Dr Gemma Bowsher
Gemma is an Intellectual Forum Senior Research Associate.
Dr Gemma Bowsher is a doctor and researcher working at the interface of health security and biological threats in complex settings.
Based at the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, Gemma focuses on developing improved systems for responding to health and biological emergencies.
Gemma’s work in global health security stems from her early involvement in public health research programmes in conflict and post-conflict settings based at the King’s College London Centre for Conflict and Health. She continues to work around the world on programmes involving complex political and security dimensions as they interface with health. Her main research interests lie at the intersections of health security intelligence, bio-emergency response, and information warfare in the bio-sphere.
Gemma holds a medical degree from King’s College London and a Masters degree in Medical Anthropology from Harvard University. Her doctoral research at King’s College London has examined health security intelligence systems in international organisations. Gemma has held a range of fellowships and external appointments, including a Fellowship of the Royal Society of Public Health, the Metro Supply Chain Fellowship of the Canadian Conference of Defence Associations, and the Soulsby Foundation Fellowship for One Health.
What are you working on now?
There are two big areas of work for me at the moment. The first is hostile disinformation targeting biological research, and the second is One Health - how we understand the relationships between ecological, social and biological drivers of disease. These areas are related because disinformation threatens the underpinnings of international research and cooperation in health and biosecurity. Tackling complex interrelated risks spanning environmental, animal and human populations is necessary as we look towards future pandemics, but it’s also fertile territory for manipulation by disinformationists. My work looks to bridge these gaps between scientific, practitioner and policy communities.
How has your career to date led to this?
My career has evolved through a series of accidents. I’m a practising doctor in the NHS, but I was lucky to encounter the world of health security at an early stage of my medical education during a short elective course. Combining clinical practice with health security research is often challenging, but I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have a series of generous and supportive mentors throughout my career.
What one thing would you most want someone to learn from what you’ve done or are doing now?
Embrace cooperation. The big problems we face need people with diverse skills and knowledge to work together to solve them. Whether its future pandemics, climate change or improving a health system, there’s no monopoly on expertise in any single discipline.
Don’t be afraid of being the least knowledgeable in the room. The opportunity lies in connecting the fine detail with the bigger picture – so welcome the process of bringing people together, listening and working out how to address important issues cooperatively.
What do you think of Jesus College and the Intellectual Forum?
Maintaining a supportive space where ideas can be shared openly and constructively is so important. The Intellectual Forum at Jesus College is just such a place where complex challenges can be tackled in the spirit of collaboration.