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.


2019 Honorees

Honored Students
Justin Bullock, MD
Jirayut “New” Latthivongskorn, MD
Andrea Quiñones-Rivera, MD

Honored Faculty
Hobart Harris, MD
Margo Vener, MD, MPH 

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

Upcoming Events

Alpha Omega Alpha/Gold-Headed Cane Society Lecture
Wednesday, May 8, 2019 at 12 p.m. (light reception to follow) 
Cole Hall at UCSF Parnassus Heights
513 Parnassus Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94143
Featuring Lucy Kalanithi, MD, Stanford School of Medicine 

Gold-Headed Cane Society Reception
Monday, May 20, 2019 at 5:30 p.m. 
Faculty Alumni House at UCSF Parnassus Heights
745 Parnassus Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94143 
By invitation only

School of Medicine Commencement
By invitation only

Support the UCSF School of Medicine’s most distinguished students.
Make a Gift