The History of Antibiotics, Antibiotic Resistance, and Infection Control in Scottish Hospitals, c.1930-1970
Applications are invited for a PhD Studentship to undertake research into ‘the history of antibiotics, antibiotic resistance and infection control in Scottish hospitals c. 1930-1970’. The Studentship is funded by the Leverhulme Trust for three years beginning 1 October 2013. It will be based at the University of Glasgow in the Centre for the History of Medicine and supervised by Professor Marguerite Dupree and Professor Malcolm Nicolson.
The Studentship also forms part of a three-year research project on the history of hospital infection control, ‘From microbes to matrons: infection control in British hospitals 1870-1970’, funded by a grant from the Leverhulme Trust, under the joint direction of Professor Anne Marie Rafferty of King’s College London and Professor Dupree. The overall project uses case studies of four hospitals with which Joseph Lister and Florence Nightingale were involved (St Thomas’ and King’s College Hospital in London and the Glasgow and Edinburgh Royal Infirmaries in Scotland), to investigate the history of hospital infection control in Britain over a particularly significant hundred-year period. The holder of the PhD Studentship will be a member of the project team including Professors Rafferty and Dupree, and two research assistants – one based at King’s College London and the other at the University of Glasgow – and will be expected to attend workshops and conferences associated with the project.
It is envisaged that the successful applicant will undertake a stand-alone piece of research exploring the history of infection control in hospitals and how this has changed in response to antibiotics and the early years of antibiotic resistance, 1930-1970. The research will examine the role of the microbiologist beyond the laboratory, in developing hospital infection control measures and serving on infection control committees, as well as the shifting boundaries of the roles of the clinical staff and the matron and nursing staff. The research will involve a literature review regarding the introduction of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance to complement the literature review for the overall project, as well as archival research in Glasgow and Edinburgh, focusing on the Glasgow and Edinburgh Royal Infirmaries as case studies. It is expected that the holder of the Studentship will undertake a series of oral history interviews with nurses (including matrons), medical staff; and hospital infection control officers or policy makers in Glasgow and Edinburgh, which will be complementary to similar interviews undertaken by the research assistant in London.
The hospital environment is closely linked to antibiotic resistance, and hospital-acquired infections such as methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are obvious examples of the problem of antibiotic resistance. Resistance to methicillin was detected as early as 1961, just one year after the introduction of the antibiotic. But the nature of MRSA infection in hospitals has changed over the years. The development of resistance to antibiotics led in turn to the development of new antibiotics, and the student might investigate the impact of antibiotic resistance on the development of new antibiotics and changes in antibiotic prescribing. For example, one of the first randomised clinical trials was used to test the efficiency of different antibiotics in the treatment of tuberculosis, while new antibiotics, such as methicillin, were specifically designed to be insensitive to the beta-lactamase enzymes that rendered resistance to penicillin.
The PhD student will be based in the Centre for the History of Medicine at Glasgow University, and part of a community of research students in the history of medicine and in history and economic and social history more generally, as well as part of the project team. Training in oral history and other research skills is readily available.
For full details of the studentship, click here.