"My mentor is the best. ... She fosters an inclusive environment that makes everyone feel like they belong, which motivates me every day to be a better scholar."
— Antoine Johnson, PhD student, History of Health Sciences

History of Health Sciences PhD

The History of Health Sciences (HHS) program trains students to examine the history of health sciences – medicine, nursing, pharmacy, public health, alternative healing, and biomedical research – from a variety of critical approaches. With an emphasis on modern (late 19th to 21st century) contexts, the program’s faculty and students investigate how medicine, health, and illness are historically perceived, and how these perceptions reflect and shape culture and society.

The PhD program is a five-year degree that is composed of two years of coursework and a three-year dissertation project. Students learn to make use of all aspects of historical research: identifying appropriate sources, evaluating and interpreting the content of published and unpublished documents, contextualizing and analyzing those documents within the broader framework of contemporary knowledge, society, and culture, and writing a thesis that provides both historical narrative and interpretive analysis of the dissertation topic. 

Students are admitted to the History of Health Sciences program biennially, in odd-numbered years. This keeps the student-to-faculty ratio very low, enabling students to work closely with their faculty mentors.

Note that the Graduate Division also offers a master's degree program in HHS.


There are eight core faculty and three primary faculty members with other academic appointments in the HHS program; and 27 other affiliated faculty.

research focus areas

public health
healthcare systems


The History of Health Sciences program office at UCSF is located at the Mission Bay campus. Visit the program website for more information.

The History of Health Sciences program is offered by the UCSF Graduate Division. The program is administered by the UCSF School of Medicine (SOM), and courses are delivered by faculty members in SOM.