BC Black History Awareness Society (BCBHAS)

“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots” - Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jr.

 s stark 1  s charles3  Sir James Douglas

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UN Decade of Recognition

 With special guest Dr. Verna Gibbs: “I followed in the footsteps of my great-great grand-uncle, Mifflin Wistar Gibbs ..”


vgibbs1 330 years ago while rummaging around in her father's office, Dr. Gibbs found a copy of the 1983 Heritage poster published to celebrate 125 years of Black History in British Columbia, on which she saw the regal picture of her great-great-granduncle.   In 2017, in Vancouver there was a patient safety meeting that Dr. Gibbs was going to attend and in anticipation of her first visit to the area, she sent a “cold call” email to the then President of BCBHAS, Mavis DeGirolamo.  Dr. Gibbs was interested in the community in Victoria, had planned to visit the Royal BC Museum Archives to see their holdings on Mifflin Gibbs and walk about to see what if anything, remained from the times that he lived in Victoria.  Mavis responded, they have stayed in contact and … the rest is herstory …”

A native of New Jersey and a third-generation physician, in 1979 Dr. Gibbs moved to San Francisco to begin her General Surgery residency at the University of California, San Francisco (USCF).  She states “I followed in the footsteps of my great-great-granduncle, Mifflin Wistar Gibbs, who had emigrated from San Francisco to come here to Victoria in 1858 in search of personal safety, the hope for equal rights and financial opportunity.”  While they travelled about 120 years apart, she to San Francisco and he from San Francisco, they were both seeking to escape the confines of the existing cultures, gain new knowledge to further their careers, start families and find freedom and adventure in their life’s journey’s.

Dr. Gibbs is the second of four children born to Jonathan C. Gibbbs Jr. MD, who was a general surgeon in private practice in Jersey City NJ and Verna Hazel Thomas Gibbs who was a New York City (NYC) public middle-school science teacher.  She attended primary school in Jersey City and then secondary school at the Elisabeth Irwin High School in NY.  She obtained a BA degree cum laude from Harvard University and a MD degree from Duke University Medical School.  She completed her residency in General Surgery at UCSF in 1984 and continued her clinical training with a fellowship in renal transplantation at the California-Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco and a molecular biology fellowship at Genentech Inc.  She then joined the faculty of the Department of Surgery at UCSF where she is currently a Professor in Surgery and a staff Attending General Surgeon at the San Francisco VA Medical Center.

In 2004, she founded the national surgical patient safety project NoThing Left Behind® which studies the Prevention of Retained Surgical Items.  She is a private surgical-safety consultant to hospitals around the world, to help them employ best practices to manage surgical sponges and devices, to prevent one from being inadvertently left inside a patient after an operation.  She has numerous publications, teaches and lectures widely.

She was married for 23 years to Marco Giuseppe Patti MD from Catania, Sicily and they have a daughter Verna Ada Gibbs Patti who graduated from Barnard College and recently completed the Professional Pastry Program at the SF Cooking School. She is a baker, bread is her specialty; she currently lives and works in San Francisco. 

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 Verna Gibbs - James Bay Library