Bates Endowed Chair Strengthens Emphasis on Addressing Health Disparities

March 2016Andrew Schwartz

Neurosurgeon Ernest (Ernie) Bates, MD, is a pioneer and a visionary. Among his accomplishments:

  • In the late 1950s and early 1960s, he fought through discrimination to finish medical school, eventually becoming one of the first three African American board-certified neurosurgeons in the United States.
  • In 1980, he founded American Shared Hospital Services, now a world leader in providing surgical operating equipment and innovative medical technology.
  • In 2000, he started a winery in Napa Valley, Black Coyote, becoming one of the first African American vintners in the country at the time.
  • And in 2004 he established the Ernest Bates Foundation, a private family foundation that provides grants to nonprofit health care organizations working in African American and Latino communities.

Bates' commitment to underserved African American and Latino communities led the Bates Foundation to make a significant contribution to establish the Sally Bates Endowed Chair in Health Disparities. The UCSF Nursing Alumni Association’s board and membership also provided support, and the goal is to use this chair to reduce health disparities in underserved and minority populations through research, teaching and service.

Inspired by His Mother and Nursing Colleagues

Bates named the chair for his mother, Sally, who, at age 70, after years as a janitor, returned to school to become a licensed vocational nurse in Peekskill, N.Y., where Ernest Bates grew up. “She’d go into homes and provide nursing care for the parishioners of her church without charging a thing,” he says. “She was much beloved.”

In addition to the inspiration his mother’s life provided, Bates decided to create the chair because he felt too little has been done to support UCSF School of Nursing and, more generally, nurses.

“I owe a lot to the nurses who have worked with me,” he says. “From the time I was a resident through later in my career, I often had a nurse as first assistant in the operating room.… They were equal partners, and without them, we would not be able to care for patients as well as we do.”

Bates hopes the nurses he’s worked with and his mother’s example will give the new chair its focus. “My vision is that nurses who go through this program will be trained to work within…underserved communities, both within and outside the walls of hospitals, where there is not much nursing care available and where many doctors, white or black, won’t go,” he says.

Waters Named the First Chair

With that in mind, faculty member Catherine Waters seems an ideal selection as the inaugural Bates Chair.

As a San Francisco Health Commissioner, Waters advocated successfully for inclusion of and equitable disbursements to the only nurse-run clinic in the San Francisco Community Clinic Consortium. She has received numerous accolades for her teaching and mentoring and provided leadership to the School as chair of the faculty and as president of the Alpha Eta Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau.

Perhaps most relevant to this position, her contributions to reducing health disparities often emerge from community-based participatory action research conducted, she says, “with the community, not on the community.” Her projects in collaboration with local civic and social organizations to improve fitness and heart health have had an enormously positive impact on several underrepresented communities.

“Catherine’s appointment recognizes her lifelong commitment to the Bates family’s ideals through her work in community and public health nursing,” says Dean David Vlahov. “And this endowed chair reflects our School’s core value of health equity.”