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22 March 2000

Sociology and Women's Health Pioneer Celebrated

UCSF's Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences will honor one of the pioneers.

in this field, Virginia Olesen, PhD, a UCSF emeritus professor of sociology, with an afternoon series of lectures from international academic leaders in women's health, sociology, and nursing.

The lecture series will be held Thursday, March 23, from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., at the Cathedral Hill Hotel, 1101 Van Ness Ave., at Geary Boulevard, in San Francisco.

Topics will include menopause, communicating health information to women, the health of women in prison, the effects of managed care on nursing practice, and feminist anthropology.

Olesen, UCSF professor emerita of sociology, joined the faculty in 1960. She moved into a major leadership role in the then emergent area of women's health, including such courses at UCSF beginning in 1973, and organizing in 1975 the first US conference focused on social science contributions on "Women and Their Health: Research Implications for a New Era."

Her research continued to focus on nurses and other women workers, including clerical workers and issues in occupational health, and she began also to write about as well as teach qualitative research methodology.

In the early 1980s, Olesen began working with colleagues towards national and international curriculum development in women's health, not only in nursing but also in the social sciences. She spearheaded a successful grant to the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education and developed a team that organized three Women, Health and Healing Summer Institutes held in 1984-1986.

From these conferences came the ideas and impetus for two major edited volumes in women's health, some years in the making. In 1997, Sheryl Ruzek, Virginia Olesen and Adele Clarke edited Women's Health: Dynamics of Diversity (Ohio State University Press), which won the Choice Top Three Outstanding Academic Book of the Year Award. The book elaborates in a widely accessible format the health-related needs and goals of differently situated women, centering especially on differences of race and class, mostly in the US.

Olesen has won the following major professional awards:

Leo G. Reader Career Award of the Medical Sociology Section, American Sociological Association, 1988
Helen Nahm Award for Distinguished Research of the School of Nursing, UC, San Francisco, 1992
Mentor of the Year Award, School of Nursing, UC, San Francisco, 1993
Chancellor's First Faculty Award for the Advancement of Women, UC, San Francisco, 1994
George Herbert Mead Career Award of the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction, 1996
Honorary Member, Theta Sigma Tau, 1997

In addition, Olesen has been visiting faculty at the American University in Cairo, the University of Warwick, chaired the Medical Sociology Section of the ASA and twice was invited to deliver the plenary address to the British Sociological Association's Medical Section. She became Professor Emerita at UCSF in 1993 and has continued to publish, supervise doctoral students, offer courses, attend and present at conferences, and been a truly exceptional citizen of academia.

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