Benjamin R. Bates, Ph.D.
Specialization: Communication Health Campaigns and Messaging; Rhetoric of Health; Communication and International Health and Development
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Benjamin R. Bates (Ph.D., University of Georgia) is the Barbara Geralds Schoonover Professor of Health Communication in the School of Communication Studies. He is also an affiliated faculty member in the Communication and Development Studies Program and in the Center for African Studies and for Asian Studies. Dr. Bates is an affiliated researcher with the Infectious and Tropical Disease Institute, the Appalachian Rural Health Institute, and the Translational Biomedical Sciences doctoral program. He also serves as an affiliate member of the University’s Social Medicine faculty in the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine
Dr. Bates recently served as President of the Eastern Communication Association (ECA), the nation’s oldest professional organization for communication academics and practitioners. Dr. Bates has won awards for his research (ECA Distinguished Research Fellow, 2013), teaching (ECA Distinguished Teaching Fellow, 2017), and service to the academic community (ECA Past Officers’ Award, 2012).
Dr. Bates’s research is in the public understanding of health and healing. Although first trained as a rhetorical scholar, Dr. Bates appreciates and uses critical, qualitative, and quantitative methods to address questions at the intersection of health, medicine, and questions of public need. He posits that the methodology should be derived from the text or events under study, that communication can allow for emergent readings of communication to be performed, and that it is possible to test rhetorical principles with social scientific methods.
Specifically, Dr. Bates investigates international affairs as they intersect with health communication issues. He believes that health issues and their presentation to the public implicate questions of medical treatment and community understandings of treatment options. International affairs, particularly peace and conflict, have an impact on the health of the world community. Both arenas are part of a larger question of how people come to form their understandings of policy expediency and governmental justification in the public sphere. Approaching one question can yield insight into the other. Disparate medical access can inform the understanding of how economics and power operate generally, thus informing issues in the international public sphere. The tactics deployed in international policy can provide useful information about how tropes are used to present unfamiliar places and peoples, thus providing insight into how unfamiliar medical techniques and issues can be made familiar to consumers.
Dr. Bates’s work is widely published in the field of communication studies. Dr. Bates also publishes work in health and medical journals because he believes that these are the outlets read by agents of change. His works appears in outlets as varied as Health Communication, the Quarterly Journal of Speech, Journal of Communication in Health Care, Communication Studies, Health Promotion and Practice, Journal of Development Communication, Disability Studies Quarterly, Journal of Special Education Needs, and the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, among many others. He presents research at scholarly conferences, including the International Communication Association and the National Communication Association, and has won more than 20 top paper awards.
Dr. Bates teaches graduate classes about the public understanding of health and healing, health communication and culture, and rhetorical methodologies. He also teaches undergraduate courses in health communication, communication and public advocacy, and communication methods.