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Elizabeth Watkins, PhD

Title(s)Dean-Grad/VC-Stdnt Acad Affair, Graduate Division
SchoolChancellor/EVC/FAS
Address1675 Owens Street
San Francisco CA 94158
Phone415-476-2310
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    Collapse Biography 
    Collapse Education and Training
    HarvardBA1984Biology
    HarvardPhD1996History of science
    UCSF2020Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Champion Training
    Collapse Awards and Honors
    American Association for the History of Medicine2019J. Worth Estes Prize for Best Published Paper in the History of Pharmacology
    American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists2018ACOG Fellow in the History of American Obstetrics and Gynecology
    Yale University School of Medicine2012John P. McGovern Award Lectureship, Humanities in Medicine
    American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists2000ACOG Fellow in the History of American Obstetrics and Gynecology
    Harvard University1992Certificate of Distinction in Teaching

    Collapse Overview 
    Collapse Overview
    I study the interplay among medicine, commerce, and culture in the United States in the 20th-21st centuries. I am especially interested in relationships among biomedical researchers, health care providers, lay people, drug makers, government regulators, and the media and how information flows between these groups.

    My research has focused on four main areas of inquiry:
    1. Birth control
    My first book, On the Pill: A Social History of Oral Contraceptives, 1950-1970 (Johns Hopkins, 1998), analyzed the development and subsequent impact of oral contraception on American society and culture during the 1950s and 1960s. It explored 1) the evolving role of science and medicine in attempting to solve what were previously considered social problems within a gendered framework of sexual roles and reproductive responsibilities; 2) the changing role of the popular media in conveying information about health and medicine; and 3) the enduring power and authority of the medical and pharmaceutical establishments, in spite of widespread challenges from feminist critics, consumer groups, governmental regulators, and the press. This work was supported by an NSF Graduate Fellowship and a Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship. I have recently returned to the subject of contraception with a journal article that considers the pill as a lifestyle drug, and I am working on two additional manuscripts on related topics.

    I have also published journal articles on the history of Norplant, the contraceptive implant. The first examined Norplant from its development in the 1960s, to its approval by the FDA in 1990, through its tumultuous reception in American society, to its removal from the market in 2000. I argued that the rejection of Norplant by women was influenced by the social and political climate of the 1990s, in which a feminist health agenda, a consumerist ideology in health care, a growing tendency toward class action litigation, and increasing distrust of the pharmaceutical industry worked together to empower women to take charge of their reproductive decision making. The second looked at Norplant qua technology and employed analytic frameworks from the social construction of technology to explain the trajectory of its brief history.

    2. Hormones, gender, and aging
    My second book, The Estrogen Elixir: A History of Hormone Replacement Therapy in America (Johns Hopkins, 2007), told the story of the rise and fall, and rise again and fall again of estrogen and its promise to forestall the diseases of aging and to maintain youthfulness in women. Three themes guided my explanation of the development, spread, and shifting fortunes of hormone replacement therapy in America: 1) the authority of medical science in American life and how the relationship between science and society shaped the dissemination and reception of HRT, 2) the significance of the medicalization of menopause and aging as estrogen fell in and out of favor, and 3) the cultural context of changing expectations and roles for older women in American society. This work was supported by an NEH Summer Stipend, an ACOG/Ortho-McNeil Fellowship in the History of American Obstetrics and Gynecology, a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, and a three-year G13 Publication Grant from NIH/NLM.
    I have published three articles on the medical and cultural history of male menopause. These works fit into contemporary efforts to expand gender studies to include men's experiences along with those of women. By exploring the differential reductionism of hormones and aging bodies according to gender, I hope to contribute to a more nuanced understanding of the role of gender in the history of medicine. The first article described how the topic of male menopause occupied space on the medical radar screen from the late 1930s through the mid-1950s, then virtually disappeared for the next four decades, but was covered in the popular press from the mid-1950s through the mid-1990s in spite of its contemporary absence from the medical literature. I argued that male menopause became medicalized not by the driving forces of academic researchers and influential clinicians, but instead by a model perpetuated by laypeople and medical popularizers. The second addressed the question of why male menopause vanished from medical discourse in the 1950s and looked to both medical fashion and cultural conceptions of masculinity and aging to explain changes in the framing of this condition. The third looked at the reframing of the concept of male menopause in the 1990s and 2000s as andropause, then androgen deficiency in the aging male, then late-onset hypogonadism, and most recently low T. This shift is discussed in the context of two evolving trends: a changing conception of masculinity, particularly with respect to health and aging, and a reductionism in medicine that based the diagnosis of disease on quantitative measures. This project has been supported by a UC President's Research Fellowship in the Humanities in 2007-08 and an NEH Faculty Fellowship in 2010-11.

    3. Information about pharmaceuticals
    I co-edited a volume, Medicating Modern America: Prescription Drugs In History (NYU, 2007), that examined the rich and multifaceted history of pharmaceutical medicines in modern America since World War II through the discrete but interconnected histories of eight important drugs. The chapters of the book were linked by three themes: 1) the co-construction of diseases and treatments and the ways in which the definition of pathological states has been closely associated with the development and marketing of new drugs, 2) the drug-mediated process of medicalization, and 3) the communication of medical information about drugs and diseases.
    I co-edited another volume, titled Prescribed: Writing, Filling, Using, and Abusing the Prescription in Modern America (Johns Hopkins, 2012). This book pushed the history of late 20th century pharmaceuticals and therapeutics beyond the drugs themselves, to shine a spotlight on various actors and their interactions over how these medications are used. It used the prescription as a shorthand reference for a set of complex relations among the producers, providers, and consumers of medicine, and shifts focus from the biographies, life cycles, and trajectories of individual drugs and specific classes of drugs to explore the processes by which these medications have moved through the social geography of health care. My chapter in this volume builds on my previous work on the history of the patient package insert (PPI) for prescription drugs; it investigates pharmacists' reactions to the patient package insert and uses the debates over the PPI as a focal point to examine pharmacists' perceptions of and constructions of their roles as purveyors of medicines and providers of health care. This work expands the relationship between doctors and patients from a two-party line into a three-party triangle, to include the central role played by pharmacists in mediating communication about prescriptions.

    4. Stress and disease
    I have recently published two articles on the history of stress. The first explores popular understandings of and references to stress as a cause of disease, looking at how and when stress made its way into common parlance in America, and the second investigates the medicalization of stress in the 20th century. Stress serves as a case study of how medical ideas travel between professional discourse and everyday vernacular, as I continue my research into the transmission and translation of scientific and medical ideas between experts and the lay public.

    Collapse Research 
    Collapse Research Activities and Funding
    San Francisco State University MS/PhD Bridge to the Doctorate
    NIH/NIGMS R25GM048972Apr 4, 2020 - Sep 29, 2000
    Role: Principal Investigator
    History of Hormone Replacement Therapy, 1960-2000
    NIH G13LM007836Jun 1, 2003 - May 31, 2006
    Role: Principal Investigator
    Maximizing Opportunities for Research Excellence
    NIH/NIGMS R25GM056847Jan 1, 1998 - Jan 31, 2019
    Role: Principal Investigator

    Collapse ORNG Applications 
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    Collapse Bibliographic 
    Collapse Publications
    Publications listed below are automatically derived from MEDLINE/PubMed and other sources, which might result in incorrect or missing publications. Researchers can login to make corrections and additions, or contact us for help. to make corrections and additions.
    Newest   |   Oldest   |   Most Cited   |   Most Discussed   |   Timeline   |   Field Summary   |   Plain Text
    Altmetrics Details PMC Citations indicate the number of times the publication was cited by articles in PubMed Central, and the Altmetric score represents citations in news articles and social media. (Note that publications are often cited in additional ways that are not shown here.) Fields are based on how the National Library of Medicine (NLM) classifies the publication's journal and might not represent the specific topic of the publication. Translation tags are based on the publication type and the MeSH terms NLM assigns to the publication. Some publications (especially newer ones and publications not in PubMed) might not yet be assigned Field or Translation tags.) Click a Field or Translation tag to filter the publications.
    1. Future of the History of Pharmacy and Pharmacy in History: A Response. Pharmacy in History. 2020; 62(1&2):39-42. Elizabeth Siegel Watkins. .
    2. Where Do Our Graduates Go? A Tool Kit for Tracking Career Outcomes of Biomedical PhD Students and Postdoctoral Scholars. CBE Life Sci Educ. 2019 12; 18(4):le3. Silva EA, Mejía AB, Watkins ES. PMID: 31702952.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 1     Fields:    
    3. Live Longer Better. The Historical Roots of Human Growth Hormone as Anti-Aging Medicine. Journal of History of Medicine and Allied Sciences. 2018; 73. Aimee Medeiros and Elizabeth Siegel Watkins. . View Publication.
    4. The future of graduate and postdoctoral training in the biosciences. eLife. 2017. Peter Hitchcock, Ambika Mathur, Jabbar Bennett, Patricia Cameron, Christine Chow, Philip Clifford, Robert Duvoisin, Andrew Feig, Kevin Finneran, Diane M. Klotz, Richard McGee, Mary O'Riordan, Christine Pfund, Christopher Pickett, Nancy Schwartz, Nancy E. Street. Elizabeth Watkins, Jonathan Wiest, and David Engelke. View Publication.
    5. Therapeutic Revolutions: Pharmaceuticals and Social Change in the Twentieth Century. 2016. Jeremy A. Greene, Flurin Condrau, and Elizabeth Siegel Watkins (editors). .
    6. Tracking Career Outcomes for Postdoctoral Scholars: A Call to Action. PLoS Biol. 2016 05; 14(5):e1002458. Silva EA, Des Jarlais C, Lindstaedt B, Rotman E, Watkins ES. PMID: 27152650.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 11     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    7. The Vernacular of Risk--Rethinking Direct-to-Consumer Advertising of Pharmaceuticals. N Engl J Med. 2015 Sep 17; 373(12):1087-9. Greene JA, Watkins ES. PMID: 26287749.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 3     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    8. Stress and the American Vernacular: Popular Perceptions of Disease Causality. In David Cantor and Edmund Ramsden (editors), Stress, Shock, and Adaptation in the Twentieth Century (Rochester: University of Rochester Press). 2014; 49-70. Watkins ES. .
    9. Special Issue of Centaurus: An International Journal of the History of Science and Its Cultural Aspects. 2013; 55:73-219. von Oertzen C, Rentetzi M, and Watkins ES (editors). .
    10. An Investigation into the Medicalization of Stress in the 20th Century. Medicine Studies. 2013; 4:29-36. Watkins ES. .
    11. Finding Science in Surprising Places: Gender and the Geography of Scientific Knowledge. Centaurus: An International Journal of the History of Science and Its Cultural Aspects. 2013; 55:29-36. von Oertzen C, Rentetzi M, and Watkins ES. .
    12. How the pill became a lifestyle drug: the pharmaceutical industry and birth control in the United States since 1960. Am J Public Health. 2012 Aug; 102(8):1462-72. Watkins ES. PMID: 22698049.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 6     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    13. Prescribed: Writing, Filling, Using, and Abusing the Prescription in Modern America (ed. by Greene JA and Watkins ES). De-ciphering the Prescription: Pharmacists and the Patient Package Insert. 2012. Watkins ES. .
    14. Prescribed: Writing, Filling, Using, and Abusing the Prescription in Modern America. 2012. Greene JA and Watkins ES (editors). .
    15. Testosterone and the Pharmaceuticalization of Aging. In Antje Kampf, Barbara Marshall and Alan Petersen (editors), Aging Men: Masculinities and Modern Medicine. 2012; 35-51. Watkins ES. .
    16. Prescribed: Writing, Filling, Using, and Abusing the Prescription in Modern America (ed. by Greene JA and Watkins ES). The Prescription in Perspective. 2012. Greene JA and Watkins ES. .
    17. Science, Technology, & Human Values. The Social Construction of a Contraceptive Technology: An Investigation of the Meanings of Norplant. 2011; 36(1):33-54. Watkins ES. .
    18. The Lancet. Technophilia and the Pharmaceutical Fix. 2010; 376:1638-9. Watkins ES. .
    19. MDAdvisor. The Estrogen Elixir: Hormone Replacement Therapy in American Medicine and Culture. 2010; 3(4):4-9. Watkins ES. .
    20. The estrogen elixir: hormone replacement therapy in American medicine and culture. MD Advis. 2010; 3(4):4-9. Watkins ES. PMID: 21956221.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions:    Fields:    Translation:Humans
    21. Journal of Women’s History. From Breakthrough to Bust: The Brief Life of Norplant, the Contraceptive Implant. 2010; 22(3):88-111. Watkins ES. .
    22. From history of pharmacy to pharmaceutical history. Pharm Hist. 2009; 51(1):3-13. Watkins ES. PMID: 20027914.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions:    Fields:    
    23. Soc Hist Med. Medicine, Masculinity, and the Disappearance of Male Menopause in the 1950s. 2008; 21(2):329-344. Watkins ES. .
    24. The medicalisation of male menopause in America. Soc Hist Med. 2007 Aug; 20(2):369-88. Watkins ES. PMID: 18605334.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 4     Fields:    Translation:Humans
    25. Medicating Modern America: Prescription Drugs In History (ed. by Tone A and Watkins ES). Introduction. 2007; 1-14. Tone A, Watkins ES. .
    26. Medicating Modern America: A History of Prescription Drugs. 2007; 1-262. Tone A and Watkins ES (editors). .
    27. The Estrogen Elixir: A History of Hormone Replacement Therapy in America. 2007; 1-351. Watkins ES. .
    28. Medicating Modern America: Prescription Drugs In History (ed. by Tone A and Watkins ES. Educate Yourself’: Women and Information About Hormone Replacement Therapy. 2007; 63-93. Watkins ES. .
    29. New Formations. Parsing the Postmenopausal Pregnancy: A Case Study in the New Eugenics. 2007; 60:27-34. Watkins ES. .
    30. Bulletin of the History of Medicine. Doctor, are you trying to kill me?’: Ambivalence about the Patient Package Insert for Estrogen. 2002; 76:84-104. Watkins ES. .
    31. Health and History. A Conversation about Menopause, Part I: Changing Rationales for Long-Term Hormone Replacement Therapy in America, 1960-2000. 2002; 4(1):20-36. Watkins ES. .
    32. Pharmacy in History. Dispensing with Aging: Changing Rationales for Long-term Hormone Replacement Therapy, 1960-2000. 2001; 43(1):23-37. Watkins ES. .
    33. Science, History, and Social Activism (ed. by Allen G and MacLeod R). Radioactive Fallout and Emerging Environmentalism: Cold War Fears and Public Health Concerns, 1954-1963. 2001. Watkins ES. .
    34. Western Pennsylvania History. Heinz’s 57 Varieties on Six Continents: Traveling Salesmen, Expansionism, and the Americanization of Eating. 1999; 82:10-24. Watkins ES. .
    35. Advancing the Consumer Interest. Expanding Consumer Information: The Origin of the Patient Package Insert. 1998; 10:20-26. Watkins ES. .
    36. On the Pill: A Social History of Oral Contraceptives, 1950-1970. 1998; 1-183. Watkins ES. .
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