Remembering Marcia J. McCowin, MD

Marcia McCowin, MD1952 - 2020

Marcia J. McCowin, M.D. passed away peacefully at her home on April 26, 2020 after a long battle with multiple myeloma.

Dr. McCowin received her undergraduate degree from the University of California Berkeley in 1972, and her medical degree from George Washington University in 1976. After completing two years as a resident in internal medicine at LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City, Marcia moved to San Francisco to begin her training at UCSF. She completed two residencies, diagnostic radiology in 1981 and nuclear medicine in 1983. After serving as chief resident of nuclear medicine, she joined the faculty at Stanford University as Clinical Professor of Radiology in 1985. In 1994, she returned to UCSF as Associate Professor, dedicating the majority of her time to nuclear medicine and chest imaging at the San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Center (SFVAMC). Dr. McCowin was recognized as an insightful clinical radiologist, a passionate advocate for veterans and a committed educator. She became Professor of Clinical Radiology in 2001.

Following her retirement in August 2019, Marcia maintained an active presence teaching medical students and residents. “She had a lovely personality and consistently positive outlook,” said Dr. Michael Hope, current chief of service for Radiology at the SFVAMC. “Clinical services, especially the pulmonary and critical care teams, always sought out her opinion on challenging cases.”

Education was the centerpiece of Dr. McCowin’s long and dedicated UCSF and SFVAMC career. She became assistant director of the Radiology Learning Center in 2000, working closely with Dr. Henry Goldberg to create well-regarded UCSF Radiology medical student clerkships. Dr. McCowin was elected to the Haile T. Debas Academy of Medical Educators in 2004, and in 2006 was named an associate director of the Goldberg Center for Advanced Imaging Education. Her teaching focused on designing interactive tools for the learner to build competence and an understanding of the importance of imaging in medical diagnosis and therapy. She trained countless medical students over the course of her career, both at UCSF and at the SFVAMC. “Dr. McCowin was an exceptionally passionate teacher,” according to Dr. Judy Yee, former SFVAMC chief of service and now department chair at Montefiore Health System and Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “She spent countless hours lecturing, hands-on teaching and reviewing cases with medical students and residents. Her service was critical to the educational mission of the department.”

Marcia was known to her many friends, co-residents and colleagues as a gentle and fun-loving person. She had many outside interests in addition to her professional career, including singing in the choir at Grace Cathedral and as a member of the San Francisco a capella group, Sweet Adelines. Marcia was devoted to her large extended family, many of whom rallied to help in her last few months. 

Throughout her career Dr. McCowin was especially grateful to her mentors, especially Dr. Gretchen Gooding, Professor Emerita in the department. Marcia chose to honor Dr. Gooding through a generous legacy gift to the department designed to support an annual event that will focus on leadership and ethics topics for trainees. “Marcia McCowin was a loving, considerate person of great charm, who reached out to others to foster their learning and professional maturity,” said Dr. Gooding. “She will be deeply missed as a person dedicated to the mission of expanding the horizons of Radiology.”

William P. Dillon, M.D.
Professor and Executive Vice Chair
UCSF Department of Radiology & Biomedical Imaging

Irene Balcar, M.D.
Alumna, UCSF Radiology Residency Program, Class of 1981

Christopher P. Hess, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor and Chair
UCSF Department of Radiology & Biomedical Imaging

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