Gold headed cane UCSF

Gold-Headed Cane Society

Every year, three distinguished members of the UCSF School of Medicine’s graduating class are inducted into the Gold-Headed Cane Society.

Initiated in 1939 by William J. Kerr, MD, then Professor and Chairman of the UCSF Department of Medicine, the Gold-Headed Cane Society recognizes three students from each class who exemplify the qualities of a “true physician.” New members are inducted at commencement, and one is presented a Gold-Headed Cane by a senior member of the society. 

History of the Gold-Headed Cane

The original gold-headed cane, after which our cane is patterned, has long been a symbol in English medicine. Our ceremony is modeled on the tradition started by the distinguished physician John Radcliffe, who bequeathed his cane to a successor of outstanding merit. The original cane was passed from one illustrious British physician to another from 1689 to 1825 and now rests in the Royal College of Physicians in London.

Nomination Process

Each year, students and faculty are invited to nominate a student who exemplifies the qualities of a “true physician.”

Students nominate a classmate, and may submit up to three names. 

  • Nominations are sent to a committee of faculty members who are familiar with the whole class. The committee narrows the nominee group to three students.
  • The finalists are shared with the class for the final vote.
  • The three students who receive the most votes are honored at a Gold-Headed Cane reception.
  • The cane recipient is announced at Commencement.

2024 Honorees

Honored Students
Audrey Mvemba
Anthony Nguyen
Hope Schwartz

Honored Faculty
Lee-may Chen, MD
Bruce Miller, MD

See who the Gold-Headed Cane Society has honored in years past and look through the Gold-Headed Cane Society's photo album.

“What this Cane has seen”: Career reflection from 2023 Gold-Headed Cane donator, Helen Kao, MD ’03, Resident Alum.

Upcoming Events

Gold-Headed Cane Society Reception
2024 Reception & 85th anniversary of the cane’s first presentation by Dr. William Kerr (founder)
Thursday, May 2, 2024
By invitation only

School of Medicine Commencement
By invitation only

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