April 2009 Issue • Volume 37 • Issue 4

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UCSF Doctoral Sociology Program Celebrates Its 40th


UCSF faculty and alumni Brooke Hollister, Carroll Estes,
Leigh Star, and in the middle, David Hayes-Bautista
at the department’s 40th anniversary celebration

The University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) Doctoral Program in Sociology recently celebrated its 40th birthday and almost 50 years of sociology at the university. The first sociologist on the faculty was Anselm Strauss, hired in 1960, who was soon joined by Virginia Olesen, Fred Davis, Barney Glaser, Leonard Schatzman, and Egon Bittner. Focused on medical sociology, UCSF pioneered in research on chronic illness, medical care institutions, women’s health, aging, qualitative methods, and health policy. Those traditions continue along with newer emphases in science, technology and medicine studies and race, health disparities, and globalization.

The 40th birthday brought together alumni, other former students whose training and careers were shaped by the sociology program, current students, and long-time friends from the School of Nursing and across UCSF. The UCSF Doctoral Program in Sociology is the only one in the world structurally located in a School of Nursing.

The birthday event, held at the campus, was dedicated to emeriti faculty: Carroll Estes, Charlene Harrington, Ginnie Olesen, Robert Staples, Lenny Schatzman (deceased), and Anselm Strauss (deceased). The celebration began with a hilarious and sophisticated assessment, by Stefan Timmermans (UCLA), of the "Contributions of UCSF Sociology Past, Present and Future," delineating faculty’s enduring theoretical and methodological innovations and impressive range of projects, including biomedicalization theory. A second keynote, by Margaret Kearney (University of Rochester) on "Contributions of UCSF Sociology to Nursing Scholarship," documented the sustained impact of Strauss and Glaser’s grounded theory and discussed Adele Clarke’s situational analysis.

Specialty Areas

Six panels then focused on the specialty areas the faculty have generated over the past 40 years. The first panel was classic medical sociology, discussed by alums Carolyn Wiener (UCSF) and Kathy Charmaz (Sonoma State), including research on the technologized hospital, lived experiences of chronic illness, and informed consent in medical research. More recent work on violence as a health issue was framed by Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences Chair Howard Pinderhughes, along with projects on electronic health records, a genealogy of phantom limb, and HIV disclosure. Research on drugs and needle exchange was detailed by student Peter Davidson.

Women’s health/gender and health was the second specialty emphasis, initiated in 1973 by Ginnie Olesen and Sheryl Burt Ruzek (Temple University). They organized the first social science conference on women’s health in 1975 with federal support. Early research examined breast cancer, informed consent, domestic violence, and donor insemination in Sweden. Alum Monica Casper (Arizona State University) and student Airin Martinez discussed recent and future directions including research on fetal surgery, abortion, safer sex, brokering of Philippine domestic workers, lesbians’ use of assisted reproduction, cosmetic surgery, and gender and the sociology of food in transnational migration.

Today, UCSF sociology is internationally known for its research in the sociology of aging, including its Institute for Health and Aging founded in 1979 by Carroll Estes, now led by alum Patrick Fox and Wendy Max. A talk by Estes framed the faculty’s theoretical contributions to critical gerontology, including biomedicalization of aging. Alum Steve Wallace (UCLA) provided an ambitious overview of UCSF research on Altzheimer’s, hospice, caregiving, and disability studies. Future directions were discussed by alum Brooke Hollister including home care, Social Security reform and social isolation of elders.

Deeply linked to aging research is the emphasis on health policy spearheaded by faculty Charlene Harrington and Bob Newcomer and exemplified in their studies of long-term care and nursing homes. Alum Dick Culbertson traveled from Tulane University to discuss his and other alums’ work on physician autonomy under managed care, nursing home staffing and safety, and academic health centers. Alum Alexis Martinez (San Francisco State University) framed recent research directions including biopreparedness, health labor force issues, dental care delivery, community benefits of local hospitals, smoking and mental illness, and Gardasil immunization as policy issues.

Science, technology, and medicine studies has been led by faculty Adele Clarke since 1989. At the event, early accomplishments in this area were framed by alum Leigh Star (Santa Clara/Pittsburg) including historical sociologies of brain localization and reproductive sciences as well as sex preselection. More recent work on the molecularization of environmental sciences, stem cell research, chemoprevention, Viagra, and cloning of endangered species was framed by alum Sara Shostak (Brandeis University). Future directions were elucidated by student Jia-shin Chen, including projects on scientific expertise and harm reduction policy, autism genetics, biomonitoring, and pubertal "windows of vulnerability" in breast cancer risk.

The most recent area of emphasis—race, health disparities, and globalization—harks back to early work. Alum David Hayes-Bautista (UCLA), a founder of the non-profit health care facility La Clinica de la Raza, detailed his career-long documentation of Latina/o health issues, including the Latino paradox. Other early work focused on the Hmong, Lakota Sioux, and the Port Chicago disaster. Alum and faculty Janet Shim discussed her sociology of epidemiology, its use of racial categories, and others’ projects on mixed-race identification, and Chinese and Vietnamese immigrant community health. Last, the most recent addition to the faculty, Shari Dworkin, discussed her work on gender relations, economic empowerment programs, and HIV/AIDS prevention in Africa.

As Stefan Timmermans concluded, for a quite small program, UCSF sociology has created some very large footprints in the discipline. For further information, see www.ucsf.edu/medsoc and www.ucsf.edu/anselmstrauss/. logo_small


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