History of Health Sciences

The History of Health Sciences (HHS) program trains students to examine the history of health sciences (broadly interpreted to include all of the healing professions and all aspects of the biomedical research enterprise) from a variety of critical approaches. With an emphasis on modern (late nineteenth to twenty-first 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. Our students are enabled to enroll in courses at UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and Stanford, and we work closely with colleagues at Berkeley's Center for Science, Technology, Medicine & Society (CSTMS).

Academic programs


The Ph.D. program is composed of two years of coursework and three years of dissertation work. The average time to completion for Ph.D. students and candidates in the HHS program since 2004 has been five years.


The master's degree program is two years of coursework that culminates in either a thesis or exams.

Student-to-faculty ratio

On average, the ratio of students to faculty in the HHS program is 2:1, meaning there is usually one faculty member for every two students. We do this to ensure that students selected for our program receive the best support possible in their academic and research endeavors.

Application process

The application cycle for the 2023 Cohort will open on September 1st, 2022.


  • September 1, 2022 - Application portal goes live.
  • February 1, 2023 - Application materials due.
  • March 1, 2023 - Decisions delivered to applicants.
  • April 15, 2023 - Successful applicants must decide whether to accept offers of admission.

Application requirements

Applicants are required to submit applications via the online portal.

  • Example of Written Work: This should be a polished piece of historical writing, preferably based on an analysis of primary sources. It should be single-authored and stand-alone. Include the class or publication for which this sample was written.
    (No more than 7,000 words, 12-point font, double-spaced, PDF format)
  • Statement of Purpose: While it may include autobiographical information, the purpose of this document is to allow the department to learn more about the topics that interest you, the analytical approaches that excite you, and the historical writings that you respect. It also provides you the opportunity to elaborate on why you have decided to concentrate on the history of health sciences for your graduate studies.
    (No more than 1,500 words, 12-point font, double-spaced, PDF format)
  • Background: UCSF is committed to a diverse and inclusive graduate student population, which enhances the educational experience, the workplace, and the nature of scholarly research. Discuss how your personal background informs your decision to pursue a graduate degree. Include any educational, cultural, family, or social experiences, challenges, or opportunities relevant to your academic journey. If you have received a graduate degree, include a summary of what you have been doing since, if it is not already in your Statement of Purpose. Please do not reiterate the material in your Statement of Purpose, and please be concise in your statement.
    (No more than 1,500 words, 12-point font, double-spaced, PDF format) 
  • Resume / Curriculum Vitae: Please include contact information, education, honors and awards, professional experience, publications and presentations, teaching and research interests, and academic and community service.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Three letters of recommendation required 
  • Unofficial transcripts: official copies will be required if the applicant is accepted into the program
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores: if applicable

Please note: Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores are neither required nor accepted for application.


Disability statement

The History of Health Sciences program is committed to providing access to graduate students with disabilities. Applicants with disabilities, who are invited for interviews, will be offered reasonable accommodations if requested.

UCSF does not require that students with disabilities disclose their disability status on the admissions application. Decisions around disability disclose are personal and should be carefully considered.

If admitted, students with disabilities will be encouraged to (first) disclose to the Office of Student Disability Services (SDS). SDS is the appropriate and confidential office for seeking accommodations and will coordinate communications and procedures with the student and faculty.

Our alumni

Our alumni have gone on to professional careers across a variety of fields--from teaching history at the college and university level to working in the private sector or as independent scholars--and we are proud of their accomplishments and contributions. Please take a moment to review our list of alumni and their dissertation titles.

Frequently asked questions

If you have more questions about our program, please feel free to consult our program handbook, the frequently asked questions list below, or contact our program administrator.