Profile: Tom Koch

Tom Koch, Adjunct Professor of Geography (medical), University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada); former Adjunct Professor of Gerontology, Simon Fraser University (Vancouver, Canada); bioethicist, Canadian Down Syndrome Society (Research Council) and a former member of its board of directors; consultant in bioethics and gerontology, Copeman Healthcare Centre, Vancouver. His research interests are varied, including gerontology, ethics, and disease mapping.

Tom Koch is a gerontologist, medical ethicist, and medical geographer. In 1990, he published the first of a trilogy of narratives on the lives of the elderly and their caregivers. Mirrored Lives: Aging Children and Elderly Parents (1990) was the first longitudinal study of the effects of caring over time on the geographical and social worlds of fragile seniors and their caregivers. A Place in Time expanded the study to a cohort of 15 caregivers (grandchildren, children, and spouses) while Age Speaks for Itself (1998) investigated the life views and geographies of the seniors themselves. Two other books, Watersheds (1994) and Second Chances (1996) transposed the field of study to non-geriatric cases of restrictive illness and social change among adults of various ages. A former journalist, his books on public information and electronic data were the first to argue for the use of digital resources, especially in the arena of medical reportage. Here his books included The News as Myth (1990), Journalism for the 21st Century (1991), and The Message is the Medium (1996).

In recent years, research has focused upon spatial data analysis using GIS and the history of medical mapping in the understanding of medicine as a science. In 2004, Koch and his coauthor, Ken Denike, won an award from the National Council for Geographic Education for a Journal of Geography article on teaching medical mapping. In 2005, he published Cartographies of Disease: Maps, Mapping and Medicine (ESRI Press), a survey of the history of the relationship between medical cartography and medical theory from the late 1600s to the present. In 2007, Tom was the distinguished lecturer in Medicine and the Haynes lecturer in geography at Texas A M University where he was the plenary speaker at a CDC-supported conference on GIS and public health as well as a speaker on mapping and epidemic disease at the Chicago Humanity Festival’s Festival of Maps. In 2008 he spoke at the Maps and Society lecture series at University College London. He is looking forward to the publication of his recent book, Disease Maps: Epidemics on the Ground, sometime in Winter 2010-11.

At the University of British Columbia, Tom is currently completing a sequel to Cartographies of Disease, research on West Nile Virus ecologies, and issues relating to the world view and access of persons with mobility deficits. As a clinical ethicist, he is engaged in both the practical problems of chronic disease care and research into the relationship between social and physical realities of persons with chronic limitations.

See Tom may be contacted at

Updated: January 2010