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Bay Area History of Medicine Society

The Bay Area History of Medicine Society (BAHMS) was formally instituted in 1941, making it one of the oldest independent regional groups devoted to the history of medicine and health in the United States. The purpose of the BAHMS is to bring awareness and new insights of the development of the history of medicine to interested audiences living in the Bay Area. While most members are health professionals, participation is open to all who are interested in the history of the health sciences.

Regular meetings usually include a seminar style presentation and are held once a month during the academic year (October through May) at the UCSF Library on Parnassus (530 Parnassus ave., 2nd floor, room 201). All meetings are free and open to the public. A modest voluntary annual dues payment helps defray operational expenses for the group.

Meetings begin at 6:15 pm with light refreshments; presentations begin at 6:30 pm. Please check the meeting schedules for further details or changes that might occur.

Crummer Room for the History of Medicine
Crummer Room for the History of Medicine in the Clinics Building, ca. 1935

2020/2021 Speakers

Vesalius and Wrist Pain: Using Medical History to Solve Current Problems
David Lincoln Nelson, MD; Director, Bay Area Hand Surgery Society; formerly Head of Hand Surgery, UCSF
October 21, 2020

It is always enjoyable to add to current medical knowledge. It is even more enjoyable to correct current medical knowledge which is wrong but widely disseminated. In this talk, Dr. Nelson will discuss how he has successfully challenged conventional medical knowledge related to wrist anatomy. It is hoped that correcting these errors will enhance hand surgeon’s ability to address wrist pain.

Unmasking History: Who Was Behind the Anti-Mask League Protests During the 1918 Influenza in San Francisco?
Dr. Brian Dolan, PhD, Chair, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, UCSF
November 18, 2020

When San Francisco Mayor London Breed ordered that face masks be worn in public as a measure to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, questions emerged about how things were handled when a similar mandate was implemented in 1918. 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 presentation dives deeper into the historical context of the anti-mask league of 1918-19 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.

The Jekyll-Hyde Diagnosis: sudden transformations of personality in history and fiction
Daniel Mason, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, Stanford University School of Medicine
January 20, 2021

The late 19th-century brought a fascination with clinical conditions characterized by sudden transformation. Fugue states, dreamy seizures, and sleepwalking were but some of the diagnoses on a sprawling differential that grew not only from medical advances but literary works. In this talk, Dr. Mason, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Stanford and author of four works of fiction, will discuss the historical context of “The Second Dr. Service,” one of the stories in newest book, A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth, about a man whose unusual seizures force him to reckon not only with the limits of medical knowledge, but his very conception of his self.

2019/2020 Speakers

Steno’s theory of muscle contraction 1667: The right theory at the wrong time.
Dr. Troels Kardel MD, physician and researcher in the history of medicine (Denmark)
October 2, 2019

A new geometrical model of muscle contraction was proposed in Florence 1667 by the Danish anatomist, geologist and later bishop, Niels Stensen, called Steno, 1638 – 1686. His new myology was intended to replace the ancient system favored by Descartes and others that contraction of muscles is caused by inflation by animal spirits channeled to the muscles from the brain through the nerves. Steno based his geometrical model of muscle contraction on just two elements, his observation that the structure of skeletal muscles most often is featherlike or pennate, and that the shortening of muscle is provided by the shortening of muscle fibers. The model of Steno is correct compared with concepts on contraction in our time. Nevertheless, it came under attack by Giovanni A. Borelli and Johann Bernoulli who adhered to the ancient view of inflation suggested to take place in a speculative pattern of rhomboid or ellipsoid machines. The inflation theory had upper hand until microscopy was sufficiently developed to allow observation of fiber contraction in the middle of the 18th Century. Around the new Millennium Steno’s model was confirmed in biomechanical investigations as recorded in doi: 10.1163/9789004360655_008.

Sick of Body and Sick of Heart: The Experience of Illness among the Jews of Old Cairo (1000-1250 CE)
Alan Elbaum, MD candidate, UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program
November 20, 2019

Alan is currently on a research fellowship prior to his final year of medical school, working to assemble and analyze the complete corpus of Judeo-Arabic and Hebrew letters from the “Cairo Genizah” which contain narratives of illness. The Genizah is an accidental archive of tens of thousands of documents from everyday life in the medieval Mediterranean, ranging from begging letters by the indigent to marketplace amulets to philosophical tracts and medical prescriptions in the hand of Moses Maimonides himself. Alan’s interests in medicine include palliative care and psychiatry.

Echoes of World War One in the Surgical World: Trench Warfare and the Development of Two New Specialties
Thomas L. Snyder, MD, Captain, Medical Corps U.S. Navy (Retired)
January 15, 2020

This talk will describe the roles of the American Harvey Cushing and New Zealander Harold Gillies in the development and promotion of neurosurgery and plastic/reconstructive surgery during and after World War I.

History and Role of Institutional Review Boards
Erica J. Heath, CIP, MBA, President, IRC (retired), Consultant, Advarra Consulting, UCSF
February 19, 2020

After an uninspired college career and after going through several uninspiring jobs, Erica got a job as a secretary in Biochemistry. A day before she was fired, she interviewed in the Academic Senate and got the job in December of 1970. Essentially, she says, she has been doing the same thing — running IRBs — for the next 49 years. She left UCSF in 1984 as Director of the IRB, IACUC, etc., and ran her own business, Independent Review Consulting, until she retired two and a half years ago. In January, she returned to her old job as the interim Associate Director.

Vesalius and Wrist Pain: Using Medical History to Solve Current Problems
David Lincoln Nelson, MD; Director, Bay Area Hand Surgery Society; formerly Head of Hand Surgery, UCSF
March 18, 2020 canceled, will be rescheduled at a later date

It is always enjoyable to add to current medical knowledge. It is even more enjoyable to correct current medical knowledge which is wrong but widely disseminated. In this talk, Dr. Nelson will discuss how he has successfully challenged conventional medical knowledge related to wrist anatomy. It is hoped that correcting these errors will enhance hand surgeon’s ability to address wrist pain.

The Life and Afterlife of Hans Eppinger: A Lesson in Making and Unmaking History
Michael Thaler, M.D., M.A. (History), Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics at UCSF
April 22, 2020 canceled, will be rescheduled at a later date

The Nazi master plan for the domination of Europe was conceived as a grand public health scheme in which physicians became the caretakers of the Aryan nation’s gene and manpower pools. Empowered by laws enacted as Public Health Measures for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor (Nuremberg, 1935), doctors determined the fate of millions whose bioracial characteristics failed to meet the specifications dictated by the state. Prominent medical scientists also conducted criminal human experiments and ran the clandestine “Euthanasia” program. Following Germany’s defeat in 1945, a massive sub rosa effort was launched by the universities and professional organizations to distance the medical profession from its central role in the “medicalized” Nazi regime. Based on extensive archival research, interviews and trial records, the career of Hans Eppinger offers an instructive focus for a discussion of this history.

Medical Book Collecting and Historical Scholarship: A Recovering Bibliomaniac’s Perspective
W. Bruce Fye, MD, MA, Emeritus Professor of Medicine and the History of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN
May 20, 2020 — Annual Dinner canceled, will be rescheduled at a later date

2018/2019 Speakers

UCSF Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine Graduate Students Presentations
Hsinyi Hsieh, Aaron J. Jackson, and Antoine S. Johnson
October 17, 2018

“Open Wide: 500 Years of Dentistry in Art:” exhibit tour and talk
Dr. Morton G. Rivo
November 14, 2018

Brown-Séquard: The man, his syndrome, and sensory physiology
Dr. Michael J. Aminoff, MD, DSc, FRCP
January 16, 2019

Richard Cabot and the Art of Ministering to the Sick
Laura Fernandez, MD, Associate Medical Director, K6 Primary Care Clinic, Highland Hospital   
February 20th, 2019

The Social-Political Impact of the Smallpox Epidemic in Boston, 1721-1722
Dr. Bruce R. Parker, M.D., FACR, Stanford
March 20, 2019

Education, Social Conscience, Science: The First 125 Years of OB-GYN at UC San Francisco, 1860s to 1980s
Janet M. Basu, retired Science Journalist, UCSF and Stanford University
April 17, 2019

Andreas Vesalius’ “De Humani Corporis Fabrica”
Dr. Zlatko Pozeg, M.D, St. Boniface Hospital, Canada
May 22, 2019 — Annual Dinner

2017/2018 Speakers

Creation of a Legislative Mess: The History of Medicare and Medicaid Fraud
Brian Dolan, PhD, Professor and Vice-Chair, Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine (UCSF)
October 18, 2017

Adolph Barkan (1845-1933), European Ophthalmologist in San Francisco
Dr. J. Fraser Muirhead
November 15, 2017

Bayer in Shanghai: Medical Authority and Commercial Medicine in 1920s China
Peiting C. Li, PhD Candidate, Department of History, UC Berkeley
January 17, 2018

Lyrical Moments in American Medicine: The Surprising Pertinence of Poetry
Marilyn McEntyre, PhD, Visiting Professor of Medical Humanities, UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program
February 21, 2018

A Centennial Remembrance: The University of California Medical Department, San Francisco goes to World War I as the US Army 30th Field Hospital
Dr. Morton G. Rivo
March 21, 2018

Aconite Poisoning and Cardiovascular toxicity
Dr. Daniel Karlsberg
April 18, 2018

Sudden Death in Rome, 1705: Giovanni Lancisi, Pope Clement XI, and the Tale of a Book
Dr. Paul D. Kligfield, Professor, Weill Cornell Medical Center
May 2, 2018 — Annual Dinner


BAHMS President (2017-19): Polina Ilieva

Join the BAHMS distribution list by emailing Sally Kaufmann, M.D. This is a low traffic list, used to announce speakers, and other events of interest to the members.

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To apply for BAHMS membership, please email Gordon Frierson, M.D.  The annual dues are $50. Two members of the same family may pay a discounted membership fee, the second member paying $10.00.