Alumni (National Fellow)

Dominique Tobbell

National Fellow
Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania (2008)
Professional Sectors:
Healthcare Services
Dream Mentor:
Dan Carpenter
Harvard University
Fields of Interest:
Healthcare Policy
History of Capitalism
Political Economy


Dominique Tobbell is associate professor of the history of science, technology, and medicine at the University of Minnesota. She is a historian of 20th century health care, biomedical science, and technology with a particular interest in the history of nursing, pharmaceuticals, and health policy. Her first book, “Pills, Power, and Policy: The Struggle for Drug Reform in Cold War America and its Consequences” (University of California Press/Milbank Series on Health and the Public, 2012) describes how the American drug industry and key sectors of the medical profession came to be allies against federal reform, and details the political strategies used by that pharmaceutical-medical alliance to influence public opinion and shape legislative reform and the regulatory environment of prescription drugs after World War II. Dr. Tobbell is currently completing a book, tentatively titled, “Dr. Nurse: Science, Politics, and the Transformation of American Nursing,” that examines the development of American nursing as an academic discipline in the second half of the 20th century. “Dr. Nurse” describes the impetus for and implementation of nursing’s academic project, revealing the knowledge claims, strategies, and politics involved in the work of academic nurses as they negotiated their roles and nursing’s place within universities and academic health centers, and situates them alongside nursing’s workforce needs and persistent debates about what level of education is needed to be a professional nurse. In doing so, it places nursing’s academic project in the context of the changing political economy of American universities; the civil rights and women’s movements; and the public’s growing dissatisfaction with an increasingly expensive, reductionist, and paternalistic health care system. Ultimately, it considers why, in the early 21st century, that academic project remains incomplete. Dr. Tobbell’s other work has focused on the role of academic and government researchers, biotechnology companies, and disease-based organizations in the development of drugs to treat rare diseases, so-called orphan drugs. She is also interested in post-war developments in the health professions and in health policy, and she is the oral historian for the University of Minnesota’s Academic Health Center History Project.

Thesis Description:

Pharmaceutical Networks: The Political Economy of Drug Development in the United States, 1945-1980

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