Hongdeng Gao

Ph.D. Candiate, Department of History, Columbia University

2020 to 2021
Dissertation Fellow

 Migration, Medicine and Power: How Chinese New Yorkers Gained Better Access to Health Care, 1949-1999

Most histories of health systems in the United States examine how forces within the nation-state borders affect the healthcare systems. My project rethinks this nation-state-focused paradigm by highlighting the impact that Cold War geopolitics had on health activism in New York City. It begins by investigating how a select group of Chinese doctors came to the United States in the mid-century as a result of American Cold War military strategy. It then analyzes how, starting in the 1970s, some of these Chinese migrant doctors contributed to grassroots efforts that made low-cost, linguistically sensitive health care accessible to New York Chinatown residents. My research will also explore the different healthcare models that emerged from these grassroots efforts and patients’ experiences. Drawing from archival records and oral histories, this study illuminates how immigrants and American Cold War foreign policy shaped the teaching, practice and knowledge production of medicine in the United States.