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Orla Mulrooney

Department: Centre for the History of Medicine

Research: Sun and Surgery: History of Medical Tourism c1976-2013 – Case study of Indian ‘High-Tech’ Hospitals (Working Title)


Orla Mulrooney is a PhD student at the University of Warwick and an Economic and Social Research Council Doctoral Training Centre award-holder. A Registered Nurse (RMN and RGN) with management qualifications, Orla has extensive experience of working in health and social care (NHS, local government and private sector) since 1981. She earned a BSc in Health and Social Care (First Class) from The Open University in 2007. Orla was awarded a Wellcome Trust Student Bursary in 2009 and completed an MA in the History of Medicine at the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at University College London in 2010.

Orla’s PhD research topic is the history of the development of the phenomenon of medical tourism from c1976 onwards, with a particular focus on the development of medical tourism to ‘high-tech’ hospitals in India for elective surgery. Although a major development in the history of medicine with widespread, manifold ramifications, recent medical tourism has been relatively unexplored by medical historians. Orla’s research will seek to develop a historical analysis of the subject by exploring the social, economic and political history of the modern medical tourism industry.

What contributed to India’s transformation, in less than 40 years, from having rudimentary surgical facilities to the importation of medical tourists to ‘high-tech’ hospitals and being seen as posing potential international threats – or opportunities – through medical tourism, telemedicine and exportation of health services? Does ‘new’ medical tourism differ substantially from forms prior to the 1970’s, reflecting escalating preoccupations with identity and the body? Is medical tourism an innocuous phenomenon? What effect has medical tourism had on healthcare? How do changes in the language of travel for health reflect the emergence and development of the recent medical tourism phenomenon?

Considering such questions, Orla’s study will employ numerous sources from diverse spheres; including fieldwork to explore India’s dramatically altered healthcare landscape. Through collection of hitherto unrecorded oral histories of disparate medical tourism stakeholders Orla aims to provide original historical data to supplement archives for future researchers and contribute to filling a historiographical gap.

A lifelong interest in health and wellbeing, her career in healthcare and experience of travelling - particularly in India - sparked Orla’s desire to research this fascinating and intriguing subject.

Supervisors: Professor David Hardiman and Dr Roberta Bivins

Orla Mulrooney
PhD Candidate
Centre for the History of Medicine
Department of History
Humanities Building
University of Warwick

Email: o dot mulrooney at warwick dot ac dot uk