UCSF Oral History Program
Accessing Published Interviews
UCSF History of the School of Medicine Website
The central mission of our program is to explore, analyze, and preserve the historical record of this institution, and thereby significantly enhance documentation of the history of American biomedical research and medical education in the twentieth century.
By Dr. Nancy Rockafellar, Director
History is dependent on archives; without them, UCSF would suffer from institutional amnesia. In 1990, in order to correct this potential loss of memory, the Department of the History of Health Sciences inaugurated a Campus Oral History Project, designed to interview crucial eyewitnesses to UCSF's development in the postwar years. We recognized that the history of an institution is more than a chronological accounting of its leadership, buildings and bureaucratic structure. Therefore we designed our interviews to be thoroughly based upon extant archival documents and placed in the context of state, federal and national developments in health sciences. In 1994, the project became a full-fledged Oral History Program, and continues to utilize a variety of funding sources to conduct research and create documentation.
As part of the Oral History Program's mission, we encourage those of you who have been involved in the life of this institution to donate materials that may have long-term value for the history of this institution to the UCSF Archives. Such materials include: correspondence with colleagues, professional organization and family members; diaries and journals, photographs, addresses, and speeches; drafts of articles and publications ledgers, registers and records of medical and research practice, laboratory notebooks, and records of work done, but not otherwise recorded or published. Such materials, especially when framed by a detailed oral history, will do much to preserve the record of this campus and the history of health sciences in the twentieth century.
UCSF's history extends far back into the nineteenth century. As part of the Oral History Program's goal of preserving institutional history, we have developed a formal history of the UCSF School of Medicine website, utilizing the documents and images of the Archives and Special Collections housed at UCSF Kalmanovitz Library and the Campus Oral History Program.
Archival Series (Perfect Bound & Spiral Bound Volumes)
Our first phase of inquiry was designed to explore the evolution of the research idea at UCSF and its relations to the clinical needs of a medical school, particularly in the second half of the twentieth century. To date, the UCSF Oral History Program has developed a detailed prosopographical study of a network of investigators, administrators, educators, and practitioners, and has generated sufficient multiple perspectives to create a broad-brush picture of a leading American academic medical center in both state and national context.
Our interviews use the record of NIH funding and its effects as one probe to study the economic basis of the full spectrum of clinical and basic science activity in the postwar years. This includes an exploration of the UC system-wide context and sources of influence from the eastern and Midwestern medical establishment, identifying mentoring and recruitment patterns that created the institution's productive research cultures and maintained its clinical style. The interviews and their associated archives reveal that shifting postwar academic economics prompted schools of medicine to move from a dean-centered hierarchical system to a more oligarchic one, in which department chairs wielded considerable power and influence. At UCSF, this led ultimately to the development of a highly interactive, interdisciplinary and entrepreneurial style of basic research.
UCSF Surgery in the Postwar Years
Inevitably, the Oral History Program's range of inquiry has broadened over the years. The program interviews are designed to elucidate information about instruments, lab technologies, networks of influence, collaborations and conflicts. An important aspect of these investigations concerns the actual practice of basic and translational research within the academic medical center in organized research units, basic science and clinical departments. Our inquiries are also concerned with the development of primary care and clinical medicine and shifting patterns of healthcare delivery in the shadow of epochal discoveries in basic sciences and medical technologies. This approach is exemplified in our ongoing Archival Series and the 1999-2000 study, UCSF Surgery in the Postwar Years.
Laboratory of Experimental Oncology
Another important line of inquiry involves the dynamics of early postwar NCI-funded cancer research by linking the local UCSF experience of the Laboratory of Experimental Oncology (1947-1953) with developing policy on human experimentation by the NIH. We have produced research interviews with participants in the LEO's treatment and research program (Nicholas Petrakis and Sam Masouredis) drawing upon the extensive extant records in UC libraries and NIH records in Bethesda and the National Archives, thereby creating a nuanced portrait of one of the first NIH-funded extramural programs in the nation.
Bioengineering and MRI Archives Project
We are currently exploring discovery narratives, patent policy, authorship, and intellectual property issues by developing oral histories and organizing the Bioengineering and MRI Archives Project. The growing collection contains lab notebooks, technical scan data, patient records, corporate reports and marketing tools generated during the years that the UCSF RIL was sponsored by Pfizer (1976-1978); Diasonics (1978-1989); and Toshiba (1989-1994).
In association with this project, the UCSF campus Oral History Program is generating oral histories and collecting video documentary materials, government publications, technical reports, and clinical and trade journals.
This project involves developing comprehensive oral histories with people involved with different aspects of the history of the technology, including electrical engineers, physicists, computer programmers, radiology fellows, patent attorneys, university and hospital administrators, and medical technicians. These accounts are supplemented by rigorous primary historical investigation, utilizing such diverse resources as laboratory notebooks, legal transcripts, corporate histories, faculty manuscripts, and a wide range of scientific literature charting the development of MRI.
Diversity in U.S. Medical Schools
Receipt of funding in 2002 from the Josiah Macy Foundation allowed us to explore the broader practice and policy context at the federal state and local level. The project, entitled “Diversity in U.S. Medical Schools” involves conducting biographical interviews with UCSF and Stanford faculty, and former students to augment the key informant approach used in health policy studies. This innovative grant project combines both historical and policy research to trace the specifics and context of the development of affirmative action in medical education since the 1960s.
Former UCSF Chancellor Philip R. Lee and members of the Black Caucus reminisce at a roundtable discussion in December, 2002.
L-R: Freeman Bradley, Dr. Lee, Joanne Lewis, Elba Clemente-Lambert, Walter "Pop" Nelson, and rear, Wendell Earl Adams.
Accessing Published Interviews
Our program collects and processes oral histories by recording the spoken word in a formal, tape-recorded interview which is transcribed and edited for accuracy. Each of these interviews is produced in the context of other pertinent written information, with an index, footnotes and detailed appendixes containing many of the original documents, research papers, and photographs mentioned and discussed in the interview text. In so doing we create a new archival documents that provide in-depth, personal perspectives on events and issues that manuscripts and records often fail to reveal.
Upon completion the published interviews are deposited with the UCSF Kalmanovitz Library, UC system-wide library system, NLM, and specific summary materials are posted on this website. Hard copies are available at cost (currently approximately $25.00 per volume). Contact Program Director Nancy Rockafellar for details.