Writer and historian Elena Conis (’04) awarded tenure

July 18, 2018

Dr. Elena Conis, a 2004 graduate of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, has been promoted to associate professor at the School.

Conis, a writer and historian specializing in medicine, public health, and the environment, has 14 years of teaching experience. Since returning to Berkeley in 2016, she has taught J200, the School’s intensive foundational course in the essentials of journalism, specializing in health coverage. She also serves as a master’s thesis faculty adviser and helps coordinate the School’s joint master’s program with the School of Public Health.

Before coming to Berkeley Journalism, Conis was an Assistant Professor of History and Faculty Fellow in the Health and Humanities at Emory University. From 2003 to 2011, she was an award-winning health columnist for The Los Angeles Times, where she wrote the “Esoterica Medica,” “Nutrition Lab,” and “Supplements” columns.

Edward Wasserman, Berkeley Journalism dean, welcomed Conis’s promotion to a tenured faculty position. “Elena brings a superb record of accomplishment as both a journalist and a scholar, has been a favorite among her students, and has served the School exceptionally well in its many governance and policy committees,” Wasserman said. “The breadth of her experience and the exquisite care with which she teaches has rightly earned her this position at one of the top research universities in the world.

“I couldn’t be happier for her and the students who will learn from her,” Wasserman said.

Photo: Marlena Telvick

“Now more than ever,” said Conis, “we need reporters who can dig deep, think critically, and challenge the conventional narratives shaping our views on everything from politics to science. It’s an honor to take part in training the next generation of journalists at an institution as vibrant and inspiring as Berkeley.”

Elena earned her Ph.D. in History of Health Science from UC San Francisco. Her doctoral dissertation, “Calling the Shots: A Social History of Vaccination in the U.S. 1968-2008,” became the foundation for her first book, Vaccine Nation: America’s Changing Relationship with Immunization (University of Chicago Press).

Vaccine Nation received the Arthur J. Viseltear Award from the American Public Health Association and was named a Choice Magazine Outstanding Academic Title and a Science Pick of the Week by the journal Nature. Conis is currently working on a book, with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, on the history of the pesticide DDT.

Elena also serves on the faculty of the Department of Anthropology, History, and Social Medicine at UC San Francisco as an affiliated faculty member.

In addition to her doctoral and MJ degrees, she holds a master’s degree in public health from Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree in biology from Columbia.


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