Not only laboratory to clinic: The translational work of William S. C. Copeman in rheumatology

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Since the arrival of Translational Medicine (TM), as both a term and movement in the late 1990s, it has been associated almost exclusively with attempts to accelerate the “translation” of research-laboratory findings to improve efficacy and outcomes in clinical practice (Krueger et al. in Hist Philos Life Sci 41:57, 2019). This framing privileges one source of change in medicine, that from bench-to-bedside. In this article we dig into the history of translation research to identify and discuss three other types of translational work in medicine that can also reshape ideas, practices, institutions, behaviours, or all of these, to produce transformations in clinical effectiveness. These are: (1) making accessible state-of-the-art knowledge and best practice across the medical profession; (2) remodelling and creating institutions to better develop and make available specialist knowledge and practice; and (3) improving public and patient understandings of disease prevention, symptoms and treatments. We do so by examining the work of William S. C. Copeman, a dominant figure in British rheumatology from the 1930 through the late 1960s. Throughout his long career, Copeman blended approaches to “translation” in order to produce transformative change in clinical medicine, making his work an exemplar of our expanded notion of TM.
Original languageEnglish
Article number35
Number of pages27
JournalHistory and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Issue number3
Early online date6 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2020


  • Translational Medicine (TM)
  • Rheumatology
  • William Copeman
  • Science communication
  • Specialisation


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