Remembering Thomas N. Burbridge, Superhero of Science and Medicine

The Society of American Archivists’ Science, Technology and Health Care roundtable recently launched a project titled Forgotten Superheroes of Science and Medicine to highlight “underrepresented and diverse persons and groups in collections of the history of science, technology and health care.” We’ll be contributing to this project by periodically posting to the blog regarding these heroes.

Thomas N. Burbridge, MD, PhD (1921-1972), was an African-American scientist, physician, and civil rights activist. He devoted his life to social justice and his work continues to impact UCSF and the larger San Francisco community.

Thomas N. Burbridge. Photograph collection, portraits.

Thomas N. Burbridge. Photograph collection, portraits.

Burbridge was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1921. He attended Talladega College and later joined the US Navy. After years of military service, he enrolled in the UCSF School of Medicine, earning his MD in 1948. He completed his residency at San Francisco General Hospital and then enrolled in a graduate program in the UCSF Department of Pharmacology.

While in graduate school, Burbridge helped lead UC’s efforts to support development of medical education at the University of Indonesia, following the Indonesian fight for independence. Burbridge worked with local students and officials in Jakarta from 1952-1955.

Thomas N. Burbridge with his wife and medical students at the University of Indonesia, circa 1952-1955. Photograph published in the Alumni-Faculty Association Bulletin of the UCSF School of Medicine, Winter 1956. University Publications.

Thomas N. Burbridge with his wife and medical students at the University of Indonesia, 1952-1955. Photograph published in the Alumni-Faculty Association Bulletin of the UCSF School of Medicine, Winter 1956. University Publications.

After returning to the US, Burbridge joined the faculty of the UCSF School of Medicine in 1956, where he conducted research related to the pharmacology of alcohol and the metabolism of marijuana. As a teacher and scientist, Burbridge advocated for increased minority student enrollment at UCSF. In the 1960s, he led recruiting trips to predominantly black universities in the southern United States, speaking with students about opportunities in the health sciences. He also served as a leader of the San Francisco chapter of the NAACP and organized sit-ins of auto dealerships and other businesses in protest of their discriminatory employment practices. This non-violent, direct action strategy brought about equal employment opportunities for people of color in San Francisco.

Memorial of Dr. Thomas Burbridge. Published on the back cover of the October 1972 edition of the Black Bulletin, a newsletter created by UCSF's Black Caucus. Black Caucus records, MSS 85-38.

Memorial of Dr. Thomas Burbridge. Published on the back cover of the October 1972 edition of the Black Bulletin, a newsletter created by UCSF’s Black Caucus. Black Caucus records, MSS 85-38.

Following Burbridge’s death in 1972, the UCSF Black Caucus petitioned Chancellor Philip Lee to name a Chancellor’s Award in his honor. Today, Burbridge’s legacy continues to inspire the UCSF community through the Thomas N. Burbridge Chancellor’s Award for Public Service.

UCSF Archives & Special Collections houses the Thomas Nathaniel Burbridge Papers, 1959-1972 and other related collections. Please make an appointment if you would like to research the material.

Latino Heritage Month Spotlight: Louis Perfecto Oviedo

In celebration of Latina/Latino Heritage Month, we’re recognizing one of UCSF’s early graduates of Mexican descent, Louis Perfecto Oviedo.

Louis Perfecto Oviedo graduated from the UCSF School of Medicine (then called the Medical Department of the University of California) in 1891. According to census records, Oviedo was born in San Francisco, California in 1871. His mother and father were both from Mexico.

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Toland Medical Building, circa 1885. Oviedo would have attended courses in this building. UCSF Archives, Photograph collection

Oviedo attended St. Mary’s College in the Bay Area before completing his medical degree. He later worked at French Hospital in San Francisco and started his own private practice.

Oviedo and his wife, Alicia, participated in community and service organizations in the city. For instance, in 1896, they helped organize the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union’s Carnival of Nations, a fundraising event for the group’s building fund. Alicia and Louis manned the Mexican booth during the event.

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The San Francisco Call, Wednesday, September 9, 1896

Oviedo died on May 30, 1898 in San Francisco. The young doctor was survived by his wife and son, Louis Jerome Oviedo. Records indicate that Alicia was pregnant at the time of Louis’s death; in July, 1898, she gave birth to another son, George Francis Oviedo.

The San Francisco Call, Tuesday, May 31, 1898.

The San Francisco Call, Tuesday, May 31, 1898.

Louis Jerome Oviedo and George Francis Oviedo both followed in their father’s footsteps. In 1923, Louis and George graduated from the UCSF School of Medicine!

UC Medical School (later UCSF) campus, 1921.

Parnassus campus, 1921. From UC Medical School course announcement, 1923-1924.

Please join us in the Library, Thursday, October 8, 2015, for the UCSF Latino Heritage Month Celebration, hosted by Diversity and Outreach and Alumni Relations. Learn more about the event and RSVP here.

1970s Dentistry Recruitment Posters

For our final installment of stories from the School of Dentistry records, AR 2015-4, we bring you recruitment posters from the 1970s. These posters promoted professional careers in dentistry and dental hygiene. They were created using photographs by Bob Vogel.

School of  Dentistry recruitment poster, 1971. AR 2015-4, OS 1

School of Dentistry recruitment poster, 1971. AR 2015-4, OS 2

Note that the posters encourage interested students to contact Minority Admissions at the School of Dentistry. In the 1970s, this office provided support to underrepresented minority students and helped build diversity at the school. Various dental faculty members, alumni, and students worked to shape the direction of the admissions program.

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School of Dentistry recruitment poster, 1971. AR 2015-4, OS 2

Activists in the 1960s and 1970s viewed minority admissions as a key issue in the larger struggle for professional and academic equal opportunity. To learn more about the period’s activism regarding admissions at UCSF, check out this June 1975 special issue of Synapse, the UCSF student newspaper. It focuses on minority admissions and includes quotes and letters from students and staff.

Editorial by Khati Hendry in Synapse, Vol. 19, No. 33, June 12, 1975

Editorial by Khati Hendry in a special issue of Synapse, Vol. 19, No. 33, June 12, 1975

UCSF continues to promote diversity and inclusion across the university. To learn more about work being done today, visit the Office of Diversity and Outreach and check out this article about the UCSF School of Dentistry Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion.

Please contact us if you would like to view material from AR 2015-4. You can read our previous posts about this collection here and here.