Ophthalmologist Francis Sousa maintains strong UC Davis presence

Photo of Dr. Sousa with medical students © 2009 UC Regents
Frank Sousa teaches medical students Greg Naughton and Eunice Kim on correct use of the ophthalmoscope, a critical tool in determining the health of the eye. The technique is also covered in instructional videos he has posted on YouTube.

With its galleries of videos showcasing the antics of children, pets performing tricks, and adults caught at embarrassing moments, YouTube is an online playground for many people. Ophthalmologist Francis Sousa, however, treats YouTube as an extension of his classroom.

He has produced and uploaded instructional video lectures that cover topics from eye anatomy to a beginner’s guide to using the ophthalmoscope. He prepared them to supplement his teaching sessions as a UC Davis Health System volunteer clinical faculty member. Throughout the past 30 years, Sousa has voluntarily taught students and residents in classrooms and clinics — work for which he earned the Outstanding Volunteer Clinical Faculty award three times and the Kaiser Award for Excellence in Teaching twice. His volunteer activities also include administrative tasks, student recruitment, advising and mentoring in several levels of outreach, and student development encompassing the UC Davis Postbaccalaureate program and the Family Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant program.

“Dr. Sousa has long been a true champion for our students,” said José Morfín, an assistant professor of medicine and faculty director of the Postbaccalaureate Program. “He conducts workshops, and participates in meetings with our postbac students to assess and encourage their progress. He has been doing this much longer than I have, and his pride in UC Davis shows.”

Sousa was a member of the third UC Davis School of Medicine graduating class in 1974. After completing his medical internship in internal medicine and his residency in ophthalmology, he began his practice as a staff ophthalmologist with the VA Northern California Health Care System, and immediately joined the volunteer clinical faculty.

“Appreciating each sunrise and sunset is a hobby in itself.”
— Francis Sousa

Since retiring from the VA, Sousa has been a volunteer ophthalmologist and currently gives his time to the CommuniCare clinics in Yolo County as well as to UC Davis School of Medicine student-run clinics in Sacramento. He is devoted to the School of Medicine, its students and its mission.

“I have found medical practice rewarding in so many ways. But most powerful to me is the truly sacred way in which as physicians we are granted the trust and honor of having patients share the most private elements of their lives with us so that we can help them make decisions about themselves and their loved ones,” Sousa said. “Sharing this honor with students is one of my loves.”

Sousa said he knew that medicine was his calling for as long as he can remember, and that the generosity of his parents strongly influenced him.

“I was given parents who always, seemingly unthinkingly, gave to others, encouraged me to do the right thing, and always encouraged education — although neither of them had attended college through my formative years. I think that my parents’ exemplary lives, combined with my natural passions, were major factors in medicine becoming my profession and my way of life,” Sousa explained.

Dr. Sousa's instructional videos

Photo of Dr. Sousa © Francis Sousa, M.D.

Click here to view videos "Anatomy of the Eye" parts 1, 2 and 3, and "Basic Ophthalmoscopy" parts 1 and 2.

Sousa has been persistently involved at so many levels within the UC Davis Health System that Darin Latimore thought he was a tenure-track faculty member.

“Frank Sousa is everywhere. It’s amazing,” exclaimed Latimore, director of medical student diversity and associate program director for the Department of Internal Medicine residency program. “I didn’t realize he was a VCF member because he interviews so many students as part of the admission selection committee of which I am a member. When we conduct weekend pre-med conferences he graciously gives welcoming lectures. He is extraordinarily dedicated to the medical school.”

This September, Sousa and his wife Laurel will celebrate their 30th anniversary of their marriage, which has produced five grown children.

“When my children were younger, I called them my ‘full house’ — three queens and a pair of jacks,” Sousa quipped. He and Laurel enjoy travel and learning about various cultures. His hobby is reading novels, history and poetry, and he names T. S. Eliot, Joseph Campbell and John Steinbeck as favorite authors. He adds, “Appreciating each sunrise and sunset is a hobby in itself.”