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Finding Aid to the Marcus A. Conant Papers, 1981-1993
MSS 98-39  
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Collection Details
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  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Information
  • Scope and Content of Collection

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Marcus A. Conant papers
    Date (inclusive): 1981-1993
    Collection Number: MSS 98-39
    Creator : Conant, Marcus A.
    Extent: Number of containers: 3 cartons and 1 box Linear feet: 4.25
    Repository: The UCSF Library and Center for Knowledge Management, Archives and Special Collections
    University of California, San Francisco
    530 Parnassus Avenue
    San Francisco, CA 94143-0840
    Phone: (415) 476-8112
    Fax: (415) 476-4653
    Email: http://www.library.ucsf.edu/collres/archives/contactform.html
    URL: http://www.library.ucsf.edu/collres/archives/
    Abstract: This collection contains correspondence, speeches, newspaper clippings, conference materials and other administrative and publicity materials relating to the UCSF Kaposi's Sarcoma (K-S) Clinic, the AIDS epidemic, and AIDS research as pursued by Dr. Marcus Conant. Materials from the K-S (later San Francisco AIDS) Foundation, and other organizations associated with Dr. Conant, are also included.
    Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the library's online catalog: http://www.library.ucsf.edu/ .

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to the UCSF Library and Center for Knowledge Management. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Manager of Archives and Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the UCSF Library and Center for Knowledge Management as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.
    Copyright restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original materials.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Marcus A. Conant Papers, MSS 98-39, The UCSF Library and Center for Knowledge Management, Archives and Special Collections, University of California, San Francisco.

    Alternate Forms Available

    There are no alternate forms of this collection.

    Related Collections

    MSS 94-18 John L. Ziegler Papers
    MSS 97-03 Robert K. Bolan Papers
    MSS 94-60 San Francisco AIDS Foundation Records

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Kaposi's sarcoma
    AIDS (Disease)--Research
    AIDS (Disease)--Government Policy--United States
    AIDS (Disease)--San Francisco--History
    AIDS (Disease)--Study and teaching--United States
    Conant, Marcus A

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    This collection was donated by Marcus A. Conant, M.D. in 1998 in conjunction with the oral history done by Sally Smith Hughes as a part of the Regional Oral History Project (ROHO) Series: The AIDS Epidemic in San Francisco.

    System of Arrangement

    Arranged to the folder level.

    Processing Information

    Julia Bazar, November 2006

    Biographical Information

    Marcus A. Conant, M.D., professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco, led San Francisco's first coordinated medical response to the AIDS epidemic. Conant also had a large private practice in San Francisco, and in April 1981 he documented two local cases of Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) in young, apparently healthy, gay men. KS is a skin cancer which heretofore had been seen in the United States mainly in elderly men and in patients receiving immunosuppressive therapy. This unusual presentation in association with other rare infections was being noted simultaneously by physicians in New York and Los Angeles.
    Marcus A. Conant was born May 11, 1936, in Jacksonville, Florida to Marcus and Annie Long Conant. His father was in the army, and the family moved a great deal during his formative school years. When his father was sent to Europe, the rest of the family moved back to Jacksonville, Florida, where Marcus attended high school. He then attended Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, from his undergraduate training [1954-1957], through medical school [1957-1961], and internship [1961-1962].
    During medical school Conant participated in an exchange program in London, for about nine months in 1960. His experience there prompted him to give up a commission at the National Institutes of Health and his intention to become an internist. He instead decided to specialize in dermatology.
    After his mandatory military experience in Guam, Conant did his residency in dermatology at UCSF [1964-1967]. During his residency he became close to the head of the dermatology department, Frances Torrey. At the end of Conant's residency, Dr. Torrey announced her retirement and asked Conant to take over both the department and her private practice. Following in her steps, he taught at the university on a full-time basis, ran the inpatient service, and handled the hospitalized dermatologic consultations until 1981, when the AIDS epidemic began. By that time his position at UCSF provided the resources needed to respond to the AIDS epidemic.
    His earlier work with genital herpes, sparked by volunteer work during his residency at the newly formed Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic, also gave him useful perspective. He had started a genital herpes clinic at UCSF and for 15 years watched the disease grow into an epidemic. His awareness that waiting for patients to come to "the ivory tower" was not going to work in this instance, prompted him to become socially active. He started what became the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, to address both the need to go into the community, which was still in denial, and the need to find non-government funding sources.
    The Foundation, which was first called the Kaposi's Sarcoma Research and Education Foundation, was started in the spring of 1982, before AIDS became the accepted name for the disease.
    Another of Conant's first steps was to arrange for the establishment of a clinic, which met once a week at UCSF. The Kaposi's Sarcoma [KS] Clinic, as it came to be called, saw its first patients on September 21, 1981, a date establishing it as the first AIDS clinic in the world. Paul Volberding soon joined Conant as co-director of the clinic for the remainder of its existence. The clinic, by intent, very quickly became a multidisciplinary clinic. The study group, which Conant organized to follow the clinic, was a magnet drawing those interested in the biomedical aspects of the epidemic, including university and private practice physicians, health department and blood bank officials, epidemiologists and basic scientists, patients, and an occasional journalist. The clinic and study group were the center around which San Francisco's earliest medical response to the epidemic was organized.
    He also produced, along with James Groundwater and Alvin Friedman-Kien, with funding provided by Neutrogena Corporation and Barnes Hind Pharmaceuticals, the first brochure on AIDS (not yet called that). Ernst Jansen, his partner at that time, did the graphic design. The brochure was produced in December 1981 for distribution at the American Academy of Dermatology meeting held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.
    Conant led the group of university researchers who lobbied California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown to persuade the state legislature to allocate the first state funds for AIDS Research.
    San Francisco General Hospital eventually took over as the center of AIDS treatment and research in the city and the K-S Clinic was closed. The San Francisco AIDS Foundation remains a major part of the "San Francisco Model."


    [Conant was interviewed by Sally Smith Hughes for the first volume of Regional Oral History Project's series, The AIDS Epidemic in San Francisco: The Medical Response, 1981-1984. She interviewed Conant in both 1992 and 1995. All quotes and most of the facts in this statement come from these interviews.]

    Scope and Content of Collection

    This collection documents the work of Marcus Conant, M.D., from the first recognition of a new disease, with the first cases of Kaposi's sarcoma being discovered in young, otherwise healthy, gay men in 1981, into the early 1990s. The collection contains correspondence, meeting announcements, newspapers clippings, invitations, photographs, speeches, memorial service announcements, certificates of recognition, press releases, publications, periodicals, newsletters, and meeting/conference materials. The bulk of the material covers the period from 1981-1993, while the last series also contains some materials extending into 1995.
    The collection is divided into three series. Series I: "KS Notebook" - Chronological Files These materials were arranged chronologically from 1981-1993, and consist of the whole range of materials within the collection. Series II: AIDS/KS Subject Files - Organizations consists of subject files, all of which were headed AIDS or AIDS-KS on the original files and referred to as "AIDS Papers." These materials also cover the period from 1981-1993. They are arranged alphabetically by subject. Series III: Other Materials, contains the remaining materials transferred from Conant's office. These materials consist primarily of conference related materials; other items include annual and honorary dinner materials, research papers, publications, and magazine articles. These materials extend to 1995.