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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Perspectives in Medical Humanities: Essays and Articles

The University of California Medical Humanities Consortium was founded in January 2010 through a grant from UC’s Office of the President, establishing it as a Multicampus Research Program. Recognizing that the medical humanities was pursued at multiple UC medical schools and health science centers, faculty directors from UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Irvine, and UCSF can now support collaborative student research projects, publications, and resources for courses and public events.

Our aim is to have a substantial record of achievement and innovation in particular themes that we collectively pursue through our allocated research funding at the end of our five year grant period. We then hope to expand our efforts to include faculty and students at the remaining UC health science centers to promote an even more rigorous and representative approach to supporting humanism in medicine and health science education.

Cover page of The Medical Profession Through History

The Medical Profession Through History


Throughout history, doctors have distinguished themselves among healthcare providers by referencing special skills and accredited knowledge about the body and disease. Over centuries, increased rigor in educational standards and licensing have crafted the professional identity of physicians, establishing a privileged status in the healthcare hierarchy. This essay provides an overview of how the medical profession has defined itself over time, and it examines how policing professional boundaries has discriminated against and marginalized competitors in the marketplace for medical services.

Cover page of Therapeutic Drugs Through History 

Therapeutic Drugs Through History 


An illustrated history of drugs developed for medicinal use from antiquity to modern pharmaceuticals. A primer for health professional students. 

Cover page of Population Disease Prevention Under Sovereign and Disciplinary Pandemic Authority

Population Disease Prevention Under Sovereign and Disciplinary Pandemic Authority


The history of collective action aimed at disease prevention amongst populations is replete with complexity in the operation of political power which has transformed in its deployment over time. This article draws upon examples from pre-modern and from modern European states to examine variations in the operation of biopower under pandemic authority. It concludes by contextualizing comparable models of political authority responding to the contemporary COVID-19 pandemic including the operation of pandemic biopower in the United States.

Cover page of Unmasking History: Who Was Behind the Anti-Mask League Protests During the 1918 Influenza Epidemic in San Francisco?

Unmasking History: Who Was Behind the Anti-Mask League 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 public complaint 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.