Introducing “A Century of Health”

This is a guest post by Zach Bleemer. Zach is a Research Associate at UC Berkeley’s Center for Studies in Higher Education, where he directs the University of California Cliometric History Project, and a Graduate Intern in Institutional Research and Academic Planning at the UC Office of the President. 

A few months ago, I gave a lecture entitled “A History of Higher Education in California: A Big Data Approach” at the UCSF Archives. The lecture presented a large trove of newly-collected UC student records from the first half of the 20th century, including a complete register of University of California undergraduate and graduate students—their names, home towns, degrees, and years of graduation—from 1893 to 1946. These records enable descriptive analysis like Figure 1, which extends well-documented trends in college major selection back to the late 19th century (for UC Berkeley).

A recent Topic Brief published by the Institutional Research and Academic Planning Group (IRAP) at the UC Office of the President integrated this historical data with contemporary records of UC-trained medical professionals. Figure 2 uses California state medical license records from 1920 and 2016 to map the towns in which UC-trained doctors practice medicine, color-coding the towns by the doctors’ gender. Between 10 and 15 percent of UC medical students in the first decade of the 20th century were women, but women accounted for more than half of UC medical students in the first decade of the 21st century.

We also published an interactive map feature displaying the more than 850 cities and towns in which health professionals—doctors, dentists, optometrists, and veterinarians—trained by the University of California since 1999 currently practice, including both former graduate students as well as former residents (constructed by merging student and employment records with 2016 state licensing records). Toggles allow the viewer to restrict the map by UC campus, professional discipline, ethnicity, and level of training, and the map is color-coded by the professionals’ gender. The map displays both the demographic and geographic diversity of UC’s health-oriented graduates, who work in more than 60 percent of California towns with any health professionals. The interactive display also includes bar charts showing the number of health professionals who graduated UC each year (by campus and demographic group).

Both of these projects are part of a new initiative, A Century of Health, which aims to visualize and analyze the long-run contributions of UC’s health-oriented graduate schools to the state of California and beyond. Future components of this initiative will extend to pharmacists, nurses, physicians assistants, and more, and will leverage both new and very old sources of data, partly thanks to the UCSF Archives. The most exciting and comprehensive source of data is historical student transcripts housed in the UCSF Registrar, which we have recently concluded digitizing. A Century of Health aims to provide new insight into the University of California’s role in fostering wellness, economic mobility, and gender/ethnic equality across California by expanding, deepening, and repackaging information detailing the ubiquity of the University of California’s health-oriented graduate schools. To keep up with new developments, check the UC ClioMetric History Project’s website, or contact

Archives Talk 3/3/17: The History of Higher Education in California: A Big Data Approach

UCSF School of Medicine class of 1964

Date: Friday, March 3rd, 2017
Time: 12 pm – 1:15 pm
Lecturer: Zach Bleemer (UCB)
Location: Lange Room, 5th Floor, UCSF Library – Parnassus
530 Parnassus Ave, SF, CA 94143

This event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be provided.

In his talk at the UCSF Archives & Special Collections, Zach Bleemer will discuss how he has used data science – thousands of computer-processed versions of annual registers, directories, and catalogs –  to reconstruct a near-complete database of all students, faculty, and courses at four-year universities in California in the first half of the 20th century, including UC San Francisco (which taught both undergraduates and graduate students at the time). Visualizations of this database display the expansion of higher education into rural California communities, the rise and fall of various academic departments and disciplines, and the slow (and still-incomplete) transition towards egalitarian major selection.

Zach will also discuss his recent CSHE Working Paper, in which he uses additional digitized records to analyze the social impact of the early 20th century’s expansion of female high school science teachers and female doctors across rural California communities. He finds that newly-arrived female STEM professionals serve as important role models for young women in these rural communities, causing substantial increases in female college-going. However, these young women are no more likely to study STEM fields or become doctors themselves.

Zach Bleemer

Zach Bleemer

Zach Bleemer is a PhD student in Economics and Digital Humanities Fellow at UC Berkeley, where his research examines the educational and occupational decisions of young Americans. He has previously held senior research analyst positions at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Mathematica Policy Research, and has published working papers on student debt, parental coresidence, and university attendance. He is also currently a Research Associate at UC Berkeley’s Center for Studies in Higher Education and a Visiting Scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

UCSF Archives & Special Collections launched this lecture series to introduce a wider community to treasures and collections from its holdings, to provide an opportunity for researchers to discuss how they use this material, and to celebrate clinicians, scientists, and health care professionals who donated their papers to the archives.

Embracing the Future as Stewards of the Past: Historical Medical Collections in the 21st Century

This is a guest post by Jeffrey S. Reznick, PhD, Chief, History of Medicine Division, National Library of Medicine

It is a privilege to offer this blog post as a follow-up and complement to my October 21, 2016, Archives Talk at UCSF, and to do so as my NLM colleagues and I work with our leadership to craft the NLM’s third century and encourage public feedback on its strategic planning process.

For several years now, the NLM’s History of Medicine Division has been embracing the future as we continue our mission to collect, preserve, make freely available, and curate for diverse audiences the NLM’s treasured historical collections, which span ten centuries. I’ve described this mission as stewardship of the past, and I have argued that it is not mutually exclusive of embracing the future. This is because to be the best steward of history during times of change, it is important to anticipate, explore, and chart the paths toward many possible futures. So what do I mean by embracing the future?

Embracing the future means facing change. It means engaging and grappling with it, because studying history can contribute meaningfully to contextualizing and shaping change.

Embracing the future means supporting open and “citizen-centered” government. It means enabling access to all, not just a few. It means engaging new audiences, not only the traditional ones. It involves engagement across the disciplines, and across the spectrum of the public, to ensure that scholars, educators, and interested people of today and tomorrow can have access to the world’s historical medical heritage for research, teaching, and learning.

NLM’s treasured historical collections span ten centuries and originate from nearly every part of the world. Our digitization of these materials, for greater access by researchers of all disciplines, goes hand in hand with our preservation of them, in their original form, for future generations of researchers.

Embracing the future means embracing fair use and supporting robust digitization as a means of both access and preservation, and achieving these goals through mutually-supportive public and private partnerships. Moreover, embracing the future means appreciating and understanding that digitized historical medical collections exist in a format appealing not only to those focused on deep reading and close study of individual works, but also to scholars and to entirely new audiences who are interested in mining these digital surrogates and their associated metadata data for more data-focused research. The evolving digital world is producing an ever-increasing volume of digitized physical material and born-digital resources. The worlds of “big data” and data science are meeting a longstanding world of persistent physical objects that contain records of the human condition. As these worlds collide and coexist, opportunities abound to advance interdisciplinary collaboration and expand cooperation among institutions and organizations that preserve history and support current and future medical research, and research in all disciplines.

A Chorus of Voices. Through its blog Circulating Now, the NLM is giving voice our patrons from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds, whoeach in their own way and together recognize the research and educational value of our world-renowned historical collections.

Embracing the future means pursuing exhibitions and otherwise giving voice to theresearch and educational value of our historical collections as they speak to important contemporary and historical topics like confronting domestic violence, understanding AIDS, politics, and culture, exploring 20th-century healthcare professionalization, and revealing how meals offer insights into the relationships between and among individuals.

And finally, from a leadership perspective, embracing the future means meeting individuals where they stand, treating them as colleagues and as part of a team. It means supporting mentorship to advance careers, and continuous learning to advance interdisciplinary research and teaching focused on historical and contemporary issues of health and the human condition. These initiatives are not only keys to embracing the future of challenges and opportunities. They are keys to succeeding in that future.

To learn more about my thoughts about embracing the future as stewards of the past, you can read this article or, if you wish, watch my October 21, 2016, Archives Talk at UCSF.