global Health Pathway

The vision of the Pathway to Discovery in Global Health at UCSF is to support and develop lifetime commitments to decreasing the health inequities and disparities in populations throughout the world.

The goals of the global health pathway are to prepare trainees to be successful in global health careers and to support academic projects across disciplines and schools.

Trainees are provided with opportunities for in-depth study and experience that go beyond the routine practice of health care. The program offers courses and educational opportunities to build a background understanding of problems and concepts in global health, and tools for success in global health careers.

For medicine residents the pathway is a two-year curriculum involves dedicated cross-disciplinary education to teach fundamental topics such health and development, health metrics, ethics and human rights, communicable and parasitic diseases, non-communicable diseases and injuries, vulnerable populations, global health players, and leadership skills utilizing a one-month core elective, bimonthly evening works in progress sessions , and bimonthly core didactic sessions during block. By participating in this pathway, residents will gain exposure to multiple career paths within global health and increase networking and mentorship opportunities with global health faculty. The participants in the one-month core elective include health professional trainees from multiple different GME training programs, graduate nurses, pharmacists, and dentists. All global health residents design and complete scholarly projects on a topic of their choice and participate in a one month immersion elective abroad during their third year of residency. Through these activities we hope residents will gain facility with current issues in global health, increased cross-cultural competence, and exposure to health care, research, and advocacy in resource-limited settings.


All residents interested in this pathway will be required to apply to the clinical scholars program described in the link above (Please note the specific additional application requirements noted on the website) However, all applications must first be submitted to the faculty contact listed below (Dr. Dandu) by January 10th, 2014. Thus, two applications must be submitted (one to Dr. Dandu in the Department of Medicine, and one to the clinical scholars link above).

Faculty Contact:

  • Madhavi Dandu, M.D., MPH
    AOD Director, Pathways Associate Director
  • For 3rd year residents not in the AOD/Pathway who are interested in final year clinical electives, please contact Dr. Aylin Ulku.

Pathways Director:

  • Chris Stewart, MD, MA
Health and Society Pathway

The Pathway to Discovery in Health and Society (H&S) is seeking applications from qualified trainees (residents and fellows) to join the program. The Pathway to Discovery in Health and Society (H&S) prepares health professionals for careers in which they advance health by engaging society. Specifically, the H&S Pathway supports careers of innovation and discovery through the development of competency in the following substantive areas and skills:

  • Areas: Health Disparities, Health Policy & Systems, Social and Behavioral Science
  • Skills: Research, Advocacy & Leadership, Community Engagement

All H&S learners will participate in the Pathway's Core Program that includes coursework, mentoring, and project work.

Program Requirements:

Core Course:
Participants are required to complete the core GME Health and Society course. This 1 week course will be offered yearly and can be completed anytime during your tenure in the pathway.

Required Additional Curriculum:
In addition to the Core Course, participants will participate in required additional curriculum of approximately 75 hours over the course of 1-2 years.

Many H&S residents complete the required additional curriculum by completing one of two pre-defined Pathway tracks: Healthcare Policy and Systems Leadership or Health Equities. Either track fulfills this requirement of the pathway. See information on the tracks below.

Learners may also develop an individualized curriculum utilizing existing courses or seminars at UCSF (courses taught through the Schools of Medicine, Nursing or Pharmacy, Organized Research Units such as the Institute for Health Policy Studies and the Center for the Health Professions), curriculum delivered through existing GME programs such as residency curriculum, other GME seminars, independent reading designated by your mentor, and independent courses outside of UCSF.

Legacy Project:
Each participant will complete a legacy project. This project must be overseen by a project mentor and produce a product that will endure beyond your tenure in the pathways program. Examples can include, but are not limited to, peer-reviewed publication, implementation and evaluation of a curriculum, implementation and evaluation of a system improvement, implementation and evaluation of a community partnership project, or a policy brief.

The Health Equities Track is centered at San Francisco General Hospital. All residents receive training in Social Medicine, and it is this training curriculum that makes up an integral part of the track. Through a series of seminars, lectures, field trips and case conferences, residents explore how social factors influence illness and the practice of medicine and gain an in-depth knowledge of the issues surrounding disparities in health and health care by concentrating on care of vulnerable patients both within the context of the doctor-patient relationship and healthcare delivery systems. The ambulatory/elective time will include such didactic sessions as well as clinical rotations. Training for primary care, subspecialty bound, and international medicine residents will be similar, though clinic elective rotations might be different. All residents will complete and present mentored scholarly projects that are community-based or advocacy. Track contact is Sharad Jain, MD [email protected].

The Health Systems and Leadership (HSL) track within the Pathway in Health and Society provides physician-trainees with the knowledge, skills, and mentorship necessary to prepare for leadership careers in healthcare systems improvement. HSL welcomes participation by residents and fellows with prior experience and/or interest in healthcare administration, organizational management, systems or quality improvement, safety, and health policy. The program consists of 3 core elements:

  1. A 2-year, longitudinal curriculum--including regular half-day sessions while on elective/outpatient rotations and 2 week-long "seminars" annually--that emphasizes personal development of high-yield leadership skills, core knowledge in both systems improvement (quality & safety) and current health policy, and novel frameworks for individual inquiry.
  2. Active group and individual mentorship by HSL faculty and exposure to high-impact leaders from every aspect of the healthcare industry.
  3. A challenging, intensive group project each spring that addresses current quality or policy concerns for important clients, who's utilization of our recommendations will positively impact healthcare delivery in major ways within and beyond UCSF. Recent clients include UCSF Medical Center and the Pacific Business Group on Health.

Applications are accepted through February 1, and participants will be notified of selection by February 15th. The HSL track is open to all medicine residents, though we recommend selecting the categorical program if possible to minimize scheduling conflicts with other program requirements. Interested current and prospective housestaff should contact the faculty leadership and/or visit our website:

For more information, please see the Medical School website

Edgar Pierluissi, MD ([email protected])

Molecular Medicine Pathway (MMP)

The Molecular Medicine Residency is a track within the Categorical Medicine Residency designed for individuals who are interested in a career that emphasizes basic research in combination with the practice of medicine. To learn more, please see our Molecular Medicine page.