Kelsey studies the political economy of paid blood plasma donation in order to better understand how the marketization of blood shapes the provision of healthcare. Working in partnership with Canadian Blood Services, her research will assess the political dynamics and social consequences of recent growth in the international plasma economy.

 
Faculty of Arts
Geraldine Pratt
Minneapolis
United States
UBC Public Scholars Award
 

Research Description

Blood plasma is a component of blood that can be used in transfusions as well as in the manufacture of pharmaceutical therapies. As one of few countries to permit financial compensation for plasma donation, the US is a central source of “raw materials” for what is now a global pharmaceuticals industry. Emerging research suggests that there is now a massive global market for blood plasma products; a development that raises significant questions regarding the relationship between blood services, economic development, and the provision of healthcare. In particular, my dissertation considers the dynamics of blood plasma collection since the 2008 financial crisis, focusing on key regions where paid donations of plasma have increased substantially. This will result in an important assessment of the pay-for-plasma donation system, which is currently the subject of significant public debate in both the US and here in Canada.

What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?

In my view, being a public scholar is about embracing the responsibility that comes with the privilege of being in the academy. At a time when so many problems are proliferating, we have a responsibility to produce knowledge that can be communicated, valued, and utilized by non-academic audiences. Public scholarship also means approaching the study of social life with both respect and humility, and taking seriously the knowledge that is produced by different communities.

In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?

Academic pursuit is often viewed as a solitary endeavor. Participating in the PSI is exciting in this regard because it has enabled me to make contacts with communities of blood research that I may have otherwise never had the chance to reach out to. However, at the same time that we strive to make our research valuable outside of academia, we also need to develop processes so that decision-making in the academia also reflects public commitments, participation, and activism.

How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?

By working with my community partners, I hope to develop the skills to speak with decision makers and communities outside of my home discipline of geography, which will open new opportunities for career development.

How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?

My community partners for this project are Canadian Blood Services and the Centre for Blood Research at UBC. Through this collaboration, I hope to provide Canadian policymakers and the public with research that can inform debate and decision-making among blood service stakeholders here in Canada.

How do you hope your work can make a contribution to the “public good”?

By presenting my work to both policy and scientifically oriented audiences, I hope to encourage broader interest in the social aspects of blood donation, in service of a larger goal of fostering informed citizens able to think critically about the future of blood donation and healthcare in Canada.

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I decided to pursue a graduate degree because I believe that social scientific thought and research is valuable to imagining and organizing political futures.

Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?

I choose UBC because of the excellence of the geography department, and I was excited to work with my supervisor, Dr. Geraldine Pratt. Also, as a midwesterner, I was excited about living in a part of the world with an actual topography (read: mountains and sea!).

 

In my view, being a public scholar is about embracing the responsibility that comes with the privilege of being in the academy. At a time when so many problems are proliferating, we have a responsibility to produce knowledge that can be communicated, valued, and utilized by non-academic audiences. Public scholarship also means approaching the study of social life with both respect and humility, and taking seriously the knowledge that is produced by different communities.