The Yale Undergraduate Research Journal


In fear-inciting epidemic, disease has often led to the disproportionate injury of minority communities through lack of equal access to medical care and implementation of prejudiced policies disguised as public health. In the United States, the use of infectious disease as a vehicle for the targeted suppression of Chinese Americans is no new phenomenon, from the discriminatory reactions to the 1900 San Francisco plague outbreak to the escalation of racial violence in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Here, I explore how Chinese immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries responded to inadequate public health care in San Francisco, including through the bubonic plague outbreak. From the earliest examples of community-based care to the establishment of the first and only Chinese Hospital in the country, I trace how these immigrants hybridized Western and Chinese medicine in their efforts to establish the quality medical care they had been refused for decades.