July 30, 2020

Books and publications about our history

Interested in learning more about the history of Kaiser Permanente and its founders? These books are good resources to start with.

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


Some of these titles are out of print, but copies can be located through libraries and mainstream used-book sellers.

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

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

Cover of book titled Permanente in the Northwest

Permanente in the Northwest
By 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 internist Ian C. MacMillan, demonstrates an insider’s insight and enviable access to details that thoroughly enrich this account.

Cover of book titled Build ‘Em by the Mile, Cut ’Em Off by the Yard: How Henry J. Kaiser and the Rosies Helped Win World War II

Build ‘Em by the Mile, Cut ’Em Off by the Yard: How Henry J. Kaiser and the Rosies Helped Win World War II
By 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

Cover of book titled Courage to Heal

Courage to Heal
By 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

Cover of book titled Cacti, Snakes and Bedpans

Cacti, Snakes and Bedpans
By Susan Baecker Grant

Written by the daughter of Kaiser Permanente’s “first nurse,” Betty Runyen, this semi-fictional novel describes events at the remote Mojave Desert hospital in the mid-1930s where Sidney Garfield, MD, first set up his practice to care for construction workers.

Lulu publications, 2013, 262 pages

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

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

Cover of book titled Embattled Dreams: California in War and Peace, 1940-1950

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

Cover of book titled Henry J. Kaiser: Builder in the Modern American West

Henry J. Kaiser: Builder in the Modern American West
By 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

Cover of book titled Henry Kaiser, Western Colossus

Henry Kaiser, Western Colossus
By 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

Cover of book titled Kaiser Wakes the Doctors

Kaiser Wakes the Doctors
By 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 World War II Kaiser shipyards.

Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1943, 158 pages

Cover of book titled Kaiser Permanente Health Plan: Why It Works

Kaiser Permanente Health Plan: Why It Works
By 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

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

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

Cover of book titled The Kaiser Story

The Kaiser Story
By Kaiser Industries

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

Cover of book titled Life Among the Doctors

Life Among the Doctors
By 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 themselves ... to keep away from doctors;” and Herman Kabat, MD, who founded the Kabat-Kaiser Institute, now the Kaiser Foundation Rehabilitation Center in Vallejo, California.

Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1949, 470 pages

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

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

Cover of book titled The Rich Neighbor Policy: Rockefeller and Kaiser in Brazil

The Rich Neighbor Policy: Rockefeller and Kaiser in Brazil
By 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

Cover of book titled Historical Review of the Southern California Permanente Medical Group; Its Role in the Development of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program in Southern California

Historical Review of the Southern California Permanente Medical Group; Its Role in the Development of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program in Southern California
By 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

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

Health Plan: The Only Practical Solution to the Soaring Cost of Medical Care
By Alain C. Einthoven

Written by a Stanford University professor, this is an excellent overview of the issues confronting national health care at the end of the 1970s.

Addison-Wesley, 1980, 196 pages

Cover of book titled Promise and Performance in Managed Care — The Prepaid Group Practice Model

Promise and Performance in Managed Care — The Prepaid Group Practice Model
By Donald K. Freeborn and Clyde R. Pope,
Kaiser Permanente Northwest Region Center for Health Research

The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994, 170 pages

Cover of book titled Kaiser Permanente: A Short History

Kaiser Permanente: A Short History
By Gerry Gaintner

Gerry Gaintner, EdD, was a Kaiser Permanente employee in the information technology department 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)