Ellen F. Hughes, MD, PhD


Home Institution:
University of California, San Francisco

General Medicine

Clinical Professor of Medicine Emerita, University of California, San Francisco

What factors—such as nutrition and exercise—are most influential in healthy aging?

Scholar Project

Healthy Aging: Thriving Across the Lifespan

Dr. Hughes, a primary care physician, was inspired by her patients to understand what helps them not only to survive but to fully thrive throughout a long life. As an Institute Scholar she studied the many ways in which people age—on molecular, genetic, epigenetic, and cellular levels; as a whole organism; and as a member of a community.  

Dr. Hughes examined cutting-edge research, including studies of centenarians and societies where people live the longest, to uncover some of the powerful predictors of healthy aging, such as positive emotions, restorative sleep, and a connection with something greater than oneself. Recognizing that knowledge by itself does not always spur change, Dr. Hughes also examined how people adopt and change behaviors, and identified ways to inspire and support healthy lifestyle choices.



Ellen Hughes, MD, was an award-winning medical educator and primary care physician. After receiving her doctorate in cell biology and completing a post-doctoral fellowship in exercise physiology, she received her medical training at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF).

Dr. Hughes did extensive work in integrative medicine, studying traditional healing systems, herbal medicine, five-element acupuncture, and mindfulness meditation. In 1997, she was instrumental in establishing the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at UCSF, where she served as its first director and later, as director of education.

In 2008, she completed a five-year education grant from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), integrating complementary medicine into the required medical school curriculum. She collaborated on a National Institutes of Health grant to develop and implement social and behavioral science curricula for undergraduate medical education, with an emphasis on mind-body medicine, spirituality and health, and sociocultural aspects of health and healing.

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As a revered educator at UCSF School of Medicine, Dr. Hughes was awarded the prestigious Kaiser Award for Excellence in Teaching by UCSF clinical faculty, the first Osler Teaching Award by the class of 2008, and the first Humanism in Medicine Award by the class of 2000. She was selected to be a founding member of the Academy of Medical Educators at UCSF, and chosen to serve as a senior faculty mentor for one of the three advising colleges for entering UCSF medical students.

Education & Training

MD and residency in primary care internal medicine, University of California, San Francisco

Fellowship, exercise physiology, University of California, Berkeley

PhD, cell biology, UC Berkeley

AB, biology, Northwestern University


Selected Honors

Most Inspiring Teacher Award, 2013

First Osler Teaching Award recipient, 2008

Dedication to Building Clinical Foundations Award, 2003

Inaugural member of the UCSF Academy of Medical Educators, 2001

First Humanism in Medicine Award recipient, 2000

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Most Dedicated Clinical Professor Award, 1998

Kaiser Award for Excellence in Teaching, 1996

Major Contribution to Teaching and Excellence Award, 1998

Outstanding Clinical Preceptor Award, 1997

Excellence in Clinical Skills Instruction Award, 1997

Pre-Clinical Teaching Award, 1996

Named one of Bay Area’s Best Physicians by SF Focus Magazine, 1999, 1997

Numerous nominations from students and faculty for awards such as:

Most Inspirational Teacher, 2007

Kaiser Award for Excellence in Teaching, 2006

Excellence in Small Group Instruction, 2006

Crede Award for Teaching, Division of General Internal Medicine, 2005

Outstanding Lecture, 2003

Major Contribution to Teaching Award, 2003


Selected Publications

Book chapters

Co- author, Complementary and Alternative Medicine, in Behavioral Medicine in Primary Care:  A Guide for Clinical Practice, third edition, 2007

Co-author, Complementary and Alternative Medicine, in Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment 2008 (also 2007 edition)

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Co-author, Complementary and Alternative Medicine, in Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment 2006 (also 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 editions)

Co-author, Complementary and Alternative Medicine, in Behavioral Medicine in Primary Care: A Practical Guide, second edition, 2003

Author, Overview of Complementary, Alternative and Integrative Medicine, and Integrating Complementary and Alternative Medicine into Clinical Practice, in Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology, 2001

Research papers

Collaborations between allopathic and complementary and alternative medicine health professionals: four initiatives.
Academic Medicine, October 2007

Emotion skills training for medical students: a systematic review.
Medical Education, October 2007

Student ‘moles’: revealing the hidden curriculum.
Medical Education, May 2006

An International Conference on Complementary, Alternative, and Integrative Medicine Research.
Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, May 2001

What did we learn about the impact on students’ clinical education?
Academic Medicine, April 2001