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Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute

Louise Tomkow

Thesis title

'Health, ageing and a hostile hospitality: Understanding asylum applicants’ narratives of life, health and ageing in the UK'


My thesis sits at the nexus of three important contemporary issues: health, migration and ageing. A growing literature problematises the UK’s current, restrictive approach to immigration, whilst concurrent studies in health research increasingly recognise that exile environments serve as a determinant of long-term health for displaced people.

With its theoretical roots in critical medical anthropology, my PhD research asks how forced transnational migration impacts the health of older asylum applicants. Semi-structured interviews with middle-aged and older asylum applicants in Greater Manchester were conducted between August 2017 and June 2018. Drawing on narrative analysis, I explore how these asylum applicants speak about health in relation to lived migratory experiences.

I also work collaboratively with clinicians and researchers in other schools, exploring issues of migration and health.


Research interests

I am interested in the broad research domains of health, ageing and migration, particularly forced transnational migration. Specifically, I am interested in health inequalities, and seek to undertake research which challenges and disrupts the policies and practices that produce and maintain inequality.

Teaching interests

  • Global health
  • Migration and health

Professional background

I am a medical doctor with 10 years' postgraduate experience in the profession. I have sub-specialised in Geriatric Medicine, enjoying the holistic and wide-ranging practice this speciality encourages. I have an interest in health inequalities. I have spent time working in Malawi and India and have a MA with distinction in Humanitarianism and Conflict Response. Additionally, I work as a volunteer Medico-Legal Report writer for Freedom from Torture and am an active part of Medact Manchester, group of healthcare professionals who campaign on issues of social justice.

Previous education

  • MBChB (Hons) University of Liverpool 2008
  • MRCP (London) 2012
  • MA (Dist) Humanitarianism and Conflict Response, The University of Manchester 2015
  • PgDip Geriatric Medicine, University of Salford, 2015

Why I’m doing a PhD at HCRI

The HCRI is a warm, dynamic and forward thinking interdisciplinary institute. As a PhD researcher it offered the chance to expand my exploration of the social sciences and qualitative research in a supportive and stimulating environment.

Research outputs

Peer reviewed publications

Tomkow, L. (2018). The emergence and utilisation of frailty in the United Kingdom: a contemporary biopolitical practice. Ageing & Society, 1-18.

Cara Kang, Louise Tomkow, Rebecca Farrington. (2019). Access to primary health care for asylum seekers and refugees: a qualitative study of service user experiences in the UK. Br J Gen Pract 1bjgp 19X701309. DOI: 10.3399/bjgp19X701309

Research reports

Lawton, K., Lee, A., Mahmood, N., Tickell-Painter, M., Pushkar, P., Squire, A., Tomkow, L., Wiggans, R., Whitehouse, E., Wilson, R. (2017). Healthcare professionals’ views and experiences of dealing with refugees and asylum seekers: a survey of North-West practitioners. Available at: 

Blogs, short articles and news coverage

Contact details