By Erin Hurley, User Services & Accesioning Archivist
June 5, 1981 is widely known as the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the United States because it was the day that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) published, in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), the appearance of a cluster of diseases that would later come to be known as AIDS (Acquired Immune Difficiency Syndrome). The report, titled “Pneumocystis Pneumonia — Los Angeles,” was authored by five UCLA doctors: MS Gottlieb, MD, HM Schanker, MD, PT Fan, MD, A Saxon, MD, JD Weisman, DO, of the Division of Clinical Immunology-Allergy at the UCLA Medical Center. The article reports, “In the period October 1980-May 1981, 5 young men, all active homosexuals, were treated for biopsy-confirmed Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia at 3 different hospitals in Los Angeles, California.” The primary author of this report, Doctor Michael S. Gottlieb – then 33 years old – made history as the person who discovered AIDS. UCSF Archives & Special Collections is pleased to house Dr. Gottlieb’s archives, which are now processed and available for the first time.
A record of his professional life and accomplishments, as well as the many honors and awards he received over the course of his career, the Michael S. Gottlieb papers contain published papers by Gottlieb and many others on AIDS-related topics. They also include information on various AIDS drug treatment studies (including AZT), professional and personal correspondence, and information about various talks and events attended by Gottlieb during the 1980s – a busy decade for him. They also document his prodigious philanthropic activities and AIDS advocacy.
Gottlieb figures prominently in this UCSF-generated timeline of the AIDS epidemic. The timeline, which begins with the 1981 MMWR report, notes that, in 1985, Rock Hudson – star of classic Hollywood films like Giant, All That Heaven Allows, and Written on the Wind – announced that he had AIDS and later died, becoming “the first major celebrity to succumb to the disease.” Later that same year, the timeline reports, “The American Foundation for AIDS Research is founded with the help of movie star Elizabeth Taylor.” Gottlieb, who served as Rock Hudson’s physician from the time of his AIDS diagnosis to his death from the disease, was also one of the founding chairs of the American Foundation for AIDS Research, along with medical researcher Mathilde Krim and Taylor, who was a close friend of Hudson’s and his costar in Giant. The Foundation was established with a $250,000 gift from Hudson’s estate. The Gottlieb papers also contain a fascinating trove of letters, which he dubbed “Crazy letters,” that he received after becoming publicly associated with Hudson in newspapers and the press. The letters indicate a fascination with the disease, which was still very new and widely misunderstood by the world at large.
If you’re interested in checking out the Michael S. Gottlieb papers, you can consult the finding aid or the library catalog record for the collection. The papers were a gift from Michael Gottlieb.
This is a guest post byJackie Roger, Ph.D. Candidate, UCSF Program in Bioinformatics (BI)
During our class on 5/21, we learned about the term “biopolitics”. After our discussion in class, I wanted to learn more about it and ended up doing some additional reading. Biopolitics, conceptualized by Michel Foucault, is the intersection of life and politics. In practice, it is the governance and control of human life. Many of the topics that we have covered in class can be contextualized within biopolitics.
On 5/17 we talked about forced sterilizations in California prisons. This was a mechanism for controlling who could and could not procreate, and was deeply rooted in white supremacist ideologies. On 5/24 we discussed the hysteria in the 1980s about the “crack baby epidemic” that never ended up happening and had no reasonable scientific basis. There was widespread panic about the possibility of babies born with physical and cognitive disabilities, but little concern about the lack of resources and support for women with substance use disorders. In both of these examples, the focus was on the child-bearing potential of women, and not on the personhood of women. Both forced sterilizations and public hysteria were used to police who should be having children.
On 5/19 we reviewed the Tuskegee syphilis study, and on 5/26 we drew parallels between the racial disparities of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and the ongoing COVID pandemic. In all three of these examples, the medical system prioritized white lives over black lives. There was significant investment in caring for white patients, while black patients were often neglected or mistreated.
This is a guest post by Dr. Michelle-Linh (Michelle) Nguyen, a primary care doctor and researcher at UCSF and the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.
As social distancing rules and regulations begin to relax, many of us are feeling the strain of prolonged social isolation and re-learning how to reach out to others.
On April 29th, 2021, 48 San Francisco and UCSF community members gathered virtually during the lunch hour on Zoom for a series of poetry readings and discussion centered around the human experience of medicine. Farah Hamade, the inaugural UCSF Library Artist-in-Residence, took visual notes and created an art piece that represents the event and experience (featured below).
Three poets—Kathleen McClung, Sharon Pretti, and Peggy Tahir—were selected through a submissions process from the San Francisco community to read their work. Sharon Pretti read a series of poems written during and after her brother’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis, treatment, and eventual death. Kathleen McClung read a sequence of sonnets inspired by her partner and her experiences navigating his treatment and surgery for a pituitary mass.
Peggy Tahir read a series of poems written for each radiation treatment she underwent for breast cancer. The readings were followed by a 10-second pause to create space for reflection and a rich discussion.
The introduction of the event and poetry readings were recorded with the poets’ permission. The recording was turned off for the discussion and closing to create a more comfortable, intimate space. After the event, the poetry reading recording, Farah Hamade’s art piece and a poem by Michelle-Linh (Michelle) Nguyen was shared with event registrants and the public.
This is a guest post by LauraAnn Schmidberger, Ph.D. Candidate, UCSF Tetrad Graduate Program
Doctors and other scientists are trained to be precise in how they word their hypotheses, methods, and findings, because they know that precision is important in the fields of medicine and science. However, this accuracy does not seem to follow them as they cross into the social sciences. The article “On Racism: A New Standard For Publishing On Racial Health Inequities” highlights some examples of the careless ways scientists discuss race in their studies.
Scientists often say that “societal factors” may contribute to the health disparities they see in Black communities, but they fail to ask what causes those social disparities—that is, racism. This is like attempting to treat a cancer patient’s pain, fatigue, weight loss, and other symptoms instead of acknowledging that they have cancer and attempting to remedy that root cause.
Similarly, we need to examine and begin to treat the root cause of health disparities. Perhaps Black communities do face more financial stress or lack easy access to healthcare, but these are symptoms of the larger issue of pervasive systemic racism. The article points out that there is an abundance of scholarship (largely by Black authors) on the topic of “how racism shapes conditions germane to racial health inequities.” It is not that scientists don’t have access to this information, but that they choose to ignore it or gloss over it for less accurate and less meaningful conclusions.
I also appreciated the distinction the article offers between different types of racism: “interpersonal, institutionalized, or internalized.” While all racism is structural, it can express itself in different ways that all need to be addressed; we can think of these like different types of cancer which require different treatments. Many cancer patients may benefit from chemotherapy, but knowing where the tumor is might allow it to be removed surgically. Knowing the origin of the racism and how it is perpetuated in a given scenario can give us better tools to eradicate it. For example, interpersonal racism may be combated with education on critical race theory, while institutional racism might require breaking down the old systems built on inequalities (i.e. abolition rather than reform).
Another example of imprecise language arises from the issue of trust. One of the “social disparities” clinicians often point to is the lack of trust that Black individuals and communities feel for the medical community. However, as the article notes, “assertions that patient mistrust drives disparities obscures the etiologies of racial health inequities and tacitly blames affected patients for their disproportionate suffering.” In other words, saying that Black patients suffer from diseases either more frequently or more severely because they don’t trust doctors to help them is a form of victim-blaming. It is not the Black community that has decided not to trust doctors; it is the medical community that has, through both assaults on and apathy towards Black individuals, actively dismantled any good relationship the two groups might have had.
Issues of mistrust have arisen not because of the one event alone (such as the Tuskegee experiments), but because of both historic and ongoing micro- and macro- aggressions against marginalized groups, and these can only be addressed by addressing their root cause: racism. Largely white medical institutions continue to prove themselves undeserving of the trust of BIPOC communities because they continue to perpetuate racism in a multitude of ways, from continuing to utilize race corrections and other concepts that reify biological theories of race, to repeatedly marginalizing and otherwise failing Black faculty and students. While trust between patient and doctor (as well as patient community and healthcare community) is an important factor to consider, “incessant racial health inequities… reveal less about what patients have failed to feel and more about what systems have failed to do.”
Medicine loves precision. A person does not just have lung cancer, they have non-small cell lung squamous-cell carcinoma, or perhaps pulmonary enteric adenocarcinoma. However, when it comes to understanding the disparities between patients of different races, the desire for exactness seems to disappear and is replaced with hesitant generalizations. This is not unique to science, but appears in many corners of society, especially as discussions of race become more common. However, scientists have the ability to give the topic the accuracy it deserves by becoming familiar with the growing wealth of scholarship on the relationship between racism and health disparities and citing it in our own research. Language matters, and taking more care in our wording as it relates to race and medicine is one simple step to combating racism in the field.
This is a guest post by Karissa Hansen, Ph.D. Candidate, UCSF Developmental and Stem Cell Biology (DSCB) Program
The readings and conversations in class this week brought forward discussions about how institutions can ensure equitable access and treatment of underrepresented persons in the biomedical professions. The struggles of individuals at each step of this process were highlighted: From early in training during medical school and residency to higher positions of authority at medical institutions. Therefore, extensive changes are not only required at the level of admissions, but also in later career support in hospitals across the country. Despite the conversations that have been reignited in the past year regarding equitable practices, meaningful large-scale change has yet to be seen. Bias in hiring practices accompanied by limited support in part has led to the lack of representation in leadership positions and a reinforcement of such inequities. Moreover, persons of color are often those that are called upon, or volunteer, to expand these efforts at institutions across the country, increasing the burden on these individuals. I feel like I must hold out hope that the education of the current generation of up-and-coming physicians and scientists will lead to such changes as these individuals move into positions of power. It’s hard to be optimistic with such a long road ahead, but the young scientists that I am surrounded by give me hope that we’ll get there.
This is a guest post by Nebat Ali, PhD Candidate, UCSF Biomedical Sciences (BMS) Program
One of the final pieces we read as part of this course was an article by Boyd et al titled “On Racism: A New Standard For Publishing On Racial Health Inequities”. This article encompasses many of the concepts we discussed in class and exemplifies how racism continues to be maintained in our medical and scientific spaces. As the article states, racism is “America’s earliest tradition” and was used as the foundation for all aspects of American society.
As someone who grew up in the Bay Area, there seems to be the misconception that liberal parts of our country are somehow free of these frameworks. This is far from being true, and one can quickly come to this realization by taking a brief look into the history of our institutions.
Fifty years ago, Black employees at UCSF initiated the formation of the Black Caucus- the first affinity-based group established in the UC-system- in order to protest the racist policies and mistreatment they faced at UCSF. Members of the Black Caucus coined The Medical Center at Parnassus “The Plantation on the Hill” due to the discriminatory practices they faced in the workplace (reference linked below). As a united voice the Black Caucus demanded for the improvement of their working conditions and for their fair treatment. In addition, they also fought strongly to advocate for the recruitment and retention of Black students at UCSF. When I casually walk through the halls of my building or sit and have lunch in the cafeteria, I’m often reminded that only fifty years ago Black and Brown UCSF employees didn’t have the right to freely navigate through campus the way that I do. The strikes and protests organized by the Black Caucus were transformative, and while their impacts are still felt today there is still a long road ahead in order to dismantle the systems of oppression these institutions were built on. Within our own communities in San Francisco, we are witnessing and experiencing some of the most alarming disparities in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
I have a vivid memory of a discussion that took place in a microbiology course I was taking early in the pandemic that revolved around genetic predispositions to severe COVID-19 infections. It was even more troubling to see subsequent studies that additionally failed to assert the contributions of racism in the prevention, detection, and treatment of COVID-19 infection. As we discussed through some of our previous readings, studies like these result in both the erasure of systemic racism’s impact on health as well as the large numbers of Black scholars who specialize in this area of research. Some of the recommendations provided by the Boyd et al article will be critical in improving the practices in scientific research that ultimately contribute to this. In the case of the pandemic, I always find myself wondering how beneficial NIH funds could have been if they were redirected to provide care to highly impacted Black and Brown communities instead of being used to do poor research and/or research that is only tangentially related to the virus. In order to begin repairing the damage that’s been done, it will additionally be important to consider how federal funds are allocated to agencies like the NIH and CDC. Improper allocation of funds to these agencies can sequester money away from developing sustainable care programs in underserved communities and subsequently direct them to research practices that only reinforce racism in science and medicine.
This is a guest post by Eliza Gaylord, Ph.D. Candidate, UCSF Developmental and Stem Cell Biology (DSCB) Program
What you publish in science is soaked in opinion – regardless of the objectivity it tries to maintain. What you publish in science is accessible forever – regardless of the truth it holds. And if science is opinion, and science is accessible forever, then by definition of the mathematical transitive property of equality, opinion-based published literature perpetuates throughout the years and is treated as fact simply due to its accessibility to read and cite. However, just because something was published does not mean it is sound or accurate. What are the consequences when this undying nature intrinsic to publication is mixed with ‘bad’ science, written to immortalize the author’s opinion instead of biological truth? One familiar example is Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s work published over two decades ago where he wrongfully claimed that the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccine caused autism in children. Despite the retraction of his paper, multiple lawsuits, and the uncovering of conflicts of interest that inspired his original piece, thousands of individuals across the world still believe in his work over twenty years later and put their children at risk by refusing to vaccinate them out of the false fear of developing autism.
Though the harmful consequences from this specific example have only persisted 20 some years, another harrowing example of fabricated and harmful science has persisted for over a century: the collection of work centered on identifying physical racial differences. These studies relied upon the torture and robbery of Black people’s bodies and highlighted false ideologies of biological differences between the races to justify slavery and perpetuate racism. And doctors still reference and support these false beliefs to this day, many ignorant to the racist history that gave rise to the findings. These works are dangerous to the Black community, as they ensure implicit bias, inferior medical treatment, and structural racism will persist in the American health care system. Like the Wakefield study, a first step toward improving the Black experience in American medicine demands the identification and retraction of these false and dangerous studies. But beyond the retraction of these works, medical education programs must incorporate coursework to actively discuss and condemn these racist ideologies and the fabricated works that support them.
This is a guest post byCambria Chou-Freed, Ph.D. Candidate, UCSF Biomedical Sciences (BMS) Program
Last week in class, we discussed the topic of reparations for the harms enacted by the U.S. government and medical system on people of color, specifically Black Americans affected by the U.S. syphilis experiment at Tuskegee and the Latinx/Indigenous communities affected by the U.S. experiment in Guatemala. My interest in reparations is bolstered by my heritage, my Jewish American ancestors who immigrated from the former Soviet Union prior to World War II. The Jewish community is one of the few communities throughout history that has received reparation payments for affected individuals (link: https://www.vox.com/2014/5/23/5741352/six-times-victims-have-received-reparations-including-four-in-the-us). Since 2012, Germany is estimated to have paid $89 million in reparation payments for the Holocaust—to countries such as Israel, but also to individuals, including many Jewish Americans (link: http://www.claimscon.org/about/history/). Though my family did not directly receive those reparation payments, they mean a lot to me, given that some of my ancestors narrowly escaped and what others who I never got to know about didn’t.
Many have proposed that Germany’s reparation payments could serve as a model, or at least a precedent, to support the case for U.S. reparations to Black Americans for slavery, including Ta-Nehisi Coates in “The Case for Reparations.” The U.S. syphilis experiment at Tuskegee represents only a tiny fraction of the legacy of slavery and the crimes that the U.S. has committed against Black people. Though the U.S. government has “paid reparations” through court settlements for the Tuskegee experiment, it’s clear that much more needs to be done. I can’t say that Germany has offered a perfect model or that we should be copying their methods, but it proves to me that large-scale reparations on behalf of a government can be made. Furthermore, it provides an example of payments made not only to a country’s own citizens, but also to foreign citizens. This would be the case for what the U.S. owes to the citizens of Guatemala affected by the U.S. Public Health Service experiment there. Reparations, of course means much more than monetary payments, and it means different things to different people, but the conversation has to start somewhere.
This is a guest post byMariko Foecke, Ph.D. Candidate, UCSF Biomedical Sciences (BMS) Program
Watching the retrospective on “crack babies,” it becomes painfully obvious how much panic can be caused by the results of a single study. I think it’s also a remarkable example of how, when we don’t look back on history, we’re liable to repeat the same mistakes. It reminded me of how, a decade later in the late 90s, alarm bells were prematurely sounded when the Lancet published Wakefield’s article claiming the MMR vaccine caused autism. Interestingly, I think there were a lot of similarities between the initial studies and subsequent responses:
Widely publicized by the media
Preliminary studies with a small sample size
The effect on minority groups
Women who participated in Chasnoff’s study were offered free prenatal care in exchange (which they would not have had access to/been able to afford otherwise)
Diagnosed with autism later and less often (particularly problematic since both “crack babies” and autistic children were considered to be more treatable/manageable with early intervention)
As a basic scientist, I think the retrospective also highlights how important it is to think about how we contextualize and speak about our work and how damaging it can be if it’s taken out of context.
This is a guest post by Miguel Guardado 1st year biomedical informatics student, Biological and Medical Informatics Graduate Program (BMI)at UCSF
The use of race and ancestry in genetic research. What do reparations look like?
The use of race/ethnicity as a variable in medicine and science is a highly debated topic, with a clear history of being used as a mechanism for racism in wanting to establish biological differences in a race to uphold white supremacy. To fully address why race is needed inside biological research, we need to preface this conversation on the impact eugenics left inside the academic institution. Understanding why race was created and used in eugenics needs to remind us of what this type of thinking represents. In this reflection of the class I have been a part of for the past three weeks, I will explain why race and ethnicity are essential to medical research. We need to understand how systemic racism will tell us social detainment of health, essential in understanding non-genetical interaction inside various diseases and their progression. A person’s race is not tied to biological traits and cannot be used to establish the genetic basis of disease, which eugenics sought so hard to achieve. Instead, we need to focus on an individual’s genetic ancestry and using this term separately to establish genetic relatedness and how this can also impact diseases. Overall, I argue that we need genetic ancestry and race-conscious thinking to uncover the underlying causes of various diseases, which will help reduce disparities in the medical system.
Unfortunately, this basis of using race inside science and medicine has been one of the prominent scars and legacy left by eugenics in the early 19th century. Fundamentally this field was established in the idea that a person’s genes determine their traits. Some of these trait variants are more valuable than the others, with clear implications on establishing white people’s genes as superior.1 This field grew significant traction in the early 19th century, with famous mathematicians such as R. A Fisher, Karl Pearson, Francis Galton adding mathematical rigor to these ideas. I cannot describe all the horrors this field had, but the idea of adding mathematical and scientific rigor to establishing biological differences in the race lead to political and social impact that still last to this day. These ideas did not die in the late ’50s when these courses disappeared post WW2, the people who were educators in this field needed to transition to something that seemed more “woke,” still passing on generations of knowledge that these population differences were biological and somehow race was tied in this. How does published scientific records of white individuals’ genes being superior affect generations of people of color who were taught our entire existence is “scientifically” inferior? How does a generation of people recover when forced sterilization was done on black and brown people with a eugenics framework? This generational trauma leaves scars that affect us to this day! The field I sit inside today, population and human genetics, came from a field that was a predecessor of eugenics training. However, being reminded of this reality is needed to entirely reject this branch of science and understand the scars race-based biology has made to the BIPOC community here in the United States.
Therefore, tackling race/ethnicity inside genetics research has the stakes it does to get this answer right. Having generations of people taught and believing that genetics is tied to an individuals’ race and why we can see why there is so much mistrust in using these ideas in science correctly. We must be accountable to the past of eugenics as scientists and help engage with every community here in America who have scars from this framework of thinking. Race and ethnicity have both been used as social constructs for categorizing people based on perceived distances and cultural ties. The concept of race is constructed as a tool to categorize people to validate racism2. Understanding how living in a society built on institutionalized racism, how it intersects with access to health care, and many other systemic barriers are why we need to have a lens of the race inside medicine. We must not have a colorblind approach to looking at race inside medicine, but we must not confuse that race is biological, but rather racism. Some factors are not biological in understanding the progression of diseases, such as living in a food desert, having proper access to water, or proper access to health care, impacting how a disease is the onset and develops. We must do a better job as researchers in our field to define better variables and terms to predict the actual outcome rather than the direct use of a race-specific variable. Suppose we are conducting a study, and we find that race is a clear signal in our model. In that case, we must do a better job to explain the underlying structure in that variable that is tied to system racism to rightfully eliminate the direct use of a race variable in clinical practice. Trying to understand non-genetic causes of health inequities across different racial, ethnic groups, community efforts, and outreach is essential to finding the connections to disparities and treatment.
Genetic Ancestry, on the other hand, can be derived of a ‘subset of paths through it by which the material in your genome has been inherited’.3 Genetic Ancestry tries to estimate individuals who share genealogical ancestry or find identifiable ancestors in a family tree or pedigree. Being reminded that we are one human species, knowing we all have shared common ancestors can help us understand why we need to take care of what genetic ancestry can tell us about the underlying genetic architecture that can affect biological traits removed of the notion of race and ethnicity. Mathematically speaking, genetic ancestry is seen as a continuum, representing that this term is used under a measure that can never be fully used to derive detailed categories of different population groups since we all at one point came from a common ancestor. There is much benefit to looking across different “population ancestral groups” when doing genetic research studies because looking at genetic signals found in European ancestral groups will not always correspond to the same signal in other population groups. In all reality, when trying to take a continuous variable of genetic ancestry and condense it to a set of population group categories, there will always miss out on the groups that are underrepresented in that cohort. We must be reminded that the algorithmic nature of this type of clustering analysis is always arbitrary choices made by the scientist and that these groups do not represent an actual population. This, however, does not undermine the field of population genetics and understanding how the complex human architecture contributes to various biological diseases and how important it is to get the diversity of participants from all backgrounds into these studies. Disparities are present inside this field, with most genetic findings we have only for people of European ancestry.4 We need to be careful about what claims we make based on genetic ancestry and understanding how they are independent of race and ethnicity.
There can be a correlation between genetic ancestry and race but understanding what both factors are telling us and how they are both needed to eliminate disparities. Understanding the social aspect of diseases and why racism is a biological variable acknowledges the use of community-led research and why we need more community lead engagement. We also need to gain more trust with these communities, based on generations of systemic racism leading to this massive distrust. Increasing the diversity of black scientists and doctors and creating an environment that retains them in academia and medicine is a great place to start.5 As scientists, we must reject making claims about race being biological and understand the social constructs that make racial groups suffer at disproportionate rates. If we ever want to solve this disparity, we need to accept the dark history of science and the harm it caused to Black people and make the proper reparations.
This is a topic I am very engaged to learn over the course of my PhD, any feedback or comments are welcomed.
This is a guest post by Nebat Ali, PhD Candidate, UCSF Biomedical Sciences (BMS) Program
The readings from this past week displayed the many ways racist practices dating back to the era of slavery continue to permeate our scientific and medical institutions to this day. The harm caused as a result of failing to address the racist practices within these systems can be even more damaging when considering the pretense of objectivity they’re presented under. We are taught that science is built on integrity and our practices are free of bias when in fact many scientific and medical policies are rooted in racist ideologies. It’s also interesting to consider how our institutions are built to reward these practices. There are scientists who have been able to build their careers on the basis of attributing disease outcomes and biological observations to race. This erasure of the racist policies and socioeconomic factors that drastically impact a person’s biology and wellbeing is incredibly damaging and only takes us further from addressing the true source of health disparities in the first place. When findings from these works are translated and applied in the clinic as a means to save time and allow doctors to see more patients, they can result in misdiagnoses and delay medical intervention, ultimately causing more harm to groups that are already marginalized.
As a Black immigrant the basis of these practices is something I’ve thought about a lot as my family and I navigate the healthcare system here in the US. As someone who also has the privilege of having lighter skin, I also think a lot about how colorism and internalized racism in the context of healthcare can additionally impact one’s health and wellbeing. An individual’s proximity to whiteness and the way that is perceived by a physician or healthcare worker can have a strong influence on the nature and quality of the care they receive. Furthermore, institutional race-based practices likely reinforce internalized racism in health care providers, further compounding the harm done to Black and marginalized groups as a result.
This is a guest post by Natasha Puri, PhD Candidate, UCSF Tetrad Graduate Program
In this class we have focused more on racism in medicine, but it has encouraged me to apply what we have talked about to research as well. When I read the very first paper for our class, Racial Categories in Medical Practice; How Useful are They? in PLoS Medicine, one thing that stood out to me was the author list. Many of the authors were experts and/or students in both STEM subjects like Cellular and Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, and so on as well as in fields like African American Studies, Women Studies, or Sociology. Many biologists like to think that they are searching for fundamental truths, but how honest are these when they are not considered within the context of our society? An example that comes to mind is the Covid vaccine. I hear people in my field talk about the vaccines simply as this amazing scientific achievement. And yes, the fact that the vaccines are so effective and started being distributed in the US so early is remarkable. But what is glaringly less spoken about in these circles is the inequities in the distribution of this life-saving scientific achievement, why many people of color have been unable to access the vaccine, or the reasons why some have been hesitant to get it. I think that it is too easy for scientists to brush off the people who don’t trust science, but we need to look more deeply into the roots of the distrust, and be more active in making research accessible, and transparent too. The paper also mentioned epidemiologists and other scientists who propose multi-level models for understanding racial disparities in health outcomes, from society to an individual’s lifestyle to the cellular level. This supports the idea that a holistic and interdisciplinary education is so valuable, especially when studying in health and medicine-related fields.
My last thought is that if we are to continue to educate ourselves and improve the health outcomes of historically marginalized groups, this research and others that focus on racism in medicine and science need to be well-supported and well-funded. That means that this research must get support in particular from faculty and research institutions themselves. While it is invaluable (and necessary) for medical and PhD students to learn the painful story of the Black experience in science and medicine, our professors need to learn these truths as well. I hope that Universities can start making more classes like this available not only to students, but available and mandatory for faculty as well.
This is a guest post by Aris Tay, PhD Candidate, Bruce Wang and Diana Laird Labs, Developmental and Stem Cell Biology (DSCB), UCSF
Watching “Belly of the Beast: survivors of forced sterilizations in California’s prisons fight for justice” from an intersectional lens reminded me of social Darwinism. The theory of natural selection and survival of the fittest permeates biology and ecology. Faster lions are better at catching prey and thus are more likely to survive, so of course lions as a whole would prefer to select for speed and athletic prowess. However, does this apply to human society? It is theorized that humans implicitly select for attractiveness when choosing a partner and as a result the human race has supposedly gotten more attractive over the centuries. But with the industrial revolution, betterment of healthcare, and resultant increase in lifespan and quality of life, several “less fit” traits have been allowed to remain in the gene pool. There are several diseases, with genetic causes or predispositions, that are typically fatal without treatments. If these people died of such a disease, then the genetic mutation would not be passed on and eventually dwindle out from the gene pool. However, we are now able to treat such a disease and thus the mutation stays.
From a purely logical, theoretical, and utilitarian standpoint, human society would probably be more “fit” if the people carrying these mutations were not treated and died. And because Darwinism and social Darwinism is such an accepted and prevalent theory in the medical community, parents undergoing in vitro fertilization are recommended to choose the embryo without any genetic mutation or harmful predispositions. Many disabilities, such as blindness, deafness, autism, and achondroplasia, are symptoms of or outright caused by genetics and are theoretically preventable during in vitro fertilization. However, many people in the disabled community take pride in their disability and the culture that has been created around it, not entirely unlike black American culture. If a medical professional did not discuss with the patients and chose to implant the undiseased embryo as opposed to one with a genetic mutation that could result in deafness, would this be equivalently morally reprehensible as the forced sterilization of incarcerated black women? Would this take society a step closer to eugenics?
This is a guest post byKarissa Hansen, Ph.D. Candidate, UCSF Developmental and Stem Cell Biology (DSCB) Program
During class this week, one major topic of conversation was the forced sterilization of incarcerated individuals in California, often people of color, along with the eugenic principles that this thinking perpetuates. Dr. James Heinrich, an OB-GYN at one of these prisons, was quoted in an NPR article1 claiming that the amount of money spent on these procedures was minimal “compared to what you save in welfare paying for these unwanted children–as they procreated more.” My jaw dropped when I read this horribly prejudiced statement. Every individual is entitled to personal bodily autonomy. Although he appears to be referring to surgeries that were completed voluntarily, when a person in a powerless position is under coercive pressure, there clearly cannot be consent.
Although the forced sterilizations in the prison system being discussed are said to have occurred between the years of 2006-2010, such atrocities were occurring long before and continue today. In September 2020, a nurse working at a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement center in Georgia alleged that detained women were undergoing similar procedures, including unnecessary hysterectomies2. As of December, more than 40 individuals had submitted written testimony in a legal petition against the facility3.
So where do we go from here? I don’t have a good answer. Shutting down one problematic facility doesn’t prevent such procedures from happening at a dozen more. We are clearly unable to rid this system of the discriminatory beliefs it was built upon. As we’ve discussed, the roots of the issue must be addressed—and there are many.
This is a guest post byCambria Chou-Freed, Ph.D. Candidate, UCSF Biomedical Sciences (BMS) Program
This week, I was very interested in our class discussions about how race is used as a variable in medicine/biomedical research and about the contexts in which this might exacerbate vs. combat health inequities. I especially appreciated the UCSF debates over the use of genetic ancestry vs. race in eGFR and polygenic risk score calculations. What stuck with me was the question: how can we, as scientists and physicians, feel comfortable using race as a variable in the same way we use quantitative, measurable variables (ex: blood cell or RNA transcript counts) to make research claims and clinical diagnoses? We know that race is an inaccurate proxy for genetic ancestry in many cases. Furthermore, when we want to use race as a proxy for social factors, I wonder whether in the future we will move toward incorporating other, more precise variables instead (such as to what degree a person experiences racism in their life, or what neighborhood they live in, an example given in class). As a mixed-race person, it has always made intuitive sense to me that race is not clearly defined or discrete, even when I didn’t have the words or data to back this up. Similarly to what Dr. Grubbs argued in the debate, I wonder how researchers would calculate my risk for polygenic diseases if I don’t fit accurately or precisely into their race-based model?
Another question that came up in class is how epigenetics might be used in medicine/biomedical research. Epigenetic marks are thought to encode experiences and environmental factors such as trauma and stress at the molecular level, and there is evidence that epigenetic changes to DNA can be passed on through multiple generations. Many people see epigenetics as an opportunity to study the effects of social factors such as racism on human health, and I certainly see the potential benefits of this. However, I also worry that some people will use epigenetics as the next generation of scientific evidence to back the claim of “biological differences due to race” and that a new form of discrimination could emerge as a result.
This is a guest post byLauraAnn Schmidberger, Ph.D. Candidate, UCSF Tetrad Graduate Program
Assuming that the color of someone’s skin explains their life history seems ridiculous when it’s phrased that way, but it is easy to see how doctors can fall into the trap of using racial categories in their practice, especially given the pressure to assess their patients quickly. This article made me think of racial profiling—it is understandable that authorities would want a quick way to identify potential suspects, but to conflate race with the likelihood of committing a crime is inappropriate. Race is a much less important factor in both community safety and medicine than socioeconomic, geographic, and familial backgrounds. The author makes it clear that while taking the time to understand a patient’s background may not be as rapid, it is ultimately more efficient, because it will lead to fewer misdiagnoses. False assumptions about a patient’s condition based on their outward appearance increases the time it takes for an accurate diagnosis, which in the worst cases can be deadly. A country largely segregated by not only race but also geography and socioeconomic status became a country in which the three were conflated and each race was assumed homogenous, when in reality our communities have never been more diverse. Each person has a unique background, and “if a physician simply diagnoses ‘race,’” that background, including “environmental exposures, family histories, the stress of dealing with racism, access to and quality of care [,] may be left unexamined.”
This is a guest post byMariko Foecke, Ph.D. Candidate, UCSF Biomedical Sciences (BMS) Program & Eliza Gaylord, Ph.D. Candidate, UCSF Developmental and Stem Cell Biology (DSCB) Program
Despite the profound advancements achieved by modern medicine, people with ovaries in the United States were at a 10% greater risk of dying from a pregnancy-related death (PRD) in 2017 than they were in 19871. Strikingly, this risk is even greater for the BIPOC community, as Black people with ovaries account for 41.7% of PRDs. This statistic is three times higher than PRD rates for White people with ovaries1. The Centers for Disease Control defines a PRD as “the death of a woman during pregnancy or within one year of the end of pregnancy from a pregnancy complication; a chain of events initiated by pregnancy; or the aggravation of an unrelated condition by the physiologic effects of pregnancy”2.
Recent research highlights variables that may contribute to disparities in PRDs for people of color, such as quality of and access to care, implicit bias, and psychological stress induced by structural racism1. Examination of disparities in PRDs across socioeconomic and educational backgrounds identified that African Americans with ovaries with at least a college degree were 5.2 times more likely to suffer a PRD than White people with ovaries with the same level of education. Furthermore, the mortality rate of infants of college-educated African American people with ovaries was 3.1 times higher than infants of high school or less-educated White people with ovaries3. Thus, as disparities in PRD and infant mortality rates continue to rise, there is a critical need to understand the physiological impact of social determinants of health during pregnancy and their potentially multigenerational effects.
African Americans with ovaries experience high levels of physiological stress due to social discrimination and systemic racism4. Additionally, racial discrimination is directly correlated with higher levels of depression14, a known consequence of stress15. For decades, it has been appreciated anecdotally that both pre-pregnancy and maternal stress contribute to adverse health and infant birth outcomes5. Maternal stress during pregnancy may lead to high blood pressure and changes in dietary intake, increasing the risk for gestational diabetes, preterm labor, and preeclampsia16. Additionally, exposure to physiological stress after pregnancy may lead to postpartum depression or substance abuse17, accounting for an estimated 14% – 30% of reported maternal deaths18.
Concurrently, recent research has gleaned insights into the mechanisms underlying how the negative effects of maternal stress may persist for up to three generations6-8. In response to stress, fertility is known to decline as a consequence of a diminished ovarian reserve, which encompasses the quantity and quality of ovarian egg cells, or oocytes9,10. The incidence of oocyte aneuploidy, referring to an abnormal number of chromosomes, increases in response to maternal stress and is a known cause of infertility and disease11. Importantly, of the 10% of individuals with ovaries who struggle with fertility in the United States, 15% of them are affected by oocyte aneuploidy12. In fact, aneuploidy occurs in 5% of all clinically recognized pregnancies and is causal in 1 in 3 miscarriages13.
As the connection between physiological stress and poor health and infant outcomes, particularly for Black women, become increasingly clear, there is a dire need for immediate and effective action to close the persistent PRD and infant mortality gaps. In addition to implementing policy designed to protect vulnerable populations from stressful, discriminatory experiences in professional and higher education environments3, implicit bias training for healthcare professionals should be required to decrease disparities in prenatal and postpartum care19. Finally, legislation to provide federal support that increases access to mental health care and social services specifically to people of color with ovaries before, during, and after pregnancy19 is necessary to reduce this devastating maternal health crisis.
Pregnancy Mortality Surveillance System. Division of Reproductive Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2019).
Racial and Ethnic Disparities Continue in Pregnancy-Related Deaths. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019).
Fishman SH, Hummer RA, Sierra G, Hargrove T, Powers DA, Rogers RG. Race/ethnicity, maternal educational attainment, and infant mortality in the United States. Biodemography Soc Biol. (2020).
Howard JT, Sparks PJ. The role of education in explaining racial/ethnic allostatic load differentials in the United States. Biodemography Soc Biol. (2015).
Dole N, Savitz DA, Hertz-Picciotto I, Siega-Riz AM, McMahon MJ, Buekens P. Maternal stress and preterm birth. Am J Epidemiol. (2003).
Crews D, Gillette R, Scarpino SV, Manikkam M, Savenkova MI, Skinner MK. Epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of altered stress responses. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. (2012).
Ward ID, Zucchi FC, Robbins JC, et al. Transgenerational programming of maternal behaviour by prenatal stress. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. (2013).
Kiss D, Ambeskovic M, Montina T. et al. Stress transgenerationally programs metabolic pathways linked to altered mental health. Cell. Mol. Life Sci. (2016).
De Felici M, Klinger FG, Farini D, Scaldaferri ML, Iona S, Lobascio M. Establishment of oocyte population in the fetal ovary: primordial germ cell proliferation and oocyte programmed cell death. Reprod Biomed Online. (2005).
This is a guest post byJackie Roger, Ph.D. Candidate, UCSF Program in Bioinformatics (BI)
Towards the end of this past week, several of the readings and videos discussed the intersection of racism and OB-GYN. We learned about the medical experimentation on black women’s bodies (Linda Villarosa’s article in NYT), the mutilation and subsequent museum display of Sara Baartman’s genitalia (Dr. Deirdre Cooper Owens’s talk on Youtube), and the black maternal health crisis (Dr. Susan R. Bailey article on the AMA site). These examples illustrate how the historical legacies of anti-black racism are embedded in present-day OB-GYN research and medicine. One component of this is disparities in the maternal mortality rate, which was the focus of Dr. Bailey’s piece.
She described two initiatives to reduce this disparity: the MOMMA Act to extend coverage for post-partum care and the Release the Pressure campaign to promote heart health and healthy blood pressure. The MOMMA Act seems like a good start, and could reduce both overall maternal mortalities and the racial disparities in maternal mortalities. The Release the Pressure campaign calls upon black people to take steps in their own lives to improve their heart health (since heart disease is one of the leading causes of pregnancy-related death). There are so many aspects of systemic anti-black racism within the medical system and beyond that directly contribute to increased risk of heart disease. A campaign that asks them to offset these things by “taking a few more steps a day” etc seems insulting. I think that truly addressing disparities in OB-GYN will require structural changes in the healthcare system.
This is a guest post by Aris Tay, PhD Candidate, Bruce Wang and Diana Laird Labs, Developmental and Stem Cell Biology (DSCB), UCSF
In session 3 of UCSF’s racism and race: the use of race in medicine and implications for health equity discussion, as well as many other works centered around race in medicine, it was mentioned that race, as we use it colloquially, is a social construct. Due to my own identity, I often think about how gender is a social construct and how scientists often use the two terms sex and gender to separate out what is and is not scientifically and empirically biological and hard-wired. However, until this course I had not made the connection that race and racial identity is a social construct just like how gender is.
In many large scale observational genetic studies, specific genetic signatures (typically single nucleotide polymorphisms) are often found to be associated and even predicative for certain diseases. These genetic signatures are often correlated with self-identified racial groups. Thus, the field has often incorrectly assumed that race causes these genetic signatures which leads to a predisposition for disease, and that this is why I often hear statements such as “Tay-Sachs is most common is Ashkenazi Jews” or “Sickle cell anemia is more common in black people”. However, it is difficult, in these large observational studies, to separate lifestyle, family history, etc from the check box self-identified categories that patients are asked to bin themselves into. Self-identified categories of gender and race are much easier to draw correlations from; however, it is now coming to light that detailed family history and lifestyle is much more accurate. Social constructs of gender and race often make up core aspects of someone’s identify. This will definitely affect one’s choices and lifestyle which could then affect which diseases one is predisposed to. However, jumping directly from A to C eliminates a large majority of people that did not follow the most common path, thus disenfranchising them from receiving accurate medical care. Eliminating social constructs from medical treatment and diagnosis is an endeavor that the entire field should embark on.
On the other hand, when it comes to recruiting participants for large scale observational studies, clinical trials, etc. whether or not social constructs such as gender and racial identity should be accounted for is an outstanding question. Using clinical trials as an example, ensuring that the proposed experimental treatment works well on all races and genders is of utmost importance and has often been overlooked in historical trials. However, would using lifestyle in order to recruit not serve the same purpose? And be more accurate? Would taking detailed history and lifestyle cause too much strain during recruitment and completely offset its advantages? Would statistics be too difficult to run on family history and lifestyle when we know it’s possible and established using gender and racial identity. I leave you with some food for thought.
This is a guest post by Antoine S. Johnson, Ph.D. Candidate, UCSF History of Health Sciences.
The 2020 police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd facilitated important dialogue about racism being a public health issue. It also led to myriad student demands at college campuses throughout the nation, including at UCSF. Students demanded course curriculum addressing racism in science and medicine, with the hopes that such information and classes would be integrated in their field. One of the results were Grad 202: Racism in Science, which was taught in the Fall 2020 quarter by Dr. Aimee Medeiros and me. Almost 200 students enrolled in the course, causing us to create two sections. As a Ph.D. candidate in UCSF’s History of Health Sciences program, this was an invaluable experience that allowed me to build community with several students in the class who are now working on an article on the importance of such classes in science programs.
Demand remained high after the class, culminating in mini courses, including this one, that would continue such conversations and answer student requests. Grad 219: The Black Experience in American Medicine, examines ways Black people have not only been the victims of medical racism, but also how they contributed to the creation and expansion of medicine and science; how they have operated in their respected fields; and the harm caused by biological deterministic arguments of so-called racial differences. Although only three weeks long, students will leave this class with an understanding of the medical community’s relationship with African Americans from the antebellum period to the present. From an analytical perspective, this class will foster honest and open conversations about the assigned material. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to share their thoughts on any conversation, reading, video, or observation through weekly blog posts that will be published here, on the UCSF Archives & Special Collection, Brought to Light blog. These are not polished submissions but are rather their takeaways on things that stood out to them. In doing so, they will be able to offer one another constructive feedback by commenting on each other’s posts to continue pertinent conversations.
Thank you, and welcome to Grad 219 Course: The Black Experience in American Medicine.
By Shannon Foley, Archives & Special Collections Intern
Brought to Light wants to bring attention to remarkable former UCSF faculty member Freeman Bradley. His significant contributions to the medical community and the Black community at UCSF deserve to be recognized. Bradley grew up in Alabama, and after high school, he continued his education at Howard University in Washington D.C., where he received his bachelor’s degree in Biology. After his graduation, Bradley moved to Maryland and started working at the National Institute of Health, where he remained for four years before starting his career at UCSF. His position was with the Cardiovascular Research Institute, where he conducted research about respiratory changes associated with various anesthesias.
During his time at UCSF, Freeman Bradley worked as a technician to Dr. John Severinghaus and and Bradley’s contributions were fundamental to Severinghaus’s groundbreaking work. From 1957 to 1958, Dr. Severinghaus and Mr. Bradley combined technology created by Richard Stow and Leland Clark to create the first blood gas analysis system. Shortly after the first system was created, they were commercialized and proved revolutionary in health care. In Dr. Severinghaus’s written account of his research and the evolution of the invention of the blood gas analysis system, he emphasizes how his and Mr. Bradley’s invention changed medicine. By the 1960s they blood gas analysis systems were widely available, and and these tests provided essential information about a patient’s illness.. These systems are still used today, and in 1985 Dr. Severinghaus donated the first apparatus he and Mr. Bradley worked on at the Smithsonian Museum. In 1977 after his research with Dr. Severinghaus, Mr. Bradley was appointed Director of Development and Research. In this position, he helped progress the technology and development of medical tools. One of the other advancements he made at his time at UCSF was in the transportation technology of newborn babies or neonates. His contributions to medical advancements do not go unnoticed.
Freeman Bradley was not only an incredible asset to advancing medical research, but he also was an active member in UCSF’s Black Caucus. The Black Caucus is a club at UCSF whose mission statement is “The Black Caucus is a forum open to all Black-identified individuals and allies on this campus. Here they may openly express themselves regarding matters of race as they affect life on the campus and in the community. The Black Caucus serves as an instrument for the formation of a Black consensus on those racial matters that affect every person on this campus. This consensus will then be presented to the Administration for appropriate action.” One of the founding members and President of the Black Caucus, David Johnson, worked to create this community where Black members of UCSF could have their needs and concerns met. During Freeman Bradley’s time at UCSF and as an active member of the Black Caucus and used his calm temperament to make sure issues could be addressed and changes made. Mr. Bradley is quoted saying that even though he was criticized for staying diplomatic, he knew that it was the way to be more successful in the long run. In a 1983 interview of Mr. Bradley printed by Synapse, he shared his concerns with the lack of Black role models for youths in the sciences. He believes that minorities would be more likely to become a part of the medical field with more role models. Freeman Bradley is the perfect example of a role model to the youth and can be seen as an inspiration to all.
Severinghaus, John W. “The Invention and Development of Blood Gas Analysis Apparatus.” Anesthesiology, vol. 97, no. 1, 2002, pp. 253–256., doi:10.1097/00000542-200207000-00031, accessed April 21, 2021.
Archives is excited to provide access to the sketchbook of Phyllis Wrightson, which has been newly-digitized from within the Bernard Zakheim papers. Wrightson was Zakheim’s assistant during the painting of the frescoes inside UCSF’s Toland Hall, and the two later married.
The sketchbook contains fascinating detail of the historical research which went into the mural, and includes notes, clippings, and remarkable sketches made by Wrightson in preparation for the painting of the murals. Wrightson’s sketchbook is notable for the way it illuminates the immense amount of collaborative effort that went into creating a mural such as the Toland Hall frescoes, and documents the both the creative process and aesthetic decisions which were a part of the project.
The digitization of Wrightson’s notebook has been another fruitful collaboration between Archives and our colleagues in other Library departments, spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. We would especially like to thank Andy Panado — Collections Analyst — for his work to create the digital files for this valuable resource.
By Erin Hurley, User Services & Accessioning Archivist
One of UCSF Archives & Special Collections’ most famous and beloved collections is the Japanese Woodblock Print collection – a collection of over 400 colorful and informative woodblock prints on health-related themes, such as women’s health and contagious diseases like cholera, measles, and smallpox. According to the Library website dedicated to the prints, they “offer a visual account of Japanese medical knowledge in the late Edo and Meiji periods. The majority of the prints date to the mid-late nineteenth century, when Japan was opening to the West after almost two hundred and fifty years of self-imposed isolation.” The collection has been used, most recently, in a documentary about woodblock prints to be aired on NHK, Japan’s public broadcasting network, and has been a subject of enduring interest to researchers. I’ve heard colleagues wonder aloud about how UCSF came to own this unique collection, so I did some research. Naturally, an enterprising curator and librarian – Atsumi Minami, MLS – is to thank for the collection’s arrival at UCSF.
While I was not able to find the exact dates of her employment at UCSF Library, I do know that Minami began working at UCSF Library in 1959, and soon took charge of a small collection of 70 titles of materials related to East Asian medicine started in 1963 by John B. de C.M. Saunders (a shortening of his full name, John Bertrand de Cusance Morant Saunders), then Provost and University Librarian. Minami could read Japanese script, so she became responsible for the collection and was soon given free rein to begin collecting additional materials. In order to do this, Minami “traveled to Japan and China and purchased items from various smaller, private collections, acquiring the woodblock prints as well as hundreds of rare Chinese and Japanese medical texts, manuscripts, and painted scrolls.” Her collecting efforts spanned over 30 years, and produced a collection with over 10,000 titles. It would appear that Minami was still working at UCSF when this informative article was written for a 1986 issue of UCSF Magazine. At the time that article was published, the East Asian medicine collection was also the only active collection of its kind in the U.S., making it even more notable.
Another woman who was influential in shaping the East Asian collection was Ilza Veith, a German medical historian and former UCSF professor in both the Department of the History and Philosophy of Health Sciences and the Department of Psychiatry. Veith, who in 1947 was awarded the first ever U.S. Ph.D.in the History of Medicine from Johns Hopkins University, was also awarded later, in 1975, the most advanced medical degree conferred in Japan, the Igaku hakase, from Juntendo University Medical School in Tokyo. Veith was extremely knowledgeable about both Chinese and Japanese medicine, and, in her time at Hopkins, translated Huang Ti Nei Ching Su Wen, or The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine – the oldest known document in Chinese medicine. Though the text has somewhat mythical origins that make its author and date a little difficult to determine, it probably dates from around 300 BC. Veith also helped shaped UCSF’s East Asian medicine collection by donating a number of her Japanese medical books.
I would encourage anyone interested in the collection to browse the prints on our website, and to read more about their history via a finding aid on the Online Archive of California. Archives & Special Collections also houses the Ilza Veith papers. While we don’t yet have an Atsumi Minami collection, we welcome donations and would appreciate any information that the present-day UCSF community has about this amazing woman.
By Erin Hurley, User Services and Accessioning Archivist
We are currently more than halfway through Black History Month, a month that takes on special significance this year, following a summer of protests asserting, yet again, that Black Lives Matter. Archives & Special Collections would be remiss if we failed to mention the groundbreaking Black faculty at UCSF, both past and present, who have made significant contributions to the fields of medicine and psychology (as well as many others), and, who, in their work, have found ways to illuminate new facets of racism previously unconsidered and who, on their paths to success, have also sought to support and lift up others.
Mindy Thompson Fullilove is a social psychiatrist who served as Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the UCSF Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (CAPS) from 1983 until 1990. Her work sits at the intersection of mental health and public health, and she focuses, in her own description, on the “sources and consequences of inequality, with a focus on the American city,” including segregation, gentrification, and the impact of these forces on the mental and physical health of Black families.  She is the author of numerous books, including The Black Family: Mental Health Perspectives and Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America and What We Can Do About It.Most recently, she has co-edited a volume titled From Enforcers to Guardians: A Public Health Primer on Ending Police Violence. In 2018, she gave a TED talk which gives an overview of her work and her personal history and outlines her hopes for achieving equality.
Eritrean surgeon Haile T. Debas has, many times over, served as an example of what Black leadership can look like, and has shown how it can benefit others in a variety of ways. Debas, who came to UCSF in 1987 to serve as the Chair of the Department of Surgery, specializes in gastrointestinal physiology. During his time as Chair, UCSF “became one of the country’s leading centers for transplant surgery, the training of young surgeons, and basic and clinical research in surgery.” He then went on to serve as the Dean of the School of Medicine for 10 years, from 1993-2003. In 1997, he was appointed as the 7th Chancellor of UCSF, a position that he agreed to hold for one year while also serving as Dean of the School of Medicine.
Debas, in his long and distinguished career, has demonstrated a commitment to serving underserved areas, from his work in the Yukon Territories, where he practiced surgery early in his career, to a long-held dream of establishing a medical school in Eritrea. It was this commitment that led him to establish, in 2009, the UC Global Health Institute, which sought to leverage the expertise and resources of all ten UC campuses to address global health issues, which he says are “so big that single disciplines can’t tackle them.” He also served as Executive Director of UCSF Global Health Sciences (GHS), established in 2003, which focuses on issues like diseases of poverty, chronic illnesses, and the global threat posed by certain infectious diseases, like COVID-19.
His work in global health has informed his support for women’s empowerment movements, and he notes, “In global health, women’s empowerment is the critical element—nothing will be accomplished to a successful end without women’s support.” Debas also established the UCSF Department of Surgery’s Haile T. Debas Diversity Fellowship for Fourth Year Medical Students, which offers fourth year medical students a sub-internship in the Department of Surgery, as well as a $2,500 stipend. Debas appears often in Archives & Special Collections materials, as a part of the Office of the Dean’s records, as well as in the Global Health Sciences records and the Oral History collection.
Please join us in welcoming our new intern, Shannon Foley. She’ll be working with us on writing and researching blog posts, as well as working on part 2 of our legacy finding aid project.
“Hello, My name is Shannon Foley. I am incredibly excited to be interning at UCSF’s Archives & Special Collections this semester. I am currently in my last semester at the University of San Francisco and will be graduating with a degree in Art History and Museum Studies. Last semester I interned at the University of San Francisco’s Thacher Gallery. I helped with their online exhibitions, a great experience learning how to navigate fully online exhibitions. At the University of San Francisco, the Art History and Museum Studies program offers a diverse range of skills and experiences that I am excited to bring these skills to this internship. I grew up just an hour north of San Francisco in Sonoma County but have enjoyed living in San Francisco for the past few years. When I am not in a class, I love to cook and bake for my friends and family. I have also played tennis for the past ten years and have enjoyed playing more during the pandemic. I am very passionate about traveling and visiting museums abroad and locally. On any given day, I can be seen walking my dog Louie and reading a good book.”
We are thrilled to announce that the UCSF Black Caucus Records digital collection has added and updated descriptions for over 400 items. The collection documents the history of the UCSF Black Caucus, which began in 1968 to address the social inequalities and inequities at the University of California. It contains photographs, videos, correspondence, publications, and meeting materials about the formation and activities of the Black Caucus. Some of the major events held by the UCSF Black Caucus include the protest to end of racism and discrimination at the University of California, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Week and Black History Month programs, in conjunction with other campus organizations including the Women’s Resource Center, and annual Gala fundraisers.
A substantial portion of this incredible collection was complied, preserved, and donated to the archives by Elba Clemente-Lambert. Throughout the recent metadata enrichment project, she has painstakingly researched and provided more detailed descriptions of events and identification of individuals in photographs. Mrs. Clemente-Lambert collaborated with her UCSF colleagues and former Black Caucus members (now retirees) on what became a true crowdsourcing project that couldn’t have been successfully accomplished without her guidance and community support. (We will list the names of all people who supported this project in future blog posts). These additions will enable users to learn about the organization’s history, membership, leadership, and accomplishments.
Elba Clemente-Lambert was born and raised in Spanish Harlem in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York. Mrs. Clemente-Lambert received her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a minor in Psychology from the City University of New York. She began her career in 1968 at UCSF as a Secretary II in the Department of Neurology. Then, she obtained an on-the-job training position (initiated by the efforts of the UCSF Black Caucus) in the Personnel Department (now Human Resources). Soon after joining the University of California, Elba became one of the founding members of the UCSF Black Caucus. She was elected to various positions in the Black Caucus’ Steering Committee, including Corresponding Secretary and Chair of the Publications Committee, as well as Member-at-Large. However, one of her most important positions was as “the unofficial, but official” photographer. Her passion for photography began in her high school journalism class, which stirred her belief that “we need to document what is occurring in our environment and beyond”. This dedication unintentionally led her to become a historian for the UCSF Black Caucus. Elba worked at UCSF until 1997 when she retired as a Senior Human Resource Specialist. In retirement, Elba continued to work occasionally with the UCSF Black Caucus while involved in the management of Creative Music Emporium (records store), established in April 1985 together with her late husband, first Black Officer hired at UCSF, Joseph G. Lambert, who decided to change his career after serving 18 years to become an entrepreneur in the music industry.
We would like to express our gratitude to all those who helped make this project possible: Mrs. Clemente-Lambert, Marisa McFarlane, and Charles Macquarie.
UCSF’s project supports a priority area for NLM and NIH by digitizing approximately 45,000 pages from 15 archival collections related to the early days of the AIDS epidemic in the San Francisco Bay Area with the objective of making them widely accessible to the public. This project will chronicle the experience and struggles of communities of color and other marginalized communities during the onset of the AIDS epidemic.
This project will make publicly accessible experiences of communities that are “absent or excluded from the history of HIV/AIDS in the United States” [Jennifer Brier, The Oral History Review, Volume 45, Issue 1]. Its goal is to include the voices of underrepresented and marginalized groups in the historical record and increase public impact of these archival collections. These collections cover diverse issues communities are faced with: poverty, racial and socio-economic segregation, health care policy inequalities, public health and sexual education and prevention, disparities in the HIV response, the impact of HIV on migrant communities, and the intersection of the criminal justice system and HIV.
The materials that will be digitized range from hand handwritten correspondence and notebooks to typed and printed reports and agency records. Photographic prints, negatives, transparencies, and posters will also be digitized. They will be added to a growing digital collection documenting the AIDS crisis established by UCSF on the California Digital Library platform, Calisphere and the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) becoming publicly accessible around the world. The materials will be digitized by the UC Merced Library’s Digital Assets Unit that has been partnering with UCSF on successful collaborative digitization projects for more than 10 years. All materials selected to be digitized will be carefully examined for privacy concerns and the archivists will consult with an existing Advisory Board.
UCSF plans to partner with NLM’s History of Medicine Division and DPLA to create a collaborative AIDS history primary source set on the Digital Public Library of America in order to disseminate the project results and enable their educational use. UCSF will also promote the availability of this resource to organizations in the San Jose, San Francisco, and Oakland, CA areas. This project is led by Polina Ilieva and Edith Escobedo serves as a project archivist.
UCSF Archives and Special Collections is pleased to announce that 93 cartons have been processed and added to the J. Michael Bishop papers. The collection was first processed in 2016 with a total of 19 cartons, it grew to 142 linear feet. The new material includes lectures, correspondence, memorabilia, and committee files. The collection’s finding aid is available publicly on the Online Archive of California.
Bishop is the recipient of numerous awards in addition to the Nobel Prize, including the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Biomedical Research and the American Cancer Society National Medal of Honor. In 1989, Bishop and his colleague, Harold E. Varmus, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery that growth regulating genes in normal cells can malfunction and initiate the abnormal growth processes of cancer.In 2003, he was awarded the National Medal of Science. On July 1, 1998, J. Michael Bishop became eighth chancellor of UCSF, and presided over what would become the largest academic biomedical expansion in the nation-the creation of the UCSF Mission Bay campus.
The collection is arranged into twelve series which include: Series I. Writings and publication files; Series II. Teaching files; Series III. Laboratory research notebooks and binders; Series IV. Working files; Series V. Scrapbook and artifact; Series VI. Exhibit files; Series VII. Committee files; Series VIII. Correspondence; IX. Postdoctoral files; X. Meetings and Travel files; XI. Lectures and Remarks; XII. Photographs, Slides, and Audio/Visual Material.
By Erin Hurley, User Services & Accessioning Archivist
This coming Monday, September 28, 2020, is the day UNESCO has designated as International Access to Information Day. Their website notes that, this year, the day is focused on “the right to information in times of crisis and on the advantages of having constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information to save lives, build trust and help the formulation of sustainable policies through and beyond the COVID-19 crisis.” In a time of national and global crisis, this year’s theme may resonate particularly with Americans, whether it brings to mind the availability of voting information or attempts at voter suppression, or of the deliberate obfuscation of scientific data and fact by the highest levels of government.
To this end, I’d like to celebrate libraries and archives, and their explicit mission to make information accessible. UCSF Library and its Archives & Special Collections, though closed to the public since the City of San Francisco’s “shelter in place” mandate on March 16th, continues to find creative ways to help students, faculty, staff, and outside researchers access the vast stores of information that the library and archives hold, and to find ways to facilitate access across great distances.
As the User Services and Accessioning Archivist, my job is to both make collections accessible through the accessioning process, and to help users navigate the various portals through which Archives and Special Collections shares its information. This may be through finding aids on the Online Archive of California, catalog records in the UCSF Library catalog, or through brief inventories attached to finding aids that tell a user what kinds of materials they can find in a given archival collection and to help them determine whether that particular collection may be of use to them.
Though the majority of my work is still remote, I have accessioned some exciting new collections on-site over the past couple of months, which will soon be available in the above-mentioned locations. Among these is an accrual to UCSF’s Black Caucus collection, focused on the Office of UCSF Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity and Diversity. The collection was donated to A&SC in 2019, by Karen Newhouse, who served as Director of this office from 1970-2010, and includes materials documenting the work of various UCSF organizations committed to advancing diversity on campus, including Council of Minority Organizations (COMO), the Latin American Campus Association (LACA), and the pioneering Black Caucus organization, which was founded in May of 1968 – one month after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As the finding aid to the initial deposit notes, the organization is open to all Black women and men on campus, and “was instrumental in the establishment of an Affirmative Action Office, minority training programs and focused attention on the need for increased minority student enrollment at the UCSF campus.”
UCSF Black Caucus Flyer on a National Survey on Minority Admissions, January 1973, Black Caucus Records, MSS 85-38, UCSF Archives & Special Collections
Another exciting addition to the UCSF Archives includes the papers of Benjamin Libet – a neurophysiologist and professor of physiology at UCSF for nearly 50 years. Very recently donated to the Archives by his daughter Moreen, Libet’s papers consist of his personal files of research into the human brain, as well as extensive documentation of his experiments attempting to locate the origin of “free will.” The “Libet Experiment,” as it has come to be called, was conducted in the 1980s, and tried to determine whether conscious decisions first originate in the body or in the brain by asking subjects to perform simple movements while measuring their brain activity. This study seemed to indicate that the brain registers the decision to make a movement before a person is consciously aware of the decision to move, suggesting that decisions may originate in the body, and, as some have suggested, possibly disproving the idea of “free will.” This assertion of physical determinism has been much debated, and Libet’s experiments continue to be of great interest. His papers include some of the experimental devices that were constructed to help measure these brain activities, as well as handwritten notes, graphs and diagrams, and the data produced over the course these experiments. The collection is still in the process of being accessioned and inventoried, but will be available soon via OAC and the Library catalog.
If you’d like to learn more about any of these collections, or have questions about A&SC’s extensive digital collections, please feel free to get in touch.
Blog post was written in collaboration with Jazmin Dew.
When the UCSF Library closed back in March, the Archives team had to change its projects to adjust working from home. One of the projects that we were able to work on while sheltering in place is the digitization-on-demand project. This project consisted of describing and publishing digital items on Calisphere. We hoped that by working on this project we would help the public have more access to our collections remotely while the library is still closed. The digitization-on-demand project has let us create new collections and also expand existing collections. We are excited to announce that approximately 710 digital items from various collections have been publish on Calisphere. Some of these include:
San Francisco AIDS Foundation is an organization founded in 1982 to help end the HIV/AIDS epidemic through education, advocacy and direct services for prevention and care. Many of the new items digitized for this collection include photographs, letters, and flyers.
The UCSF School of Nursing collection includes photographs, correspondence, and reports. One of the items that we were able to digitize is the 50th anniversary booklet “Fifty Years A Great Beginning”. The booklet celebrates the progress of the UCSF School of Nursing and has some great photographs from the past.
Laurie Garret was a public health and policy advocate, research, and Peabody, Polk, and Pultizer Prize-winning journalist, writing about global health system global health systems, bioterrorism, and chronic and infectious diseases. The new materials added to the Laurie Garrett Papers collection detail Brazil’s national response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.
Nancy Stoller was a researcher, writer, and political activist. She wrote about the AIDS epidemic and healthcare equality under the pen name Nancy Shaw. Stoller’s two most prominent works wereÂ Lessons from the Damned: Queers, Whores, and Junkies Respond to AIDSÂ andÂ Women Resting AIDS: Feminist Strategies of Empowerment. Two interesting essays added to the Nancy Stoller Papers collection discuss how the HIV/AIDS epidemic affected the Asian and Pacific Islander community, including the impact of the Asian/Pacific AIDS Coalition (A/PAC).
Robert K. Bolan was a community doctor, president of the Board of Directors of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF), Center of Disease Control (CDC) consultant, and active participant of the Bay Area Physicians for Human Rights (BAPHR) and the National Coalition of Gay Sexually Transmitted Disease Services (NCGST). The new materials added to the Robert K. Bolan collection include multiple articles by the NCGSTD and how they informed the GLBTQ community and others about the AIDS epidemic.
To explore more new material, check out these collections on Calisphere:
When the UCSF Library closed its buildings on March 16, 2020 to comply with shelter-in-place orders, library staff, like everyone, had to adjust to a significant change in work routines and responsibilities. In particular, our Access Services staff — who normally greet visitors at the front desk, check out books and other materials, manage interlibrary loan deliveries, and provide in-person help and information — faced a sudden need to shift their focus to remote activities.
Meanwhile the interest in online access to library materials was surging, and the Archives and Special Collections (A&SC) and Industry Documents Library (IDL) staff were working hard to expand digitization-on-demand services and to create and update descriptions for digital collections.
In light of these rapidly changing developments, the Access Services and A&SC/IDL teams came together in April 2020 to pilot a new initiative, which has resulted in increased access to our digital collections and a wonderful opportunity to work with colleagues across departments. Read more about this exciting ongoing project in Library News.
By Polina Ilieva, Head of Archives and Special Collections
When HIV/AIDS first seized the nation’s attention in the early 1980s, it was a disease with no name, known cause, treatment, or cure. Beginning as a medical mystery, it turned into one of the most divisive social and political issues of the 20th century. The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) was at the forefront of medical institutions trying to understand the disease and effectively treat early AIDS patients.
From medical professionals defining the disease and developing a model of care, to activists calling for treatments and public education, this exhibition amplifies the resilience of a community not only responding to its local needs, but also breaking ground on a larger scale with efforts that continue to impact HIV/AIDS care and research today.
The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt panels displayed at San Francisco City Hall during San Francisco Lesbian and Gay Freedom Day Parade, UCSF Library, Archives and Special Collections.
UCSF Archives and Special Collections identifies, collects, preserves, and maintains rare and unique materials to support research and teaching of the health sciences and medical humanities and to preserve UCSF institutional memory. The Archives serve as the official repository for the preservation of selected records, print and born-digital materials, and realia generated by or about the UCSF, including all four schools, the Graduate Division, and the UCSF Medical Center.
The Special Collections encompasses a Rare Book Collection that includes incunabula, early printed works, and modern secondary works. The East Asian Collection is especially strong in works related to the history of Western medicine in Japan.The Japanese Woodblock Print Collection consists of 400 prints and 100 scrolls, dating from 16th to the 20th century. The Special Collections also contains papers of health care providers and researchers from San Francisco and California; historical records of UCSF hospitals; administrative records of regional health institutions; photographs and slides; motion picture films and videotapes; and oral histories focusing on development of biotechnology; the practice and science of medicine; healthcare delivery, economics, and administration; tobacco control; anesthesiology; homeopathy and alternative medicine; obstetrics and gynecology; high altitude physiology; occupational medicine; HIV/AIDS and global health.
Calisphere provides free access to California’s remarkable digital collections, which include unique and historically important artifacts from the University of California and other educational and cultural heritage institutions across the state. Calisphere provides digital access to over one million photographs, documents, letters, artwork, diaries, oral histories, films, advertisements, musical recordings, and more. Calisphere Exhibitions are curated sets of items with scholarly interpretation that contribute to historical understanding. Exhibitions tell a story by adding context to selected digital primary sources in Calisphere, thereby bringing the digital content to life. Calisphere Exhibitions are curated by contributing institutions and undergo editorial review. We are currently refining these processes, which are outlined in the Contributor Help Center. Please contact us if you’re interested in learning more about Calisphere Exhibitions.
This week, we join the International Council on Archives and colleagues around the world in celebrating archives and their role in empowering knowledge societies. Against a pervasive backdrop of disinformation, manipulated facts, and extreme prejudice which has fostered such horrific pain and suffering in our world, we recognize the value of archives and all those who uphold truth, accountability, and justice.
Archives perform an essential function as keepers of the records of evidence of human activities and experience. They directly encourage the creation of knowledge, the affirmation of the histories and identities of individuals and communities, and the transparency and accountability of government and other entities of power. Archives are not dusty enclaves of archaic knowledge for the privileged; they are living repositories of information which should reflect our societies, our decisions, and our lived experience. To celebrate archives is to celebrate a record of human progress, and to celebrate our collective ability to scrutinize and call out disparities and injustices embedded in that progress.
The theme of this year’s International Archives Week is Empowering Knowledge Societies. The concept of a “knowledge society” emerged from work first attributed to the management theorist Peter Drucker in the 1960s, and by the 1990s was being defined and contrasted against the idea of an “information society” as the proliferation of technologies like the internet and World Wide Web increased the production and spread of data. A crucial difference is that an information society is one which simply creates and disseminates raw data, often relying on technological innovation; a knowledge society is one which can study and evaluate that data in context to create knowledge which informs action.
Beyond our validation and promotion of these principles, archives and libraries must design our workflows and services to actively enable and empower these pillars of knowledge societies. Here at UCSF Archives & Special Collections, we strive to empower knowledge societies by providing open access to our collections, to the greatest extent possible, to all users, regardless of location or affiliation. We practice collection development which is aware and inclusive of diverse cultures and communities in the history of the health sciences, and we work to amplify voices which have historically been silenced or marginalized. We preserve evidence of harmful activities in industries which influence public health to enable researchers, policymakers, and members of the public to thoroughly investigate these sources and determine the best course of action to protect the health of our communities and our environment.
In 2005 UNESCO published a World Report titled Towards Knowledge Societies to lay out the global benefits of building knowledge societies, and the challenges many countries face in reaching that goal. The report emphasizes that “knowledge has not only become one of the keys to economic development; it also contributes to human development and individual empowerment. In this sense, knowledge is a source of power because it creates a capacity for action.”
We continue to work towards empowering knowledge societies through archives, to enable the action that’s urgently needed to address the systemic inequalities, racism, violence and injustice threatening the lives of people of color and the future of our communities worldwide. We are committed to building this capacity in partnership with and in awareness of the histories and experiences of all people, in respect and solidarity.
In his recent article Dr. Brian Dolan looks at the politics of protests during the 1918 influenza epidemic in San Francisco.
“On April 17, 2020, San Francisco Mayor London Breed did something that had not been done for 101 years. She issued an order that face masks be worn in public as a measure to help prevent the spread of infectious disease in the midst of a pandemic. This act promptly raised questions about how things were handled a century ago. The media soon picked up on the antics of an “Anti-Mask League” that was formed in San Francisco to protest this inconvenience, noting some historical parallels with current public complaints about government overreach. This essay dives deeper into the historical context of the anti-mask league to uncover more information about the identity and possible motivations of those who organized these protests. In particular it shines light on the fascinating presence of the leading woman in the campaign—lawyer, suffragette, and civil rights activist, Mrs. E.C. Harrington.” Read the full story in Perspectives in Medical Humanities (UC Medical Humanities Consortium, May 19, 2020)
This is a guest post by Aaron J. Jackson, M.A, Ph.D. Candidate, UCSF History of Health Sciences.
From time to time, events in the
present so closely resemble events from the past that the aphorism “history
repeats itself” seems feasible. This can be demonstrated by comparing the
current crisis of the novel coronavirus with the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919.
The similarities are compelling. Like the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, the variety
of H1N1 influenza that swept across the world in 1918 and 1919 produced a
significant shock. It spread like wildfire, was frustratingly resistant to
contemporary therapeutics, exhibited novel characteristics, and forced
governments to resort to what some considered to be heavy-handed public health
interventions. Bay Area residents in 1918 were required to wear masks and
practice social distancing, just as they are required to do so today. Such
historical similarities are not, however, proof that history repeats itself.
But they do provide interesting opportunities for comparison between the past
and the present—opportunities that hold the potential to make the past more relatable
by building connections through common circumstances. And perhaps, through that
understanding, an opportunity for hope to shine in dark times.
This post is not an exhaustive
study comparing 1918 and 2020. Rather, it focuses on responses to crises and
specifically the ways that communities innovatively addressed shortages of
personal protective equipment (PPE). So, of course, it will be about war,
pandemics, socks, and sheet protectors. Naturally.
When the United States declared
war on the Imperial Government of Germany in April 1917, the nation was
woefully unprepared for the conflict. The war represented an unprecedented
crisis—one that required the federal government to assume new powers in order
to coordinate the resources of the entire nation. President Woodrow Wilson’s
administration worked with Congress to institute a draft to raise an army,
enacted strict economic control measures to conserve and direct resources
towards the production of war materiel, and passed laws that infringed on civil
liberties, all in the name of the war effort. To ensure public support for
these moves, the government mounted a massive propaganda campaign that appealed
to a specific version of American patriotism, appealing to citizens’ sense of
Mustering an army of sufficient size presented significant challenges. The men not only had to be inducted into military service—either by volunteering or being drafted—they required hundreds of training camps, transportation to those camps, equipment to train with, uniforms to wear. Once at the camps, they required food, shelter, and medical support. Military training was and remains a dangerous business, but the most significant medical problem at the cantonments was disease.
As tens of thousands of American
recruits assembled at Army camps across the United States, they unwittingly
brought diseases with them, which found ample opportunity to spread in cramped
camp conditions. Most of these infections fell into the category of “common
respiratory unknown disease”—an unofficial designation among military recruits
who learned to add C.R.U.D. to the lexicon of military acronyms they learned.
The crud largely consisted of the common cold and other respiratory infections,
but cases of measles, mumps, and chicken pox were also common. Most cases of
the crud cleared up without need for treatment, but the prevalence of these
infections and the fact that new waves of infections would spring up with every
new trainload of recruits had the effect of masking a more dangerous threat.
Army physicians first identified more than 100 soldiers who had developed a
rather severe flu-like illness in March 1918. Within a week, the number of flu
cases at Fort Riley was over 500 and climbing. The H1N1 virus that caused the
influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 had arrived, but the nation was focused on the
war. And as American troops began arriving in France and moving into the front
lines—many of them no doubt bringing the virus with them—medical personnel
tasked with supporting the war effort shifted their focus from induction
screening and camp illnesses to other health concerns.
The First World War introduced a bevy of new ways to mangle and maim human bodies. From high-velocity rifle rounds and machine guns to high-explosive artillery shells, flamethrowers, hand grenades, aerial bombardment, and chemical weapons, the U.S. Army Medical Corps understood that the hospital system it established in France had to be prepared first and foremost for trauma care, which posed significant challenges. Not only did modern weapons cause extensive damage, the risks of sepsis and gangrene in an era before the discovery of antibiotics were high. Complicating this, European battlefields tended to stretch across agricultural land, teeming with bacteria after years of fertilization. Soldiers wounded on the front lines thus ran an extremely high risk of bacterial infection. To address this, the Medical Corps and its affiliates prioritized training Army health care workers in antiseptic wound care.
The experiences of the personnel of Base Hospital No. 30 are instructive in this regard. Base Hospital Thirty was the military hospital unit assembled from physicians, surgeons, and nurses associated with the University of California’s School of Medicine—the precursor to UCSF. Organized with the help of the American Red Cross Society shortly after Congress declared war, the unit spent more than a year training for the anticipated challenges of running a hospital for wounded soldiers in France. The unit’s nurses received orders to depart San Francisco on December 26, 1917 and reported to Army cantonment camps along the East Coast to help care for soldiers who had fallen ill with the crud, gaining invaluable experience in nursing soldiers and recognizing disease presentation. The unit’s surgeons practiced the ancient technique of wound debridement—removing foreign objects and cutting away dead and dying flesh to produce a clean wound—and attended clinical instruction that prepared them for the types of injuries they would face. And the unit’s corpsmen trained in the production and use of the Carrell-Dakin solution, a novel antiseptic more effective than carbolic acid and iodine but also a solution that required careful training and preparation. Thanks to training like this, the base hospital system was able to treat more than 300,000 sick and wounded soldiers with remarkably low mortality rates compared to previous wars.
Indeed, the medical apparatus and personnel organized to support the American Expeditionary Forces were well prepared for the anticipated hazards of the war. But in one of the remarkable parallels to the current coronavirus crisis, their job was perhaps made more difficult by the failure of American logistics in providing adequate personal protective equipment. But the shortage in 1918 was not one of N95 masks; rather, it was a matter of needing socks.
Today, the Occupational Safety
and Health Administration defines PPE as “equipment worn to minimize exposure
to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses.”[i]
Under this definition, and in the context of soldiering, a good pair of socks
certainly applies. Trench warfare was a dirty business. It also tended to be
cold and wet—the perfect climate for a condition known today as “trench foot.”
Afflicted soldiers’ feet would go numb, swell, develop sore and infections, and
in extreme cases become gangrenous, possibly requiring amputation. Obviously,
this ran the risk of keeping soldiers from the front lines and thus undermining
the war effort. But ensuring a plentiful supply of clean dry socks somehow
slipped through the cracks of the Army’s logistical efforts to prepare for the
war. Fortunately, the American Red Cross and thousands of civilian volunteers
found ways to meet the challenge.
Beginning in 1917, the Red Cross put out calls for knitted garments, especially socks. The organization distributed officially-endorsed knitting patterns and free wool to anyone willing to “knit your bit.” The Priscilla War Work Book contains roughly a dozen such patterns ranging from socks to coats and winter hats.[ii] But the demand was greatest for socks. Across the country, knitters worked individually at home and collectively in social groups to try to keep up with the demand. Those who could not knit were urged to purchase or donate wool for the cause. Some organizations turned to mechanical solutions. The Seattle Red Cross utilized a knitting machine to produce long wool tubes that could be cut into 27-inch lengths, requiring only the toes to be stitched by hand.[iii] In this way, those behind the front lines were able to support the war effort by providing the PPE the soldiers needed to keep themselves in fighting shape.
Celebrating the end
of the First World War in San Francisco, November 11, 1918. Image from The San Francisco Chronicle files.
The knitting campaign continued
until the war ended with the declaration of the armistice on November 11, 1918.
By then, the nation was in the midst of the first wave of the influenza
pandemic. On October 9, 1918, San Francisco’s hospitals reported 169 influenza
cases. A week later, there were more than 2,000 and the city’s Board of Health
issued recommendations for social distancing.[iv]
With so many health care professionals supporting the war effort, the Bay
Area’s medical infrastructure was stretched to the limit and cities put out
calls for volunteers. Hospital space soon became a valuable commodity and many
facilities, including the Oakland Municipal Auditorium, were converted into
temporary hospitals, and public health officials began recommending the use of
face masks, which they later made mandatory.[v]
But it is important to remember that these were local efforts to respond to the
pandemic. The federal government, which had mustered the resources of the
entire nation to fight the war in Europe, was unwilling to do the same to
combat the pandemic at home, leaving it up to local authorities, medical
institutions, and volunteer organizations to make do as best they could.
Unfortunately, we find ourselves
in a similar situation today. As the novel coronavirus took on pandemic
proportions, stores of PPE for frontline healthcare workers reached critical
levels. Before the pandemic, China produced approximately half the world’s
supply of medical masks. As the infection spread in China, their exports
stopped, and the resulting shortage spurred competition between institutions
and governments to secure PPE, which only exacerbated the situation.
Thankfully, a multidisciplinary team at UCSF found a way to be a part of the
solution, echoing the efforts of American knitters from over a century ago.
Noting the need for face shields, experts at UCSF specializing in biochemistry, engineering, logistics, medical workplace safety, and 3D model design came together in March 2020 to develop something that could help address the PPE shortage. By April, the team completed designs for three different models of 3D-printable face shield frames that, when combined with rubber bands and transparent document protectors, serve as functional and reusable face shields. They then collected seventeen 3D printers from across the university and turned the UCSF Makers Lab in the Kalmanovitz Library into an ad hoc face shield factory that can produce more than 300 shields each day—enough to supply UCSF’s front-line health care workers and then some.[vi] Extra shields are distributed to Bay Area hospitals. Moreover, like the Red Cross with the distribution of the Priscilla War Work Book, the UCSF team is sharing their plans in an open source repository so that others can emulate their efforts.[vii] This allows those with access to 3D printers and a few dollars’ worth of office supplies to contribute to the ongoing PPE shortage by producing face shields that have been designed, tested, and vetted by experts at one of the nation’s leading medical institutions.
Certainly, there are remarkable
similarities to be drawn between the modern crisis and those in the past. Once
again, the government was unprepared for a crisis despite advanced warning.
Once again, people are working in the front lines to save others despite
inadequate supplies. And once again, like the First World War and the influenza
pandemic of 1918-1919, the coronavirus pandemic is a devastating event likely
to be measured in the tally of lives lost. In the face of such grim statistics,
it is easy to fall into cynicism and say that history is repeating.
In 1905, philosopher George
Santayana explored the notion of progress—the idea that things move toward
improvement—and stated that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned
to repeat it.”[viii]
This is likely the origin of the aphorism “history repeats itself.” But Santaya
was not making a hopeless argument; rather, he noted that if progress is to be achieved,
it will be because humans not only record the past, they engage with it, learn
from it, and seek to understand it. And how that is achieved depends on the
ability to draw relatable connections with the past that emphasize human
agency. In 1918, knitters took up their needles. Today, a team of scientists,
engineers, and others figured out how to make face shields using 3D printers
and office supplies. These may seem like small contributions in the grand
scheme of things, but they are important examples of positive human agency in
the face of crisis.
Schappel Barsaloux and the American National Red Cross, The Priscilla War
Work Book: Including Directions for Knitted Garments and Comfort Kits from the
American Red Cross, and Knitted Garments for the Boy Scout. Boston, Mass.:
The Priscilla Publishing Company, 1917. Available at the HathiTrust Digital
By Erin Hurley, User Services & Accessioning Archivist
Although, in 2020, advice like “wash your hands” and “cover
your mouth when you cough” seem fairly obvious and common sense, there was a
time when this was not the case. That time was March 1855, when the situation
in British hospitals outside of Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) during
the Crimean War had become so dire that Florence Nightingale and 40 other women
acting as trained volunteer nurses were finally allowed access to patients
(they had previously been denied access because of their gender). Hospitals
were overcrowded and extremely unsanitary conditions encouraged the spread of
infectious diseases like cholera, typhoid, typhus and dysentery, which Nightingale
recognized immediately. She implemented basic cleanliness measures, such as
baths for patients, clean facilities, and fresh linens, and advocated for an
approach that addressed the psychological and emotional, as well as the
physical, needs of patients. Her improvements brought a dramatic decline in the
mortality rate at these hospitals, which had previously been as high as 40%.
While Nightingale is well known as one of the world’s first nurses, she is less well known for her strikingly lovely data visualizations (including pie charts and a rose-shaped design called the “coxcomb”), which she used to highlight the number of deaths from diseases, in addition to deaths from wounds or injury, during the Crimean War. Nightingale, a mathematician and statistician, recognized the importance of eye-catching visuals in communicating the impact of her innovations.
Please join me in welcoming our new User Services and Accessioning Archivist, Erin Hurley. Below is her bio:
“My name is Erin Hurley, and I’m excited to join the UCSF Archives & Special Collections team. I have a BA in English and Art History from Oberlin College, and an MLIS in Archival Studies and Informatics from UCLA. I’m originally from Cleveland, Ohio, but I have lived in California for 16 years, and in San Francisco for 13 of those years. I’ve worked as an archivist at places like the Getty Research Institute, the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library in Los Angeles, Stanford University, and the California Historical Society.
I live in the Sunset, and I love going to the beach, visiting the Botanical Garden, and exploring Golden Gate Park. I’m a huge music fan, and worked at Amoeba Music on Haight Street for five years, in addition to being active in college radio at Oberlin. I love to read, especially fiction, memoir, poetry, and biographies. I’m also a fan of ambitious cooking projects and dogs.”
We are delighted to announce a launch of an online exhibit, Shanti Projects: Histories of Shanti Project and the AIDS Crisis curated by University of Minnesota American Studies graduate student Brendan McHugh. It documents Shanti Project’s AIDS care work during the early decades of the AIDS crisis. Since 1974 Shanti has provided psychosocial peer support counseling to people with life-threatening illnesses and their loved ones in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. During the early years of the AIDS crisis, Shanti rose to the challenge by creating groundbreaking services for people living with AIDS/HIV. For much of the 1980s and 1990s Shanti was one of the largest AIDS organizations in the U.S. The plurality of the exhibit’s title reflects the vast array of people’s experiences at Shanti during that time period, as well as those who work with Shanti today. Visit the exhibit at https://shantiprojects.dash.umn.edu.
Shanti Projects is organized to reflect the process of becoming involved with Shanti as a volunteer. Alongside the main exhibit are three multimedia pages showcasing the work of photographers Judi Iranyi, Mariella Poli, and Jim Wigler and their portraits of people with AIDS/HIV who played important roles with Shanti. In the future, the final page Active Listening will provide audio clips from oral histories conducted for this project with accompanying transcripts to follow. Additional materials and sources have been provided by The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Historical Society, University of California, San Francisco, and generous interviewees personal materials.
There will also be a newsletter published monthly to announce updates on new material and events connected to the exhibit. Please sign up through the link on the exhibit website. For more information contact Brendan McHugh at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Robert E. Allen, Jr., MD, (1935-2018), was born in Blountstown, Florida and always aspired to become a doctor. In pursuit of his dreams, Allen received a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Florida A&M University, master’s degree in Genetics from Michigan State University, and a doctorate in Medicine from Meharry Medical College. He completed his residency in surgery at UC San Francisco, and a fellowship in surgery oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Allen also completed two additional postdoctoral fellowships in surgery at the National Institute of Health and peripheral vascular research at San Francisco General Hospital. As a SFGH fellow in trauma, he organized the ambulance paramedic program while training under F. William Blaisdell, MD.
Dr. Allen began his career at UCSF as a Surgical Oncologist,
specializing in Melanoma Surgery. He soon became the first Black Clinical
Professor of Surgery at UC San Francisco, serving as a faculty member for over
Allen was a cofounder of the Northern California Melanoma
Center with Dr. Lynn E. Spitler and other surgeons. Here, he participated in
consultation panels and surgeries on the Center’s patients until his
He has authored many articles for medical periodicals, wrote
chapters in medical publications, and spoke a medical conventions throughout
the United States and Europe. In addition, he was a member of various honor
societies, including the UCSF Naffziger Surgical Society.
To learn more about Dr. Allen’s work, check out these articles:
Vicki Alexander, MD, has dedicated her life to improving the social determinants of public health.
Alexander attended the UC San Francisco, where she completed her medical degree and residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1974. She went on to Columbia University, where she obtained her master’s degree in Public Health.
Dr. Alexander began as an Ob-Gyn Clinical Instructor at San Francisco General Hospital. She soon became the director of SFGH’s Perinatal Health Project, which served high-risk mothers and infants in the community. Alexander then relocated to New York, working as a clinical instructor and chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Harlem Hospital. Eventually, she returned to the west coast and became the Maternal Child Health Director and Health Officer for the City of Berkeley until she retired in 2006.
Alexander has participated in many organizations to improve the living conditions for women and children, including: Rainbow Coalition, Center for Constitutional Rights, Reproductive Rights National Network, Planned Parenthood, City Material and Child Health.
In 1978, she established the Coalition to Fight Infant Mortality in Oakland, which helped women with medical care and social issues.
In 2000, Alexander began the Black Infant Health program in Berkeley, which grew from her coalition at Highland Hospital. This was the foundational step to the creation of the Alameda County Coalition to decrease infant mortality.
Alexander is also the current founder and board president of Healthy Black Families (HBF), Inc., which dovetails with the Black Infant Health program. It was founded as a non-profit organization in July 2013 to support the health, growth, development, and future of Black individuals and families.
For her devotion towards health and social justice, Dr. Vicki has won many awards, including: Women of the Year Award (2011); Martin Luther King, Lifetime Achievement Award (2014); National Jefferson Award for Community Service (2015); Alameda County African American Black History Month Award (2017); Madame CJ Walker Award for Black Women (2017); and 15th Assembly District Woman of the Year Award (2017).
To learn more about Dr. Vicki, check out these articles available in our digital collection on HathiTrust and Synapse Archive:
Please meet our new archives assistant, Jazmin Dew who will be helping with diverse archival
projects in the next few months. Below is Jazmin’s bio:
“My name is Jazmin Dew and I am thrilled to join the archives team as a temporary Archives Assistant. As a brief introduction, I have graduated from CSU, Sacramento with a Bachelor’s degree in Food and Nutrition. Currently, I am attending Clarion University’s Information and Library Science online graduate program. I also have a broad range of experience working in various types of libraries, such as Vacaville Public Library as a Coordinator and Concord High School’s library as an Instructional Media Assistant. During my time at the UCSF Archives & Special Collections, I am excited to gain more practical experience as well as an in-depth look into the archives and special collections field. I look forward to working with you all over the next few months.”
UCSF Archives & Special
Collections was awarded a $14,986 local assistance grant by the California
State Library for the “Documenting the LGBTQ Health Equity Movement in
California’s LGBTQ History
is a grant program that funds projects that support physical and/or digital
preservation and digitization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer
(LGBTQ) materials relating to California history and culture. This California
State Library program will award a total of $500,000 in one-time grants for
projects from large archival institutions with a global reach, as well as
smaller, localized collections. The program aims to preserve materials that
demonstrate the significant role of LGBTQ Californians and the LGBTQ movement
in this state, as well as providing a more comprehensive and inclusive view of
The UCSF project will support
preservation through processing and partial digitization of two collections
documenting the LGBTQ health equity movement in California:
• San Francisco AIDS Foundation Magnet Program Records
• UCSF LGBT Resource Center Records
The San Francisco AIDS
Foundation (SFAF) Magnet Program is a health and wellness program located in
the SFAF’s Strut Center in the heart of the Castro District of San Francisco.
They offer community events, sexual health services, substance use counseling,
PrEP, HIV and STI testing, learning events and rotating art displays from queer
artists. In spring 2001, a Community
Advisory Board comprised of community members, social workers, and activists
began meeting regularly to discuss how to proceed with the development of a new
Gay Men’s Health Center. The new center chose
to address gay men’s health in innovative ways instead of simply replicating
existing programs in a new location. Since 2003, Magnet’s overarching vision
has been to promote the physical, mental, and social well-being of gay men.
Magnet activities are guided by the following core values of the agency:
self-determination, access, sexual expression, diversity, and leadership.
Magnet provides individual STI/HIV services and community programs including
book readings, art exhibits, town hall forums, and other social events. In 2007
Magnet merged with the SFAF to increase the services available to men
throughout the Bay Area. Magnet also serves transgender, gender non-conforming,
gender non-binary, and gender-queer people.
This collection includes
founding documents, surveys of clients, assessments of services, marketing
materials, advocacy campaigns, photographs, community art pieces, and posters
documenting the establishment and activities of the Magnet program.
The LGBT Resource Center
serves as the hub for all queer life at UCSF, including the campus and medical
center. It works toward creating and maintaining a safe, inclusive, and
equitable environment for LGBTQIA+ students, staff, faculty, post-docs,
residents, fellows, alumni, and patients. It aims to sustain visibility and a
sense of community throughout the many campus sites. This community takes an
intersectional approach and is committed to building workplace equity,
promoting student and staff leadership, and providing high-quality,
culturally-congruent care to UCSF patients. Founded in 1998, it was the first
LGBT resource center in a health science institution.
This collection includes the center’s
founding documents, traces the earlier LGBT community activities in the 1970s
through the 1980s, and contains materials chronicling the history and evolution
of the center. It also includes records of diverse events organized by the
center: Coming Out Monologues, Trans Day of Remembrance & Resilience, and
Trans Day of Visibility, as well as correspondence and announcements related to
OUTlist, Mentoring Program, and Annual LGBTQIA+ Health Forum. These materials also
document UC-wide advocacy work for providing equal benefits for same-sex
The UCSF Archives & Special
Collections have been working on preserving materials documenting the LGBTQ
health equity movement in California. These two recently acquired collections
will enable researchers to investigate these communities’ efforts to address health-related
issues and advocate for health equity.
The Magnet collections allow researchers to
investigate how the “San Francisco model” of AIDS care continued to evolve in
the twenty-first century by providing free and equitable health care, education,
and community space. Both collections contribute to an understanding of the
medical, social, and political processes that merged to develop effective means
of treating those with AIDS and other illnesses.
Diverse audiences will benefit
from having access to this project’s archival collections, including scholars
in disciplines such as medicine, nursing, jurisprudence, journalism, history
and sociology, college students, and members of the general public pursuing
individual areas of interest.
The collections included in
this project are currently only accessible at the UCSF Archives reading room.
The digitization of these collections will grant access to these valuable
primary sources and other hard-to-find materials to scholars, students, and
others worldwide. This project will significantly expand the historical record
of the LGBTQ health equity movement in California and make a new corpus of
materials related to the movement’s progress discoverable to a broad audience.
Over the past three decades, UCSF Archives & Special Collections has played a vital role in documenting the AIDS epidemic.
We are seeking your help to maintain and grow the AIDS History Project (AHP) archive as a critical, one-of-a-kind public record of the institutions and individuals involved in containing and treating the HIV both locally, and worldwide.
Your generosity advances vital work to collect, preserve, and provide universal access to stories of the AIDS epidemic.
35 years have passed since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, and many of the original researchers, health care providers, and community activists who were on the front lines of defense against HIV have now begun to retire from public service. There is an urgent need to collect, preserve, and provide open access to their collections.
Your support will allow us to:
Catalog and digitize recently acquired collections, including, papers of Drs. Jay Levy and Steven G. Deeks, SF AIDS Foundation records
Record a new set of oral histories with clinicians, researchers, pharmaceutical and biotech scientists, health care workers, activists, community members, patients, and their family members
Expand the AIDS History Project statewide scope, solicit and acquire material fro regional community health centers
Organize exhibits and public events to share materials and stories preserved in the archives
Since 1963, the UCSF Archives & Special Collections holdings
have included the historic Danz collection of ocular pathology specimens. The
set, one of 13 believed to have been made, was originally intended as a
teaching tool for use in medical schools. These blown orbs, some still retaining
a long delicate stem, were made in Germany, in the 1880’s, by master
glassblower, Amandus Muller. Each glass eyeball depicts, in minute detail, the
various diseases and defects that can afflict the eye and is a unique
masterpiece of the art of glass making.
In June 2018 the collection was examined by Tracy Power and Lesley Bone to determine the nature and scope of condition problems that these objects. Past treatments and current breakages were evaluated, the deterioration of the glass was examined, and current storage conditions were assessed.
While the majority of the glass eyeballs were in stable
condition, there were ironically a couple that were themselves suffering from
glass disease. This presents with a sticky surface; as a component of the glass
leaches out of the surface due to an instability in the glass mix. These
surfaces readily attract dust.
Of the previously repaired items, some were in stable
condition, but most were in poor condition due to deterioration of the repair
materials used and inferior skills of the person or people doing the repairs. One
particularly peculiar repair was filled with bright red dental wax.
The eyeballs were stored in their original compartmented box, with light damaged (faded), velvet-covered cavities for each specimen, and a hinged lid with a glass cover. The box was still serviceable, but the cavities for the eyeballs had wads of old cotton wool, which was not suitable for the collection since the blown balls retained the thin tubular glass extensions that had been snapped from the rod when the ball was blown. These tended to snag on the cotton.
A treatment plan was agreed upon which would include
upgrading the storage container, cleaning all of the glass eyeballs, and
repairing the broken glass orbs.
The eyeballs were removed
sequentially for cleaning, and at that time the cavities in the display box
were cleaned and new, improved supports were made. The old cotton wool was replaced with new
storage materials that will not be as likely to snag the glass tips. Small pillows were made of polyester batting
in Holytex fabric. The glass pane in the
box was cleaned with detergent and water.
Several discolored areas of paper on the box were toned with conservation
stable watercolors and some lifting edges of paper were glued down.
Cleaning of the glass eyeballs
Each glass eyeball was
carefully cleaned. A detergent designed
specifically for cleaning glass was used for this process. Handling the eyeballs safely was a major
concern and we ended up using foam tubes to make little doughnuts for the glass
balls to sit in. The foam was held in
place with toothpicks, so their creation and adjustment was relatively quick.
During the cleaning we identified some additional cracks in the glass eyeballs
that hadn’t been obvious until they were wet up. This step was very satisfying as the eyeballs
went from dull and cloudy to glistening after cleaning.
Repairing of Glass Eyeballs
Before the eyeballs could be repaired,
those with unsightly or failing old repairs had to be undone. The method varied depending on the types of
repair materials previously used.
Several of the repairs had been done with red wax. The wax remained soft and sticky making it
messy and it did not closely resemble glass.
The wax material was removed by gently warming it. Some of the other old adhesives had failed after
becoming brittle. The brittle material
could be brushed from the surfaces, with special care taken to not scratch the
glass. Other old repair materials were
removed with solvents.
the individual eyeballs was the most challenging part of the process, as they
are thin and delicate. Added to that,
the high-grade epoxy that was designed for glass conservation can take several
days to fully set. While this can be advantageous,
as it allows adjustment of pieces, it also means the fine shards have to be
held in place for long periods of time while the resin sets. An advantage of
this epoxy is that it is very thin and can be fed by capillary action into
cracks. That property was useful for
many of the eyeballs. Also this adhesive has the added advantage of being far
superior to commercially available epoxy resins in terms of long-term stability
and greater light-stability, therefore it does not yellow like commercially
Once the eyeballs were repaired, a few had areas where the fragments of the glass were still missing. Glass eyeballs that were incomplete were filled with tinted thermoplastic resin mixtures and details such as veins, were inpainted (inpainting is the process of restoring lost or deteriorated surface decoration or details on an artwork) with commercially ground pigments in acrylic resin.
The glass eyeballs were incredible to work on. They were beautifully made, if often difficult to look at. Only one of the eyeballs examined was failing due to unstable glass, or a poor match between the cream under layer and the colored surface glass. The glass blower had incredible mastery in working with glass in addition to skill in depicting the defects and conditions. We hope that after this conservation project the glass eyeballs continue to illustrate medical conditions and inspire awe for years to come.
This is a guest post by exhibit curator Sabrina Oliveros
When HIV/AIDS first seized the nation’s attention in the early 1980s, it was a disease with no name, known cause, treatment, or cure. Beginning as a medical mystery, it turned into one of the most divisive social and political issues of the 20th century.
October 1, 2019, UCSF Archives & Special Collections is opening the exhibit
They Were Really Us: The UCSF Community’s Early Response to AIDS.
Featuring materials from the Archives’ extensive AIDS History Project Collections, the show highlights ways individual
professionals affiliated with UCSF acted to address HIV/AIDS following its
outbreak. Their responses included working in and with the larger San Francisco
community – and continue to impact HIV/AIDS care and research today.
exhibit title comes from a statement by Dr. Paul Volberding, who co-founded the
country’s first dedicated AIDS Clinic in 1983; he now serves as the Director of
patients were exactly our age… all those other ways that we tend to separate
ourselves meant very little when you realize that the patients had gone to the
same schools, they listened to the same music, they went to the same
restaurants. So they were really us… which added to the commitment that I think
all of us had.”
The first proofs of that
commitment are traced through displays on the main lobby (third floor) of the
Here, papers, slides,
photographs, and artifacts help outline early milestones in HIV/AIDS research
and care. These include the foundation of the Kaposi’s Sarcoma Clinic at UCSF, which
sought to understand the mysterious “cancer” that turned out to be AIDS; the
discovery of the HIV virus in 1983 by Dr. Jay Levy; the establishment of the
outpatient and inpatient AIDS clinics at San Francisco General Hospital; and
the development of the holistic San Francisco Model of AIDS Care.
Pioneering and compassionate,
this model treated people with AIDS not simply as patients requiring medical
attention, but as complex individuals also in need of psychological, social,
economic, and political support.
Excerpts from the diary of Bobbi
Campbell – a UCSF nursing student
who championed the People With AIDS Self-Empowerment Movement – help tell some
of these individual stories. So do a selection of newsletters and other
materials that lend voices to persons with AIDS.
loaned section of the AIDS Memorial Quilt caps off the displays.
outbreak of HIV/AIDS devastated the city of San Francisco; it also mobilized the
community. Exhibits on the first floor of the library showcase the work done by
community organizations that, beyond the medical front, fought HIV/AIDS.
of posters – mostly from UCSF’s longest-running partners, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Shanti Project – represent outreach and educational
campaigns necessary to combat the disease. Materials from Mobilization Against AIDS and the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power
(ACT-UP) speak to the political battle that AIDS became.
the fifth floor of the library, displays touch on two more milestones following
first, UCSF’s sponsoring of the 6th International Conference on
AIDS, is one of the many
examples of how physicians and researchers have expanded their work on a global
scale. Revisiting this 1990 conference is timely, as the 23rd
International Conference on AIDS
will take place in Oakland and San Francisco in July next year – the first time
the conference will be in the Bay Area in nearly three decades.
second milestone, the founding of the AIDS Research Institute in 1996, puts a
focus on the UCSF’s continuing efforts to find a cure, and end HIV/AIDS once
and for all.
This workshop is supported by California Revealed and administered in California by the State Librarian. The program is made possible by funding from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act.
This is a guest post by Rhea Misra, PhD Candidate, UCSF Biomedical Sciences (BMS) Program
In reading “The Black Politics of Eugenics,” I learned about how eugenics was not initially a negative concept. Eugenics relates to the idea of human improvement through reproduction and understanding hereditary. It has been associated with Nazi doctrine; however, Nuriddin brings up in the article that, at one point, eugenics was embraced by marginalized communities to combat scientific racism and improve racial equality. The idea that marginalized communities would embrace eugenics to combat scientific racism, reminds me how slurs and negative concepts are reclaimed by these same communities that are harmed by such things to bring about improvement or change. This article also made me reflect on if eugenics, in the modern times, could ever have a positive association? I am not sure I have an answer to that. On one hand and thinking about the research I conduct, genomic editing tools such as using CRISPR or AAVs to make changes to genome have become commonplace. Because of the inherent nature of these genetic tools, do they fall under the category of eugenics? They have been used to treat diseases. In a previous course, I had met a patient who had undergone gene therapy to treat his hemophilia, and now no longer requires blood transfusions. But on the other hand, gene editing tools have been used in some cases to make cosmetic edits. The whole idea of human improvement in eugenics comes with deeming certain traits better than the other; thus, marginalizing certain groups of people. Because of the inherent “othering” that comes with eugenics, I can understand how it quickly turned into a negative concept utilized to uphold a racist system rather than breaking it down.