Spotlight: Martin Rawlings-Fein, MAJS, Educational Technician Specialist

Martin Rawlings-Fein

January 8, 2021

Martin Rawlings-Fein, MAJS, Educational Technician Specialist at UCSF Radiology, was born and raised in the Bay Area, in and around San Jose, Santa Clara County and San Mateo County. He is also a filmmaker, parent, student of Judaism, local politico, and trans activist in his spare time! Martin joined the Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging in the summer of 2013. “I will achieve 20 years of service in February,” says Martin. Pranathi Sundaram, former manager of IT Operations, spoke so highly of departmental PRIDE values, LGBTQ support, and her support of religious community that Martin could not pass the opportunity to join the team. “Pranathi really sold it, that along with Cathy Garzio’s “culture of YES”, meant I couldn’t say no.”

Educational Technology changes constantly, especially video conferencing and communications. Martin’s role in the department is to setup Zoom and share video conferencing subject matter expertise in order to provide education across many different sites and devices. “I enjoy editing videos. I like crafting the story and cleaning up the times when people don't share their full screen,” says Martin. He also provides training for items like Zoom, Teams, Office 365, maintains video conferencing equipment, and is one of our Radiology IT purchasers. COVID-19 has made Martin one of our most valuable players this year. He is now the co-host to all our radiology lectures, webinars, and events. “We went from having to be in rooms that connected to other rooms by a bridge to then be able to use Jabber and connect to the call from a laptop or desktop,” says Martin. “Then we went to Zoom which is an entirely different apparatus with many abilities that I couldn't have dreamed of when we were just starting out with video conferencing. I can't wait to see the future of video and web conferencing and what ease it will bring.”

Prior to his service in our department, Martin began his UCSF tenure in 2001. JoAnne Keatley, the former director of the UCSF Center of Excellence for Transgender Health, scouted Martin from the UC Berkeley Public Health Library. “Born in Mexico, JoAnne and her family fled to the United States when she was 8 years old. She transitioned over 50 years ago,” says Martin. “JoAnne gave me my start at UCSF in the Correctional Medicine Consultation Network (CMCN).” Martin went on to work with the UCSF Alliance Health Project (AHP) in Psychiatry, and the Department of Family and Community Medicine. “JoAnne taught me to always try new things no matter if they scare you -- the best piece of advice I ever received. She is a force of nature. My work with her has taught me to always look to what is over the horizon and keep a positive attitude around new and exciting things,” says Martin.

Martin served with JoAnne as a co-chair of SF TEAM at the SF LGBTQ Center and on the UCSF Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on LGBTQ issues in the mid to late 2000s, creating exciting programs for the trans community, including the biannual UCSF National Transgender Health Summit.

Martin was assigned female at birth and raised in a Southern Baptist household where he experienced a number of negative stereotypes about non-heterosexual people. “My family was extremely conservative, and I hoped at some point they would change,” says Martin.

Aside from his mother, his family tolerated him, however it wasn’t until much later and after a lot of education that his family became more supportive. Martin’s mother has always been his biggest cheerleader. From day one she was the rainbow on his rainy days. She kept a special eye on her “Marty” and it’s a good thing she did because he needed her strength to overcome one of the biggest and scariest challenges in his life. “I am a childhood stroke survivor” says Martin.  At age 10, Martin was exposed to chickenpox from a sibling, in an attempt to give him immunity. About a month later Martin developed trouble speaking, understanding, walking and then collapsed at school. It turned out Martin had chickenpox on his brain which caused a subsequent stroke. Teachers called for the nurse, and his mom picked him up. They went to the emergency room, where he was admitted to the hospital. “It took a while to get back in the saddle, but eventually, I was able to graduate from the fifth grade,” says Martin. “I had a lot of bigoted people not trust that I was smart, or that I would achieve success in life. It hasn't been an easy road to recovery, but I made it. I just don't take ‘no’ for an answer anymore.”

At 19, Martin came out to his family, began his transition and also his conversion to Judaism.  When asked about advice he would give his younger self, Martin says, “Don't give up hope. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.’ Let's carry that with us toward the future.”

Martin ventured off to the East Bay to further his education and work in information technology. He attended Berkeley City College for his associate’s degree, followed by the now defunct New College of California in San Francisco for his bachelor’s degree. Already learning IT skills on the job, Martin pursued an education outside of IT. He earned his master’s degree in Jewish Studies from the Graduate Theological Union and completed two years of the Davvenen’ Leadership Training Institute (DLTI) program with Alliance for Jewish Renewal.  “I started applying to all of the more liberal schools, and ended up at the ALEPH Rabbinic Program, which was a good fit because I live and work in San Francisco, and I don't want to move anywhere else,” says Martin. “I am motivated to create space for people to be their authentic selves in religious community. I feel a calling to service, to represent the diversity of trans folks in Judaism.” Rabbinic studies require a five-year commitment of service. Martin has completed two years.  “I want to be a Rabbi at some point in my life,” says Martin. “I haven't completed rabbinic studies yet, maybe after I retire as I am really loving where I am right now.”

Martin’s dependable, enthusiastic, and tenacious demeanor are how he is able to accomplish so much outside of work. “I am a trans activist and LGBTQ politico who has run for office in San Francisco a couple of times,” says Martin. He is currently on the ballot for the California Democratic Party for Assembly District Delegate for AD 19, and on the San Francisco Pedestrian Safety Committee.  “In 2005 I was hit and dragged by a motorcycle, along with my dog Buddy. I joined the committee to ensure that no other pedestrian experiences a terrible accident, like we did.”

Martin is also a filmmaker, who has created 6 documentary and narrative shorts focused primarily on the stories of transgender people. Martin does a lot of volunteer work with his wife Shelli, and two children Sadie, who is 15 years old and Matthew, who is 9 years old. He enjoys teaching his children to create change, while being a family. Martin has taught Hebrew school for children and young adults, with a focus on creating diversity.  “I love teaching kids and finding new ways to adapt to their learning needs and many of my students from those early years are now service leaders and have led for the High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur,” says Martin. 

Martin’s relationship with radiology has come full circle. He spent a lot of time in radiology after his childhood stroke and has now returned to radiology through his service to the department. “The entire radiology team has been so wonderful and great. I like how we reach out to each other like a family does,” says Martin. “By the time anyone reads this we will have gone through Chanukkah and Christmas,” says Martin. “It is no secret that all of our holidays around this time of year increase the light.  Let's carry those ever-increasing holiday lights with us well into 2021. Happy New Year to all!”

By L. Delgado

Related Content