My research examines the effects of globalization and medical consumerism on physician authority and healthcare.
In my current book project, I use the case of cosmetic surgery in the U.S. and in Asia to examine physicians’ conceptions of race. Amidst sociological attention to the rebiologization of race in medicine and science, I argue that cosmetic surgeons draw upon social as much as biological explanations for racial and ethnic difference in constructing standards for physical appearance. In this work, I draw on interviews with cosmetic surgeons and patients in the U.S. and Malaysia, participant observation of international plastic surgery meetings and surgeon-patient consultations, and qualitative content analysis of relevant professional materials.
I find that ethnic-specific beauty standards have proliferated in the U.S. By contrast, a pan-ethnic “Asian” beauty ideal has emerged in multiethnic, Muslim-majority Malaysia, among other options. Different racial/ethnic identities and formations emerge in interaction between cosmetic surgeons and patients. Yet at international conferences and in the pages of journals, efforts to promote transnational exchange in cosmetic surgery have led to a sedimentation of a few racial types of patients, aesthetics, and techniques. This work suggests that under medical consumerism, race and ethnicity may take on more salience as categories that denote aesthetic preferences as well as perceived bodily differences.
Another major area of research examines transformations to medical authority and practice as a result of changing technology and globalization. I have written about how online reviews diminish physician authority despite their largely positive content. In a study of patient attitudes toward the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in skin cancer screening, my collaborators and I found that patients were most receptive to AI-assistance in diagnosis within the context of a physician-patient relationship.