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Sheila M. Rothman, Ph.D.

Sheila RothmanSheila M. Rothman is Professor of Public Health in the Division of Sociomedical Sciences the Joseph L. Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. She is also Assistant to the Deputy Director of the Center for the Study of Society and Medicine at the Columbia College of Physicians & Surgeons at Columbia University.

Trained in social history, she received her Ph.D. from Columbia University. Her research has explored American attitudes and policies past and present toward women, persons with mental disabilities, those with chronic diseases, and those at risk for genetic disease. Her books include Woman’s Proper Place: a History of Changing Ideals and Practices 1870 to the Present (1978) and Living in the Shadow of Death: Tuberculosis and the Experience of Illness in American History (1994). She has analyzed the process of deinstitutionalization in The Willowbrook Wars (co-authored with her husband) (1984, reissued 2005).

Her most recent book co-authored with David Rothman is The Pursuit of Perfection: The Promise and Perils of Medical Enhancement (2003). Using historical and contemporary sources, it examines the development, promotion and use of hormonal therapies as well as the promise and current development of genetic technologies. It focuses on the way scientific research, medical practice and drug companies exaggerate benefits of enhancement therapies and minimize risks. In doing so, it explores what the pursuit of biological perfection has meant and will mean to us as individuals and as a society.

One current research focus for Sheila M. Rothman is the links between new technologies and individual and groups identity. She is the Principal Investigator on “A Paradox of Genetic Research: Race, Ethnicity and Disease” (National Institutes of Health 2003-2006).

The first article based on this research is ‘Ashkenazi Jews and Breast Cancer: The Consequences of Linking Ethnic Identity to Genetic Disease.” American Journal of Public Health November 2006)

Sheila M. Rothman’s second research focus is on living organ donation. She is the Principal Investigator on “The Challenge of Living Organ Donors to Social and Health Policy,” (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 2004-2006). This project explores the dramatic rise in the number of live organ donors over the past decade. It examines how transplant teams and transplant societies have responded to the change and the implications of the change for public policy and health policy. The first article based on this research is “The Hidden Costs of Organ Sales,” American Journal of Transplantation June 2006.

Sheila Rothman has a long interest in Human Rights and Medicine. Together with David Rothman, she has published articles in The New York Review of Books on how AIDS came to Romania, medical accountability in Zimbabwe, the impact of organ donation policies in Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines on socially disadvantaged groups. Trust is Not Enough: Bringing Human Rights to Medicine (2006) is a collection of these articles.

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