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David Geffen School of Medicine

The Guardians

By Kim Kowsky

Drs. Elizabeth Neufeld and Richard Gold are spending time in their retirements to help shepherd faculty along their academic path.
After long and accomplished careers, Drs. Elizabeth Neufeld and Richard Gold are spending time in their retirements to help shepherd faculty along their academic path.

No one would think twice if, at this stage of their long and accomplished careers, UCLA emeriti professors Elizabeth Neufeld, PhD, and Richard Gold, MD, chose to spend their time perfecting their golf swings, writing their memoirs or traveling. Instead, Drs. Neufeld and Gold devote their energies to furthering the academic mission of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

As assistant deans for academic affairs, they pore over the dossiers of hundreds of medical-school faculty to evaluate their suitability for moving up the academic ranks. Dr. Gold, a radiologist and former chair of the UCLA Academic Senate’s Council of Academic Personnel, appraises the appointments and promotions of clinical faculty; Dr. Neufeld, former chair of the UCLA Department of Biological Chemistry, assesses basic-science faculty as well as researchers and project scientists.

“The two of them bring a wealth of knowledge and experience and an extraordinary commitment to their work,” says Jonathan R. Hiatt, MD (RES ’82), professor of surgery and vice dean for faculty. “Both were very successful and eminent faculty members in their own areas who are now providing exceptional service to the faculty as a whole.”

The work is complex. Each appointment or promotion, from junior faculty seeking fourth-year appraisals to faculty proposed for endowed chairs, involves a meticulous review process that is codified in The CALL, a several-inches-thick manual of UCLA’s policies and procedures for academic promotion and advancement. Together, Drs. Neufeld and Gold review about 20 candidates and write about 15 recommendation letters each week. For each evaluation, they scour through a hefty dossier that can include the candidate’s record, personal statement, curriculum vitae, data summary, department chair’s letter, letters of evaluation from peers, department vote and teaching evaluations. They write letters of evaluation for candidates at so-called barrier advancements — promotions from associate professor to full professor, for instance, or from full professor at Step 5 to Step 6 or from full professor at Step 9 to above-scale status. In addition, they review the progress of assistant professors in their fourth year to determine how likely these young faculty are to achieve promotion to associate professor.

“There are two purposes for the process,” Dr. Neufeld says. “One is quality control and the other is fairness to the individual. It’s a way to provide transparency.”

Occasionally, a file doesn’t pass muster, and that can make things very difficult. “You’re trying to grab anything out of the performance to justify a promotion because it’s hard not to support a faculty member,” Dr. Gold says. “You empathize, but you want to be fair to everyone else. You can’t lower university standards for one person.”

Born in New York in 1935, Dr. Gold earned his medical degree from the University of Louisville in Kentucky in 1960, served as a captain and medical officer for the U.S. Air Force from 1961 to 1963 and completed his residency in radiology at Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut and a research fellowship in skeletal radiology at UC
San Francisco in 1968.

An affable man who plays classical and jazz piano, Dr. Gold came to UCLA as assistant professor in the Department of Radiology in 1972, and he earned tenure in 1978. At the time, he wasn’t interested in the promotion process and doesn’t remember much about it. He went on to hold several leadership posts for the department, earned a University Distinguished Teaching Award in 1999 and served on the Council of Academic Personnel (CAP) of the UCLA Academic Senate from 2001 to 2005. He
became assistant dean in 2005. “I really do enjoy the work,” says Dr. Gold. “I learn a lot, and I get a kick out of seeing the faculty doing well. It’s a matter of pride in the school of medicine and in the university.”

A no-nonsense woman who enjoys opera and crossword puzzles, Dr. Neufeld also relishes reading about the accomplishments of UCLA faculty, and she says she has gained a new perspective on the intricacies of the appointment and promotion process. “When I was department chair, I didn’t really understand how the system worked, and there were many things that used to irritate me,” she says. “Now I understand why department chairs are asked to complete so much paperwork.”

Dr. Neufeld is the only child of refugees from the Russian Revolution. Her parents first settled in France, where she was born. When Germany was moving to occupy the country, in 1940, they fled again, bringing her to the United States and landing in New York. She earned her doctorate in comparative biochemistry in 1956 and spent several years doing postdoctoral research at UC Berkeley before moving to the National Institutes of Health in 1963, where she held several key posts. She came to UCLA in 1984 and served as chair of the Department of Biological Chemistry until 2004.

Dr. Neufeld is an authority on lysosomal storage disorders, a group of about 50 inherited metabolic disorders that include Tay-Sachs, Hurler and Sanfilippo syndromes. Her work has led to genetic tests for these diseases and laid the groundwork for the development of new therapies. Widely recognized for her contributions to science, she won the National Medal of Science in 1994 for her work on Hurler and Sanfilippo syndromes and was named California Scientist of the Year in 1990.

While she is still actively involved in research, she says her work as assistant dean is very interesting, and she offers the following advice for young faculty who are preparing their dossier for promotion: “Do good work. Be succinct. Follow instructions.”

Kim Kowsky regularly writes faculty profiles for U Magazine.


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