Five Questions for Ryan Hernandez

By Editorial Staff UCSF Magazine

Portrait of Ryan Hernandez
Hernandez is inaugural co-associate dean of DEI at the School of Pharmacy and a professor of bioengineering and therapeutic sciences. Photo: Elisabeth Fall

Ryan Hernandez, PhD, whose trajectory led him from busboy to population geneticist, is helping propel a new era for science at UCSF by championing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

Your early path?

Growing up, I was never drawn to science. Honestly, I was barely saved from cascading down the path toward gang life. Many friends weren’t so lucky. I was the first in my family to go to college, and I only went so I could play football. But once I got there, I discovered research, and the rest is history!

How does diversity strengthen science?

To me, the world of science is a better place when everyone has the opportunity to participate. People from different backgrounds and lived experiences bring different ideas, questions, and approaches to their research, which can help break down existing paradigms and open up new avenues of inquiry.

First steps as a new DEI leader?

I want to listen to folks and give a voice to those who feel unheard. Once we establish a culture at UCSF centered on equity and inclusion, where people from historically excluded (HE) backgrounds feel welcome, supported, and sponsored, then we will really start making inroads toward increasing diversity.

What excites you?   

The community of scholars coming together to build a better future at UCSF. Many DEI efforts are siloed, inadequately supported, and insufficiently sponsored. That’s why we’re building ARCHES, a program that will support and sponsor our HE faculty. The potential is thrilling!

What’s another success?

Co-founding PROPEL, a postbac program that helps HE scholars gain additional experience before applying to graduate school. Since starting in 2021, PROPEL has admitted more than 160 diverse scholars who have been hired by labs in over 39 departments, 49 research institutes, and all of UCSF’s schools. They work across the spectrum of biomedical research yet unite for community and support. I love it!

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