Zena Stein papers, 1955-2017 (bulk 1971-2017)

Stein, Zena
Date [inclusive]
Physical Description
13.2 cubic feet (36 boxes, 1 oversize folder, 1 artifact folder)

Because the papers include Confidential Health Information (CHI) as defined by Columbia University policies governing data security and privacy, access is allowed only under the terms of Archives and Special Collections’ Access Policy to Records Containing Confidential Health Information.

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Digital access copies for born-digital photographs are available on demand, onsite, in Archives and Special Collections


Records created and collected by Zena Stein, Professor Emeritus in Epidemiology and Psychiatry in the Mailman School of Public Health. A South African epidemiologist, Stein was also co-founder of the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies, New York State Psychiatric Institute.

Cite as
Zena Stein Papers, Archives & Special Collections, Columbia University Health Sciences Library.
Historical/Biographical Note

Epidemiologist Zena Stein was born on July 7, 1922 in Durban, South Africa. Her parents were Jewish, European immigrants. Stein attended the University of Cape Town (BA 1941, MA 1942) and served in the armed forces during World War II. She then entered medical school and received her MB, and BCh degrees from Witwatersrand University (1950).  

She was appointed medical officer at the Alexandra Health Centre and University Clinic in Johannesburg (1952-1955) and subsequently moved to England with research posts in in London and the University of Manchester. She moved to the United States and was appointed Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the Columbia University School of Public Health in 1966. She received tenure in 1973 and 1978 in the School of Public Health (renamed Mailman School of Public Health in 1998) and Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center, respectively.

Stein also served as Associate Dean of Research, Mailman School of Public Health (1986-1991); co-founded (with Anke Ehrhardt) the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies, New York State Psychiatric Institute in 1987; and Professor in the Department of Psychiatry in 1991. In 1993, she was appointed Emeritus Professor of Public Health at Columbia University.

While in medical school she married Mervyn Susser, her lifelong companion and colleague. Both had careers in epidemiology and co-authored dozens of academic papers. Their research often focused on health inequities and social justice, beginning with the effects of social class in the identification of children with mental retardation and the epidemiological study of the economically and racially oppressed in the Alexandra Township. After emigrating to England, Stein took researcher posts in the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Manchester (1957-1965), focused on the epidemiology of reproduction and childhood enuresis (bed-wetting). Susser was founding director and chair of the Sergievsky Center (1977-1991) at Columbia University where they continued to collaborate in their research.

Stein continued to be engaged in South African health policies, founding--with Susser--the Manchester Anti-Apartheid Committee, in addition to the Committee for Health in Southern Africa (CHISA) in New York.

With the arrival of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Stein’s work focused on its impact on women, particularly those afflicted by social and economic disparities in Africa. In her interview with Emily Bass in Microbicide Quarterly (2004), Stein described her skepticism when first introduced to the condition later known as AIDS, as a sexually transmitted “gay man’s disease,” and the absence of ciswomen in early GRID (Gay-related immunodeficiency) studies. She went on to become the leading promoter in the development of microbicides to prevent the transmission of HIV. She recognized the need for studying, not only the health of ciswomen, but also sex workers and to consider bisexual and heterosexual transmission.

Stein’s attention on women-initiated prophylactics in HIV prevention also led to advocacy of the “female condom,” or internal condom contraceptive—approved by the FDA for use in the U.S. in 1993. She authored early studies on its use and co-authored an acceptability study of the internal condom that included instruction on its use by women at Harlem Hospital (1993-1994). She presenting and participating in meetings regarding its use and effectiveness, such as the 3rd annual Female Condom Education and Distribution Project meeting in Seattle, Washington (2002).

As Associate Dean of Research at Mailman and Co-Director of the HIV Center, she supported Columbia University’s AIDS-related Program in Behavioral Sciences Research in HIV Infection which provided training to pre- and post-doctoral students in social and behavioral research relevant to HIV prevention and care. She continued to participate in HIV/AIDS-related conferences internationally as an expert and mentor in this field of epidemiology in South Africa, serving for example, on Thabo Mbeki’s Presidential AIDS Advisory Panel, Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies, and Fogarty AIDS International Training and Research Program.

Stein has co-authored dozens of papers and chapters on epidemiology, women’s health and AIDS. She has served on the editorial boards for American Journal of Public Health, American Journal of Human Genetics, and Genetic Epidemiology. She received the John Snow Award from the American Public Health Association in 1999 and the Africa Center for Health and Population Studies in Hlabisa, Kwazulu, South Africa dedicated an auditorium to Professors Mervyn Susser and Zena Stein in 2002.


Arranged into 5 series: I. Project files: 1971-1990s; II. Project files: 1991-2017; III. Correspondence Incoming, 1989-2011; IV Correspondence Outgoing, 1998-2011 and IV. Publications, 1955-2011.

Scope and Content

Contains correspondence in the form of letters, printed-out emails, memos, telegrams, greeting cards; writings in the form of academic papers, manuscripts, drafts, reprints and other published works; conference and workshop materials including agendas, itineraries, presentations, programs, papers, photographs, and optical disks.

Includes records documenting Stein’s professorship at the Mailman School of Public Health, such as syllabi and other course materials, grant budgets, reports, emails, and student and employee letters of recommendations. A few student records are found unorganized within her files.

These papers also hold material collected by Stein for various topics, consisting of newsletters, reports, programs, journals, brochures, and optical disks.

Other presentation materials by Stein and others include transparencies and slides.


Gift of Zena Stein, 2012 (Accession #2012.015).

Processing Notes

Processed by Jennifer Ulrich 2021.

Rehoused into new folders and boxes. Kept in original order. Contents within folders not necessarily found in chronological order. Original folder titles retained unless revised for clarity and ease of searching. Multiple duplicates were discarded. Airplane tickets and travel receipts/purchase orders were shredded.

In series 4, the number and order of numbered articles were maintained with the exception of the following folders found empty, so removed from the container list:

27. Stein, Susser. "The social dimensions of a symptom: a sociomedical study of enuresis" 1967.

80. Susser, Stein, and Kline. "Ethics in epidemiology," Annals…, 1978.

110. Susser, Stein. "Prenatal diet and reproductive loss," Human embryonic and fetal death, 1980.

208. Stein, "The double bind in science policy…" American journal of public health, 1992.

235. Durken, Stein. "Classification of mental retardation".

Mantell, et al. "Assessing microbicide acceptability".

Authors and article titles transcribed with publication title and year, when available.