Dr Roberta Bivins
Director, Centre for the History of Medicine
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I am currently working on a study of the impact of post-war immigration – and particularly non-white immigration – on medical research and healthcare delivery patterns in the UK and the United States. I look at a variety of diseases, running across the causality spectrum -- so TB, a familiar infectious disease that many associated with Asian immigrants (but which many immigrants contracted only after their arrival in Britain and the US), works in contrast to the unfamiliar and non-infectious genetic hemoglobinopathies, sickle cell anaemia and thalassaemia. Then again, to catch the effect of (perceived and actual) cultural differences, I’m looking at two diseases closely linked to diet as well as ethnicity: rickets and adult onset diabetes. Opening up the political dimension, I’ve also included a brief study of the UK smallpox outbreak that coincided with the heated debates over the Commonwealth Immigrants Act of 1961-2, and a parallel study of US responses to the medical sequelae of the Bracero Program. For an overview describing some of my results, follow this link: http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/News/2011/Features/WTVM052334.htm
As well as constructing an account of what happened to these immigrants and to the doctors and biomedical researchers engaged in their study and care, I am looking for answers to broader questions. Obviously, I’m assessing the impact of two very different medical systems – one national and public, the other highly fragmented and private. But I’m also looking for continuities with imperial and ‘global’ medicine, and asking whether it makes a difference to how immigrant groups are perceived and treated if they are the former subjects of an acknowledged political empire, or of an unacknowledged economic one.
A second on-going project has grown from this research, bringing researchers studying issues in ethnicity and health together with the people who use research -- politicians, policy makers, Third Sector organisations, health service manages and communities themselves. You can follow this research and read more about the trans-diciplinary collaboration which has emerged from it on our webpage: IDEA Collaboration
Among other topics, I am interested in:
- the relationship between technology and medicine, particularly in the 20th century – this will be the subject of my next book, Domesticating Medicine: Medical Technology and the Modern Home;
- popular responses to genetics since WWII, for example in relation to genealogy and personal identity; genetic conditions/predispositions; and genetically modified organisms;
the transfer of expert and particularly medical knowledge across and between cultures.
I will be happy to supervise dissertations in any of these areas. Current and past doctoral students have studied:
- The Khanna Study: Population and Development in India, 1953-1969 [AHRC-funded]
- A Question of Control?: Managing Professionals and Populations in Type-II Diabetes, 1948-1992 [ESRC-funded]
- ‘You Are What you Eat’ Chronic Disease, Consumerism and Health Education in Post-war Britain [Wellcome funded]
- Hungry for Health: Protein Deficiency, Biopolitical Citizenship and International Health in Guatemala, 1949-1977[Wellcome funded]
- Sun and Surgery: History of Medical Tourism c1976-2011 – Case study of Indian ‘High-Tech’ Hospitals [ESRC-Funded];
- Dirty Secrets: Antibiotic Resistant Staphylococcus in British and American Hospitals during the 1950s [UH Funded]
I have also supervised MA topics including: Family Planning in India; 'Lands of Opportunity': Colonial Networks and Diabetes Research; Yaws, Hygienic Citizenship and International Health; Missionary medicine and East African madness c. 1880-1920; Aesthetics, Prosthetics and the Breast; Race, Identity & Human Genome Project; Popular understandings of genetics; and Cultures of Birth in Meiji & Modern Japan.
Undergraduate Modules Taught
- HI176 Kill or Cure: The History of Medicine and Health (first-year option module)
- HI269 Medicine, Identity and Technology in Modern History (second-year option module)
- HI31L Medicine in America (final-year Advanced Option)
- Director of the Centre for the History of Medicine, University of Warwick (2012-).
- Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Warwick (2008-).
- Wellcome Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in the History of Medicine, Cardiff University (2004-8).
- Assistant Professor, History of Medicine, University of Houston (2001-3).
- Research Associate, Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of Manchester (2000-1).
- Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of Manchester (1997-2000).
- Wellcome Fellow, Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, London (1996-7).
- PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1997.
- BA, Columbia College, Columbia University, 1991.
- Director, Centre for the History of Medicine 2012- present
- MA in the History of Medicine Course Director.
- Convenor for the IDEA Collaboration.
- Admissions Tutor (2008-2011).
- Alternative Medicine? A History (Oxford University Press, September 2007)
- Medicine, Madness and Social History: Essays in Honour of Roy Porter, edited with John Pickstone (Palgrave, June 2007)
- Acupuncture, Expertise, and Cross-Cultural Medicine (London: Palgrave, 2000)
- 'Ideology and Disease Identity: The Politics of Rickets, 1929-1982', Medical Humanities 39.2 (Dec 2013)
- 'Immigration, ethnicity and ‘public’ health policy in postcolonial Britain', in Catherine Cox and Hilary Marland, eds, Migration, Health and Illness in the Modern World, (Palgrave, 2013) 126-150
- 'Imagining Acupuncture: Images and the Early Westernisation of Asian Medical Expertise', Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity, 7.2 (forthcoming, Autumn 2013)
- 'Coming "Home" to (post)Colonial Medicine: Tropical Bodies in Post-War Britain', Social History of Medicine 2012; doi: 10.1093/shm/hks058
- 'Histories of Heterodoxy', in Mark Jackson (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the History of Medicine (OUP, August 2011) 576-597
- ‘"The people have no more love left for the Commonwealth”: Media, Migration and Identity in the 1961-2 British Smallpox Outbreak’, Immigrants and Minorities 25 (November 2008) 3: 263-289
- ‘Hybrid Vigour? Genes, Genomics, and History’, Genomics, Society and Policy 14 (2008) 1: 12-22
- '"The English Disease" or "Asian Rickets": Medical Responses to Post-Colonial Immigration', Bulletin of the History of Medicine 81.3 (Autumn, 2007) 533-568
- ‘Images and the Westward Transmission of Asian Medical Expertise’, in Xingxiang Zhongyi [形象中醫 Imagining Chinese Medicine] (Beijing: Renmin weisheng, 2007).
- 'Acupuncture and innovation: ‘New Age’ medicine in the NHS', in Jennifer Stanton (ed.), Innovations in Health and Medicine (London: Routledge, 2002) 84-10
- with Helen Valier, 'Organization, ethnicity and the British National Health Service', in Jennifer Stanton (ed.), Innovations in Health and Medicine (London: Routledge, 2002) 37-64