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Amy L. Fairchild

Professor of Sociomedical Sciences

Dr. Fairchild is a historian researching the broad social forces that produce disease and shape public health policy and a public health policy analyst focused on dilemmas in the ethics and politics of contemporary debates. Guided by the understanding that history and policy do not simply represent two different worlds, she fuses these frameworks of analysis, crafting a new, historically grounded way of thinking critically about problems in a professional field. Her work's central intellectual theme has been to explore the functions and limits of the State, particularly when it seeks to address health issues that touch on groups marginalized by virtue of disease, class, and race. Fairchild's book, Science at the Borders is a revisionist history uncovering the ways that the machinery of processing unskilled immigrant laborers at the nation's borders in the early 1900's helped to define inclusion into industrial citizenship, the state, and social power. Searching Eyes: Privacy, the State and Disease Surveillance in America focuses on policy challenges that arise when it becomes necessary to report the names of individuals with disease. Written with Ronald Bayer and James Colgrove, Searching Eyes sets controversies over surveillance for diseases and conditions, including tuberculosis, venereal disease, birth defects, occupational disease, cancer, vaccination status, and HIV against the backdrop of the changing social, political, and personal meanings of privacy. Dr. Fairchild teaches a History and Policy seminar and co-teaches the Department's core course. In 2003, she was the recipient of Columbia University's Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching.   View Faculty CV here (PDF).
Education & Training:

    PhD, 1997, Columbia University

    MPH, 1990, Columbia University

    BA, 1987, University of Texas


Mailman School Affiliations:

Additional Affiliations:

  • American Public Health Association
  • Organization of American HIstorians
Honors and Awards:
  • RWJ Health Policy Investigator Award, 2002-2005
  • Columbia University Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching, 2003
  • Visiting Scholar, Institute for the Medical Humanities, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Summer 2003
New York City
    Tenement Museum
    As needed, Dr. Fairchild has supported exhibit development at the Tenement Museum.

    Save Ellis Island Foundation
    Over the years Dr. Fairchild has worked with the foundation in efforts to incorporate the history of Ellis Island in the public school education. She has also supported exhibit development related to the immigrant medical experience.

    Martial Arts Initiative
    A third degree Black Belt, Dr. Fairchild leads the Mailman School's Marital Arts Initiative. With support from New York Goju Karate Association, she offers free classes to the Columbia community every Friday.

    Co-Director, WHO Collaborating Center for Bioethics
    With Dr. Ronald Bayer at the Center for the History & Ethics of Public Health, Dr. Fairchild co-directs Columbia's WHO Collaborating Center for Bioethics, which was designated as the 6th collaborating center in 2011. The Columbia Center uniquely focuses on the historical and social context of ethical debates, emphasizing: public health ethics; challenges at the intersection of public health ethics, bioethics, and human rights, including debates over surveillance and privacy, vaccination, treatment, and isolation; the ethics of targeted versus structural interventions.

    Ethics of Public Health Surveillance
    As part of her work as a WHO Collaborating Center, Dr. Fairchild, along with Michael Selgelid from Monash University and Andreas Reis from WHO, an effort to develop comprehensive ethical guidelines for public health surveillance.

Selected Publications:
  • Amy L. Fairchild and Dave Johns Beyond Bioethics: Reconking with the Public Health Paradigm American Journal of Public Health 102 (8) 1447-50 2012
  • Fairchild AL, Bayer R, Colgrove J The myth of exceptionalism: the history of venereal disease reporting in the Twentieth Century Law, Medicine, and Ethics 31 624-637 2003
  • Amy L. Fairchild and Ron Bayer Unlinked Anonymous Testing for HIV in Developing Countries: A new Ethical Consensus Public Health Reports 127 (1) 115-8 2012
  • Amy L. Fairchild and Ron bayer HIV Surveillance and the Barrier between Public Health and Clinical Medicine: Will the Walls come Tumbling Down? New England Journal of Medicine 365 (8) 685-87 2011
  • Fairchild AL, Bayer R The uses and abuses of Tuskegee Science 284 919-921 1999
  • Fairchild AL, Bayer R Ethics and the conduct of public health surveillance Science 303 631-632 2004
  • Fairchild AL Terms of inclusion: immigration policy at the dawn and dusk of the Twentieth Century American Journal of Public Health 94 528-539 2004
  • Amy L. Fairchild, Ronald Bayer, and James Colgrove, with Daniel Wolfe Searching Eyes: Privacy, the State, and Disease Surveillance in America University of California Press Berkeley, CA 2007
  • Amy L. Fairchild and Ava Alkon Back to the Future? Diabetes, HIV, and the Boundaries of Public Health Journal of Health Policy, Politics, and Law 32 561-593 2007
  • Amy L. Fairchild, Lance Gable, Lawrence O. Gostin, Ronald Bayer, Patricia Sweeny, Robert Janssen Public Goods, Private Data: History, Ethics, and the Uses of Personally Identifiable Public Health Information Public Health Reports Supplement 1 7-15 2007

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