University of California San Francisco
Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

Meditation room named for Jeff Pearl, Mount Zion's 'heart'

By Patricia Meagher | | March 1, 2018

Meditation room named for Jeff Pearl, Mount Zion's 'heart'

The Jeffrey M. Pearl, M.D., Meditation Room, in the back of the 1600 Divisadero lobby. Photo by Mark Goldstein.

Jeff Pearl was Mount Zion. He lived and breathed the hospital, its patients and families, and staff; and he was as much a part of Mount Zion as the hospital was a part of him.

Jeff Pearl

Jeff Pearl, in a photo from the 2000 UCSF School of Medicine Annual Report
(Robert Foothorap photo)  

Known for his warmth as well as his medical skill, Pearl, who died in August 2017, was professor emeritus of surgery at UCSF and held a number of key positions at Mount Zion for 35 years.  His friends, family, and closest colleagues gathered recently in the heart of the UCSF Mount Zion campus to announce the renaming and dedication of the Jeffrey M. Pearl, MD, Meditation Room, where they celebrated his profound contributions to UCSF’s clinical, research, and training missions.

Pearl was passionate about the hospital, said Bruce Wintroub, MD, vice dean of the School of Medicine and chair of dermatology. His spirit and vision for community service was unmatched, said Dixie Horning, executive director of the UCSF National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health. It was an inspiration to have as a friend someone who was so caring about everything around him, said Ernie Ring, MD, professor emeritus of radiology, who preceded Pearl as Mount Zion’s chief medical officer and associate dean. All were Pearl’s close friends.

“Jeff showed strength and humor and reminded us all that life goes on,” Cindy Perlis said in describing Pearl’s approach to life and death. The room now named for him will carry his spirit, and the spirit of his Mount Zion friends, so we may never forget the heart of Jeffrey Pearl.

“With Jeff’s name on the meditation room, we know he will not be forgotten,” said Cindy Perlis, who, as director of the Ernest H. Rosenbaum, MD, Art for Recovery program, worked with Pearl to create the room during a refurbishment of the building lobby from 1998 to 2002. Chancellor Sam Hawgood attended the event, as did Pearl’s wife Anne, his daughter and son-in-law Laura and David Shapiro, and their two children, Danny and Lindsey.

Nominated for a number of architecture awards, the room bears Pearl’s mark as well as his name. He had strong opinions about what to include (a glass privacy wall, stained-glass waterfall and other art, a water fountain, cherrywood benches and panels) and what not to include (no carpet that would need replacing or stuffed sofa where people might be tempted to take naps). Two venerable wooden doors that originally hung in the Mount Zion nursing school grace the room’s entrance. Although a destination dedicated to quiet, it has seen many funerals, celebrations of life, and weddings.

Mount Zion Health Fund spearheaded the naming

Also on hand at the event was Dana Corvin, board president of Mount Zion Health Fund (MZHF), a foundation of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund that collaborates closely with UCSF to support Mount Zion-based programs. Generous funding from the Julius R. Krevans Fund of MZHF made the Pearl renaming possible and will fund several Art for Recovery programs at Mount Zion.

Dedication of Jeff Pearl Meditation Room UCSF

Chancellor Sam Hawgood (left) greeted Anne Pearl and Danny Shapiro, Jeff Pearl's grandson, at the dedication event. (Mark Goldstein photo)  

In its 28-year giving history, MZHF has granted nearly $40 million, an average of $2 million annually, to UCSF Mount Zion for a wide range of patient care, education, and research projects. With the goal of supporting programs designed to advance the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of vulnerable populations, MZHF reflects the Jewish values, traditions, and 130-year history of Mount Zion Hospital.

Among its major gifts are the Mount Zion Health Fund Distinguished Professorship in Endocrinology, currently held by David Gardner, MD; and the Harris Fishbon Distinguished Professorship in Clinical Translational Research in Aging, held by Christine Ritchie, MD. The fund also recently awarded a multi-year grant to support the creation of the Center for Education in Primary Palliative Care at the Mount Zion campus, under the direction of Michael Rabow, MD.

Pearl’s legacy at UCSF Mount Zion

Pearl grew up in San Francisco, attended UC Berkeley as an undergraduate, and earned his MD at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He started his medical practice in 1978, joining his father, Milton, at Mount Zion well before the hospital merged with UCSF in 1990. He joined the UCSF faculty in 1991 and remained a strong advocate for Mount Zion, ultimately serving as associate dean and associate medical director of the UCSF Mount Zion Medical Center. He also served for a time as vice chair of the UCSF Department of Surgery. 

In honor of his family history at Mount Zion, Pearl later established the Milton and Helen Pearl Award for Outstanding Service, an award recognizing a Mount Zion staff member for exceptional service that benefits patients, patients’ families, physicians, and co-workers.

Throughout his UCSF career, Pearl was widely recognized as an outstanding surgeon, a committed teacher to medical students and residents, and a valued colleague. Diagnosed in 2014 with progressive supranuclear palsy, Pearl retired in 2014. He found another welcoming community with the Marin Dance Theatre Parkinson’s Dance Project, a movement class for individuals with Parkinson’s and related diseases.