Tackle our real-world problems

Robert K. Ross, a doctor, is president and chief executive of the California Endowment, a private health foundation created in 1996 to expand access to affordable, high-quality healthcare.

Poverty. Public education. Healthcare. Gang violence. Affordable housing. Water supply and the environment. These are the key challenges that threaten to stifle our civic well-being in California, and I would like to see the new UC president unleash the university's enormous intellectual capital and resources to help our leaders address these difficult issues.

That means taking the leap from excellence in academia, data and research to excellence in practical application and problem-solving leadership. It means changing the performance paradigm for faculty from "publish or perish" to establishing meaningful community partnerships. It means that helping a community to close down a crack house or start a mental health clinic should be as celebrated as the latest robotic surgery development. It means addressing the moral voice of the university community to the widening opportunity gap in our state and our nation.

It means that advocacy for the poor and marginalized is as important as research about their needs. It means that the UC health system should begin to focus as much attention on South Los Angeles and southeast San Diego as it has on Westwood and La Jolla.

Where to begin? Assume leadership responsibility for the beleaguered Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Medical Center in South L.A.

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