Irene Pope, Nurse and Activist

This is a guest post by Griffin Burgess, ZSFG Archivist.

In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, we’re recognizing Irene Pope, nurse and activist.

Irene Pope

Irene Pope was born in Berkeley, CA and graduated from the UCSF School of Nursing in 1947. She worked as a nurse at UC Hospital for eighteen months, then continued her education at Western Reserve University in Cleveland, earning her master’s degree. She returned to the UC as head nurse and later became the assistant director of nursing.

Irene Pope (back row, center) with her UC classmates. From Medi-Cal yearbook, 1947.

Pope came to San Francisco General Hospital in 1960 as director of nursing. She inherited an institution with constant nursing turnover and little to no high-level coordination of nursing activity. Pope transformed the nursing service into a functional, united group while also focusing on improving working conditions for nurses.

At the time, nurses at SFGH were paid very little compared to other San Francisco city workers and nurses around the country. Nurses had never gone on strike before in the U.S. and were in fact prohibited from striking, so in 1966, the SFGH nurses staged a “sickout.” All staff nurses called in sick while Pope and other head nurses kept the hospital going. The sickout lasted three days and resulted in a 40 percent pay raise for the nursing staff.

When asked about the sickout, Pope gave her full support and said, “we are interested in saving the profession, as well as seeking betterment for ourselves.”

In 1971, Pope left SFGH to serve as president-elect and then president of the California Nurses Association, where she lobbied to pass the Nurses Practice Act, paving the way for nurse practitioners. Pope spent her career working tirelessly for nurses and the nursing profession as a whole, and her efforts have created lasting change at ZSFG and beyond.

Samuel Kountz, Pioneering Kidney Transplant Surgeon

In honor of Black History Month, we’re recognizing Dr. Samuel Kountz, pioneering kidney transplant surgeon.

Samuel Kountz, MD (1930-1981) was born in Lexa, Arkansas and attended the Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal College of Arkansas and the University of Arkansas Medical School. He received surgical training at Stanford Medical Center and later became a faculty member at Stanford.

In 1967, Kountz joined the UCSF faculty and became head of the Kidney Transplant Service. During his time at UCSF, Kountz performed numerous kidney transplant surgeries, discovered more effective drug techniques, and advocated for increased organ donations and funding for transplant surgery research. Additionally, Kountz and his colleague, Dr. Folkert Belzer, developed a perfusion preservation machine that allowed organs to remain viable for much longer than previously possible, a major development in the field. Under Kountz’s leadership, the Kidney Transplant Service at UCSF became one of the most respected programs in the world.

Kountz worked to increase diversity on campus through minority student recruitment and advocated for better care regardless of class or race. He was invested in what he called “human aspects” of transplant surgery, including documenting patients’ lives before and after surgery.

In 1972, Kountz left UCSF for an appointment with the State University of New York. On the east coast, Kountz continued his surgical and advocacy work. He passed away in 1981, leaving a legacy that still impacts the field today.

To learn more about Dr. Kountz and his work, check out these articles available in our digital collection on HathiTrust:

St. Joseph College of Nursing

Recently, we’ve been adding material to our digital collections on Calisphere.org. One highlight is the St. Joseph College of Nursing Collection.

Nuns gathered around an iron lung. St. Joseph College of Nursing collection.

The digital collection includes selected images from the St. Joseph College of Nursing papers and Alumni Association records. St. Joseph College of Nursing was established in 1921 as an affiliate of St. Joseph’s Hospital. The hospital was founded in San Francisco in 1889 by five Catholic sisters of the Order of Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Though the hospital and school closed in the late 1970s, the Alumni Association continued activity until 2015.

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Promotional cards for St. Joseph’s Hospital, San Francisco. The hospital and college buildings were located on the 300 block of Buena Vista Avenue East. St. Joseph College of Nursing collection.

Sister M. Frida and researchers in the Pathology Laboratory, circa 1939.  St. Joseph College of Nursing collection.

The collection documents the educational activities of the school as well as the patient care and research performed by the sisters and students. Visit the digital collection to view more images or make an appointment with us to view the material in person.

Nurse with child in St. Joseph's Hospital Pediatric Ward, circa 1940-1960. St. Joseph College of Nursing collection.

Nurse with child in St. Joseph’s Hospital Pediatric Ward, circa 1940-1960. St. Joseph College of Nursing collection.

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St. Joseph’s Hospital Pharmacy, circa 1940-1960. St. Joseph College of Nursing collection.