March 6, 2020

Books and publications about our history

Book cover: 'The Story of Dr. Sydney R. Garfield - The Visionary Who Turned Sick Care into Health Care' with color illustration of Dr. Garfield.

Contributed by Lincoln Cushing

If you are interested in learning more about the history of Kaiser Permanente, the books listed here are all good resources. With the exception of "The Story of Dr. Sidney R. Garfield" and "Permanente in the Northwest," these books are out of print, but copies can often been located through libraries and mainstream used booksellers, such as AbeBooks, Alibris, Barnes and Noble, Half Price Books or Powell's Books.

The Story of Dr. Sidney R. Garfield:
The Visionary Who Turned Sick Care Into Health Care

Tom Debley with Jon Stewart

The first biography of Dr. Garfield tells the story of his long and eventful career, during which he turned his 1930s Mojave Desert industrial health care dream into a thriving and enduring reality that continues to offer a practical model for the future of American health care.

The Permanente Press, 2009, 148 pages

Available from The Permanente Press 

Permanente in the Northwest

Ian C. MacMillan

This book fills a large gap in the history of Kaiser Permanente — the unique contribution made by the Northwest region, especially in the early years. The author, retired Northwest internist Ian C. MacMillan, demonstrates an insider’s insight and enviable access to details that thoroughly enrich this account.

The Permanente Press, 2010, 313 pages

Available from The Permanente Press 

Build 'Em by the Mile, Cut 'Em off by the Yard: How Henry J. Kaiser and the Rosies Helped Win World War

Steve Gilford

A good overview of the World War II Home Front experience in the Kaiser Richmond shipyards. The book is written for the general reader and includes many personal anecdotes about Home Front life.

Richmond Museum of History, 252 pages, 2011

Courage to Heal

Paul Bernstein, MD (Permanente physician)

This historical novel tells the story of Kaiser Permanente’s founding physician, Sidney R. Garfield, MD, as he embarked on the challenge of providing care for workers in the remote Mojave Desert in the 1930s, and later mounted a massive program for the WWII shipyard labor force.

Sunbelt Publications, 2008, 229 pages

A Model for National Health Care: The History of Kaiser Permanente

Rickey Hendricks

This extensively researched book is the definitive academic history of Kaiser Permanente that tells the story of its growth and impact on American health care.

Rutgers University Press, 1993, 265 pages

Embattled Dreams: California in War and Peace, 1940-1950

Kevin Starr

Part of an extensive history of California series, this book includes discussion of Henry J. Kaiser, his wartime industrial efforts, and the founding of Kaiser Permanente.

Oxford University Press, 2002, 386 pages

Henry J. Kaiser: Builder in the Modern American West

Mark Foster

In this academic biography, historian Foster offers the definitive balanced view of Kaiser, covering his mistakes as well as his colossal strengths and successes.

University of Texas Press, 1991, 358 pages


Henry Kaiser, Western Colossus

Albert Heiner

This very readable biography is by a former Kaiser Steel executive who was an eyewitness to much of Henry Kaiser's career.

Halo Books, 1991, 434 pages

Kaiser Wakes the Doctors

Paul De Kruif

This book by America's foremost medical writer of the era was the first ever written about the revolutionary medical care available in the Kaiser World War II shipyards.

Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1943, 158 pages

Kaiser Permanente Health Plan: Why It Works

Greer Williams

The author was commissioned to investigate Kaiser Permanente to assess "what it is, how it works, and whether it is good or bad."

Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 1971, 92 pages

Can Physicians Control the Quality and Costs of Health Care? The Story of The Permanente Medical Group

John G. Smillie, MD

Dr. Smillie, an early Northern California Permanente physician, offers an insider's view of the beginnings of the Kaiser Permanente medical care program.

McGraw Hill, 1991, 283 pages

The Kaiser Story

When Henry J. Kaiser passed away in 1967, Kaiser Industries published this short book as a tribute to the company's founder.

Kaiser Industries, 1968, 72 pages

Life Among the Doctors

Paul de Kruif

A collection of essays on people the author regarded as pioneers in medicine, including: Sidney Garfield, MD, in a section titled "The Last Maverick;" Edna Schrick, MD, whom de Kruif quotes as suggesting to Dr. Garfield that "we learn how to teach the well to take care of keep away from doctors"; and Herman Kabat, MD, who founded the Kabat-Kaiser Institute, now the Kaiser Foundation Rehabilitation Center in Vallejo.

Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1949, 470 pages

Mr. Kaiser Goes to Washington: The Rise of a Government Entrepreneur

Stephen B. Adams

Historian Adams offers Kaiser's story as a case study of "government entrepreneurship." He explores the symbiotic relations forged by Kaiser and President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The University of North Carolina Press, 1997, 239 pages

The Rich Neighbor Policy: Rockefeller and Kaiser in Brazil

Elizabeth A. Cobbs

Cobbs details how Henry Kaiser's participation in the Brazilian auto industry impacted U.S. foreign relations and how postwar businessmen sought accommodation with Latin American nationalism by evolving a code of 'corporate social responsibility.'

Yale University Press, 1992, 273 pages

Historical Review of the Southern California Permanente Medical Group

Its Role in the Development of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program in Southern California

Raymond M. Kay, MD

A history of the SCPMG written by Dr. Raymond Kay, who was Dr. Sidney Garfield's close friend, a pioneer of the Permanente Medical Groups, and the founder of the Southern California Permanente Medical Group.

SCPMG, 1979, 174 pages

Health Plan: The Only Practical Solution to the Soaring Cost of Medical Care

Alain C. Einthoven,
professor at Stanford University

An excellent overview of the issues confronting national health care at the end of the 1970s.

Addison-Wesley, 1980, 196 pages

Promise and Performance in Managed Care - The Prepaid Group Practice Model

Donald K. Freeborn and Clyde R. Pope,
Kaiser Permanente Northwest Region Center for Health Research

The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994, 170 pages

Kaiser Permanente: A Short History

Gerry Gaintner

Gerry Gaintner, EdD, was a Kaiser Permanente employee for 15 years, all in the Information Technology department. He wrote this concise history in 2010, and upon his retirement, gifted it to KP Heritage Resources.

Unpublished, 2011, 42 pages

Available for download (pdf)