Liliya Bachinskiy holds baby Micaela, three days after the 9-month-old was successfully separated from her conjoined twin, Abigail, at UC Davis Children’s Hospital.

CHANCELL-ING: Good News We Can Use

We’re reaching the home stretch of 2020 and entering the holiday season. The year has tested us in so many ways, from the COVID-19 pandemic to tragic wildfires and waves of social unrest, not to mention one of the most stressful election seasons in modern American history.

Through the drama and isolation, the positive contributions made possible by UC Davis helped maintain my optimism. This was especially true during a recent broadcast of “Live With Kelly and Ryan,” the popular morning show syndicated nationally.

There was Jamie Peyton from the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. As viewers perked up at home with their morning coffee, Peyton spoke passionately about UC Davis’ care of animals from the wildfires, including their innovative burn therapies and care in managing pain.

We’re also beaming after seeing Theanne Griffith, a new UC Davis faculty member, featured on the “Today” show’s website back in September. She’s a neuroscientist and author who shared her “The Magnificent Makers” series of children’s books. They’re designed to pass along scientific concepts in fun and creative ways, with projects that are perfect in these days of distance learning.

And of course, I hope you heard the recent news about UC Davis alumnus Charles M. Rice. He’s one of the recipients to share the 2020 Nobel Prize in Medicine for the discovery of the hepatitis C virus. His research and dedication inspire us.

In local news, I hope you followed the feel-good story of 9-month-old conjoined twins who were separated at UC Davis Children’s Hospital. The surgery took 24 hours and was considered a “landmark” by pediatric neurosurgeons at UC Davis.

These examples show the nation that our university and city are full of people with tremendous expertise and innovative character — and tremendous heart as well for both people and animals.

Practicing healthy behavior

Speaking of good news, it’s heartening to see UC Davis and the City of Davis working so well together on the Healthy Davis Together initiative to prevent the spread of COVID-19. On campus, our Aggie Public Health Ambassadors have done an impressive job in reminding people about safe behaviors during the pandemic.

We’re encouraged by these efforts. In our testing of asymptomatic UC Davis students and staff, we had zero positive cases of COVID-19 for the first three weeks of October.

Of course, we’re not going to let our guard down. We know that a surge could be around the corner as the weather cools down and flu season kicks in. By continuing to work together, I’m confident we will get through this.

We still need to hunker down as much as possible to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. That doesn’t mean we have to disconnect from the larger community. In the coming weeks, we’ll have a variety of online events to keep you inspired and engaged, and I hope you’ll join us.

Staying entertained and informed from home

One of those is the Chancellor’s Colloquium, which will be held virtually on Nov. 20. I’ll be leading a chat with Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, two great success stories from UC Davis in recent years. They met at UC Davis in the mid-1990s and are now among the most successful screenwriters of all time with their projects in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That includes their work on “Avengers: Endgame,” which grossed nearly $2.8 billion worldwide and is now the highest-grossing film of all time.

The three of us will talk about our mutual love of comic books, their connections to UC Davis and what the pandemic might mean for Hollywood’s future. Look for the registration link at for this free event.

We’ll also be celebrating a major birthday soon. Wayne Thiebaud, the legendary artist and UC Davis professor emeritus, turns 100 on Nov. 15. The Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento is currently running a “Wayne Thiebaud 100: Paintings, Prints, and Drawings” exhibit through Jan. 3.

In the meantime, the Betty Jean and Wayne Thiebaud Endowed Lecture at University of California, Davis, will be held virtually on Nov. 12. The free lecture includes Njideka Akunyili Crosby, a Nigerian American artist, as the featured speaker and will celebrate Thiebaud’s centennial birthday.

As Thanksgiving approaches this month, I’m grateful for the recent good news and upcoming events that bring us together virtually. I wish everyone the best of health and a happy holiday season in these historic times.