Celebrating Black faculty at UCSF, past and present

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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. [1] 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.[2] 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.

Mindy Thompson Fullilove

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.”[3] 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.

Haile T. Debas, photo courtesy of UCSF University Relations

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.”[4] 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.”[5] 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.[6]  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.


[1] “Faculty – Mindy Fullilove,” The New School Milano, accessed February 18, 2021,  https://www.newschool.edu/milano/faculty/mindy-fullilove/.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Haile Debas, MD,” UCSF Department of Surgery, accessed February 18, 2021, https://surgery.ucsf.edu/faculty/general-surgery/haile-debas,-md.aspx.

[4] Rachel Cox, “10 years, 10 campuses, one trailblazing career: Haile Debas reflects on UCGHI,” November 5, 2019, https://ucghi.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/10-years-10-campuses-one-trailblazing-career-haile-debas-reflects-ucghi.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Alexi Callen, “UCSF Department of Surgery Accepting Applications for 2020 Haile T. Debas Diversity Fellowship for Fourth Year Medical Students,” April 21, 2020, https://surgery.ucsf.edu/news-events/ucsf-news.aspx?id=84895/UCSF Department of Surgery Accepting Applications for 2020 Haile T. Debas Diversity Fellowship for Fourth Year Medical Students.

UCSF Black Caucus Records Re-description Project

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This post has been written by Jazmin Dew.

Group photograph of the original Members at the UCSF Black Caucus Gala in February 2005. From left to right are Elba Clemente-Lambert, Charles Clarey, Claudette Coleman, Freeman Bradley, Anitra (Koehler) Patterson, Paul Porter, Leon Johnson, and Walter "Pop" Nelson (sitting).
Founding members at the UCSF Black Caucus Gala in February 2005. From the left to right: Elba Clemente-Lambert, Charles Clarey, Claudette Coleman, Freeman Bradley, Anitra (Koehler) Patterson, Paul Porter, Leon Johnson, and Walter “Pop” Nelson (sitting).

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.

Group photograph of the founding members of the UCSF Black Caucus in December 2013 taken at the Millberry Union following Dr. Daniel Lowenstein’s “Last Lecture Series” at Cole Hall. Standing, left to right, are Bill Stevens, Joseph Lambert, Elba Clemente-Lambert, Michael Adams, Norma Faris Taylor, Dr. John Watson, and Charles Clarey. Sitting, left to right, are Joanne Lewis, Carol Yates, Ethel Adams, Crystal Morris, Karen Newhouse.
Founding members of the UCSF Black Caucus in December 2013 at the Millberry Union following Dr. Daniel Lowenstein’s “Last Lecture Series” at Cole Hall. . Standing, left to right, are Bill Stevens, Joseph Lambert, Elba Clemente-Lambert, Michael Adams, Norma Faris Taylor, Dr. John Watson, and Charles Clarey. Sitting, left to right, are Joanne Lewis, Carol Yates, Ethel Adams, Crystal Morris, Karen Newhouse.

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 sitting
Elba Clemente-Lambert

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.

To learn more about the current activities of the UCSF Black Caucus, check out this link: https://blackcaucus.ucsf.edu/

To explore more materials from the UCSF Black Caucus Records, check out the collection on digital portal, Calisphere and the Online Archive of California (OAC).

“Unmasking History: Who Was Behind the Anti-Mask League Protests During the 1918 Influenza Epidemic in San Francisco?” an article by Dr. Brian Dolan

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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)