Change is not enough to solve health care’s most pressing problems, said Garrett Chan (MS ’00, PhD ’05), an associate adjunct professor in the UCSF School of Nursing. Transformation is what’s needed.
“Change is making small adjustments to fix errors of the past,” he said. “Transformation is starting with a vision and building to that vision. We knew of health disparities before, but the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed them to a greater level. We can’t make little changes anymore. Now, we have to transform the health care system.”
Chan’s innovative work is transforming health care in California. As President and CEO of HealthImpact, a California nursing workforce and policy center, his tireless advocacy to increase access to care has disrupted the status quo.
His ingenuity during the pandemic expanded COVID-19 vaccine access to thousands. He created VaxForce, a volunteer registration and matching system that allows health care professionals and students to staff vaccination events throughout California. VaxForce focuses on partnering with community-based organizations and vaccination events in under-resourced communities and communities of color.
Chan also served as a subject matter expert in landmark legislation to increase access to care through nurse practitioners. The knowledge and skills he acquired at the School of Nursing were integral to fulfill his mission of enhancing the health of Californians, he said.
“The UCSF School of Nursing provided me with the essential foundational knowledge about research, education, policy advocacy and administration to make meaningful contributions in my clinical practice, educator roles, administration and health policy,” Chan said.
Chan, along with UCSF School of Nursing professor Joanne Spetz, served as subject matter experts to California State Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa), who, in 2019, introduced AB 890, a bill that allows NPs to practice without physician supervision.
Similar bills had been introduced in 1998, 2013 and 2015 but never became law. Chan, through his expertise as an advanced practice registered nurse and as the former director of Advanced Practice at Stanford Health Care, brought expert clinical practice and administrative knowledge of nurse practitioner practice in his policy advocacy.
Chan championed AB 890 and addressed legislators and legislative staff at an educational event in 2020 about the bill’s benefits and the impact on improving safe and high-quality access to care for Californians. AB 890 passed overwhelmingly by the California Assembly (61-1) and was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 29, 2020.
Chan continues to advocate for NPs even after AB 890’s passage. He and emerita professor Karen Duderstadt published a policy paper with the California Health Care Foundation on gaps in state laws that need to be addressed so NPs can practice to the full extent AB 890 allows.
“That was the largest policy effort I’ve ever worked on,” Chan said. “Improving access to safe patient care has always been the focus, and NPs are the workforce that makes that happen.”
Enhancing access to health care was the driving force behind Chan’s VaxForce. Volunteers utilizing VaxForce’s platform have administered more than 5,800 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in 34 vaccination events across California and about four of every five vaccine recipients were people of color. Chan’s efforts were recognized by Johnson & Johnson in its “Meet 15 Nurses Who Disrupted Healthcare Through the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
Chan credits the faculty at the School of Nursing for enhancing his leadership skills and fueling his passion for advocacy when he was a student. Now, as a member of the School’s faculty, he is inspiring future nursing leaders to make meaningful change.
“As a professor in the UCSF School of Nursing, I want to create meaningful learning experiences and ensure students use the competencies attained in school to make a difference in the world,” Chan said.