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A Moment To Pause

January 26, 2021

Through this note, by offering a reflection on the remarkable spirit of the nearly 6,000 DPH and UCSF staff, scientists and clinicians contributing at ZSFG, we intend to highlight our collective efforts to becoming the best place to work.
Photo courtesy Shelley Kilburn. Carlsbad State Beach, CA.


As a San Francisco native and a UCSF employee who has worked at ZSFG for the past 10 years, I’m very thankful to be working at "The General." I’ve been really grateful for all the folks I have worked with and worked for. Let’s face it, it can be a hard place to work and everyone needs support. What’s helped me through is the mentoring I received first from the Department of Medicine and then the Department of Surgery. When a patient is cranky, I’ve learned it’s because they’re either not feeling well or they’re frustrated. It has nothing to do with me. It’s in that place where I turn it around in my head and try and understand what the best solution would be to help this patient. If my work life gets turned upside down, it’s usually because I need to stop… and listen to what’s happening and what’s being said. The end results? Better care for our patients and a better head space for me.

And then there was COVID. It was like a dark unrelenting storm that would just not clear. I feared for myself, I feared for my family and I feared for our patients. I didn’t want to be at work but I didn’t want to be at home. What was the solution? I did what I have learned here. Stop… and then listen to what’s being said. When I did need help, I called out to the folks who have always been there. These people, these mentors are where they have always been. As far away as my email or a short walk away. And as I listened, my stress and anxiety began to lift. When I got to an okay space, I took pen to paper where I sometimes go to relieve my stress. In its first draft, the following poem was written for a particular person. When I looked at it again, it really is written for all the people who have gotten me through at The General. It’s a thank you note and a love story and a hug to those folks who mentored me.


I remembered your calm.

When I began to step back further than six feet,

I remembered your calm.

When I flinched as someone coughed,

I remembered your calm.

When the shelves were bare,

I remembered your calm.

When my hair turned gray,

I remembered your calm.

When I was hurt because I was told to work from home,

I remembered your calm.

When I started to scrub my hands raw,

I remembered your calm.

When I got scared to hug my love,

I remembered your calm,

and fell into his arms.

Alex McConnell-Hill
PT. Navigator
Department of Surgery

Share Your Submission for A Moment To Pause

To continue to have A Moment To Pause highlight the humanity in our work, its grace and our vulnerability, we invite you to co-create future issues.  You can participate in a number of ways:

  • Send a short, beloved poem or passage written by another or one written by you here.
  • You could submit an original piece you wrote here
  • Upload a link to a song that brings you joy here.
  • Share a photo of what has brought meaning to you during this time here.
Guidelines for submissions:
  • Less than 600 words.
  • All submissions may be edited by the A Moment To Pause team.
  • Include links or references for readers to dive deeper into the topic as appropriate.

We intend to continue this letter, into and beyond the Pandemic. Please join us in cultivating this narrative, by, of and for one another.

With great respect for your caring work. With gratitude for your caring self.

 Jeff Critchfield | Aiyana Johnson | Margaret Damiano | Brandi Frazier | Shannon Smith

Resources & Support for Employees

In support of your reflections we encourage you to engage partners at the DPH and UCSF employee assistance programs at the links below.
Employee Assistance Program

Our Employee Assistance Program for tele-counseling is now available for DPH employees 24/7.
For UCSF Colleagues

Faculty and Staff Assistance: Explore diverse counseling services here.

UCSF Department of Psychiatry

The UCSF Department of Psychiatry created a website listing multiple resources.  Some are available only on the Parnassus Campus, others for UCSF employees.  The majority are for the whole San Francisco community.

Issue #1: Gardening Pause
Issue #2: Unmasking
Issue #3: New Rituals
Issue #4: Roots
Issue #5: Hello In There
Issue #6: Thresholds
Issue #7: To The Nurturers
Issue #8: Remembrance
Issue #9: The (TBD) Generation
Issue #10: The Purge
Issue #11: The Multiple Worlds of Black Health Workers
Issue #12: Sometimes Soldiers Wear Scrubs
Issue #13: Showing Up
Issue #14: Garden Poetry
Issue #15: Good Trouble
Issue #16: Photo Exhibit Series, Part I (July 29, 2020)
Issue #17: Music Exhibit Series, Part I (August 12, 2020)
Issue #18: Trust (August 28, 2020)
Issue #19: Treasures In Our Midst, Part I (September 8, 2020)
Issue #20: Beauty and Resilience from the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Trees (September 22, 2020)
Issue #21: Confessions From the Home Front: The Unequal Burden on Women (October 6, 2020)
Issue #22: Photo Exhibit Series, Part II (October 20, 2020)
Issue #23: Introducing the Resilience Garden (December 8, 2020)
Issue #24: Bright Spots (December 23, 2020)
Issue #25: Dāna (Daan) (January 26, 2021)
We welcome your feedback about A Moment To Pause.

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