Boccellari retires after 31 years of service and leadership at UCSF

By Nicholas Roznovsky

Longtime UC San Francisco clinician, educator, and researcher Alicia Boccellari, PhD, will officially retire on June 29, 2017, after a career spanning more than three decades in the Bay Area.

Boccellari operated a private practice and as clinical psychologist at the then-San Francisco General Hospital before joining the Department of Psychiatry as a faculty member in 1986. Since then, she has held a number of critical leadership positions in the department and at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, including directorship of the Neuropsychology Service (1985-2014), Division of Psychosocial Medicine (1994-2014), and Division of Trauma Recovery Services (2015-2017), as well as serving as chief psychologist at Zuckerberg San Francisco General for the past five years. Her duties have included the creation of a 24-hour residential AIDS dementia unit, developing the hospital's Emergency Department Case Management Program, and working with state agencies to deliver support services for Californians impacted by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Perhaps her greatest legacy, though, is a program she founded to help Bay Area victims of abuse, sexual assault, and other violent crimes: the Trauma Recovery Center (TRC). Boccellari has served as its director since creating the program in 2001.

Over the past sixteen years, TRC has evolved from a small, state grant-funded pilot program into a national model for providing compassionate, effective mental health services and support to adults whose needs extend beyond mending just physical injuries. The center provides support services for domestic violence and physical/sexual assault survivors, and family members of homicide victims. In 2012, it expanded its services to encompass Survivors International, which offers services for refugees and asylum-seeking survivors of torture, war-related, and gender-based violence.

Earlier this year, TRC released a free trauma recovery center manual to share their expertise and insights with other programs hoping to replicate their success around the country. Seven more centers have been started or are in development across California, and similar trauma recovery centers planned in Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois.

In 2009, Boccellari became director of San Francisco's Child and Adolescent Support Advocacy and Resource Center (CASARC). The center serves children and adolescents who have been sexually or physically abused, or who have witnessed severe violence. CASARC provides trauma-focused psychotherapy for individuals, groups and families, as well as forensic medicine and crisis management services. CASARC also provides educational training for community providers, including teachers, students, health care providers and mental health professionals.

Her deep commitment to providing direct patient care has been matched by an intense research focus on investigating innovative clinical interventions in public sector that reduce barriers to care and improve clinical outcomes in patients with extensive and complex medical, psychiatric, substance abuse, and psychosocial problems.

"The work has enormous challenges, being witness to people at their lowest point," she told an interviewer in 2008. "Yet it’s balanced by seeing how people find strength, of recognizing how resilient they are. We open ourselves to small miracles every day."

Boccellari has received numerous plaudits for her work, including recognition by the National Association of Public Hospitals, San Francisco District Attorney's Office, San Francisco Board of Supervisors, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Congress, and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Although she will be formally retiring from her full-time faculty appointment at the end of June, Boccellari will remain an active member of the department. Following a brief break, she will return on a recall appointment and continue her work as Director of Special Programs for TRC.

About UCSF Psychiatry

The UCSF Department of Psychiatry and the Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute are among the nation's foremost resources in the fields of child, adolescent, adult, and geriatric mental health. Together they constitute one of the largest departments in the UCSF School of Medicine and the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, with a mission focused on research (basic, translational, clinical), teaching, patient care and public service.

UCSF Psychiatry conducts its clinical, educational and research efforts at a variety of locations in Northern California, including UCSF campuses at Parnassus Heights, Mission Bay and Laurel Heights, UCSF Medical Center, UCSF Benioff Children's Hospitals, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, the San Francisco VA Health Care System and UCSF Fresno.

About the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences

The UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, established by the extraordinary generosity of Joan and Sanford I. "Sandy" Weill, brings together world-class researchers with top-ranked physicians to solve some of the most complex challenges in the human brain.

The UCSF Weill Institute leverages UCSF’s unrivaled bench-to-bedside excellence in the neurosciences. It unites three UCSF departments—Neurology, Psychiatry, and Neurological Surgery—that are highly esteemed for both patient care and research, as well as the Neuroscience Graduate Program, a cross-disciplinary alliance of nearly 100 UCSF faculty members from 15 basic-science departments, as well as the UCSF Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, a multidisciplinary research center focused on finding effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurodegenerative disorders.

About UCSF

UC San Francisco (UCSF) is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy; a graduate division with nationally renowned programs in basic, biomedical, translational and population sciences; and a preeminent biomedical research enterprise. It also includes UCSF Health, which comprises top-ranked hospitals – UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals in San Francisco and Oakland – and other partner and affiliated hospitals and healthcare providers throughout the Bay Area.