Alvan Ikoku works at the intersection of literature and medicine, specializing in the study of African and African diasporic literatures, twentieth-century fiction, narrative ethics, and histories of tropical medicine and global health.

He is primarily concerned with literary, medical, and public health discourses on Africa and its diasporas. His research situates these discourses within post-nineteenth-century movements in world literature and world health. And currently, as part of a book project, he studies the place of the long narrative forms, particularly the novel, in the emergence of global health as a modern medical specialty.

Prof Ikoku has written for the World Health Organization, Small Axe, Literature and Medicine, Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics, and Virtual Mentor, the ethics journal of the American Medical Association. He has also received president's teaching awards at Columbia and Harvard Universities.

Academic Appointments

Honors & Awards

  • Andrew W Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in the Humanities, Stanford University (2013-2014)
  • American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, Columbia University (2010-2011)
  • Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching, Columbia University (2010)
  • Mellon Interdisciplinary Fellowship, Columbia University (2009-2011)
  • Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, H˘pital Albert Schweitzer, Gabon (2003)
  • Derek Bok Award for Excellence in Teaching, Harvard University (2001)
  • Rhodes Scholarship, Rhodes Trust, Oxford (1996-1999)

Professional Education

  • PhD, Columbia University, English and Comparative Literature (2013)
  • MD, Harvard Medical School (2004)
  • MA, University of London - SOAS, African Literature (1999)
  • MPhil, University of Oxford, History of Medicine (1998)
  • AB, Stanford University, Human Biology (1996)

Research & Scholarship

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

Ikoku's research traces confluences in science and literature that have long constituted modern medical and ethics discourse ? dating from the mid-nineteenth century to the present period, and particularly where Africa and its diaspora are points of representation

His scholarship has thus been in three areas. First, work that details the place of colonial, postcolonial, and world literatures in the evolution of tropical medicine and global health as medical fields, with writing on malaria and Africa as a primary focus. His current book, Forms of Global Health, and a forthcoming article, 'Reading Malaria Literature,' are part of this research, as is previous writing for the World Health Organization. Second, a series of long articles that detail efforts by writers of African descent to examine space, race and gender as genres of self-governance. And third, work that traces the emergence of modern fiction as an alternative mode for ethical thought regarding humane care and human subjects research. Here, he has published with Virtual Mentor as well as Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics, and he is developing a second book project on the Literature of Human Experimentation.

Finally, Ikoku's research has been supported by the Mellon Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy, Columbia University Research Grants, the Marjorie Hope Nicolson Fellowship, and the Rhodes Trust.


2017-18 Courses


All Publications

  • Can Destination Therapy be implemented in children with heart failure? A study of provider perceptions. Pediatric transplantation Char, D. S., Lee, S. S., Ikoku, A. A., Rosenthal, D., Magnus, D. 2016; 20 (6): 819-824


    DT is an established final therapeutic choice in adult patients with severe heart failure who do not meet criteria for cardiac transplantation. Patients are given VADs, without the prospect of care escalation to transplantation. VADs are now established therapy for children and are currently used as a bridge until transplantation can be performed or heart failure improves. For children who present in severe heart failure but do not meet transplantation criteria, the question has emerged whether DT can be offered. This qualitative study aimed to elicit the perspectives of early adopters of DT at one of the few institutions where DT has been provided for children. Responses were recorded and coded and themes extracted using grounded theory. Interviewees discussed: envisioning of the DT candidate; approach to evaluation for DT; contraindications to choosing DT; and concerns about choosing DT. Providers articulated two frameworks for conceptualizing DT: as a long bridge through resolution of problems that would initially contraindicate transplantation or, alternatively, as a true destination instead of transplantation. True destination, however, may not be the lasting concept for long-term VAD use in children given improvement in prognosis for current medical contraindications and improving VAD technology.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/petr.12747

    View details for PubMedID 27357389

  • Reading Malaria Literature LITERATURE AND MEDICINE Ikoku, A. A. 2016; 34 (1): 207-236

    View details for Web of Science ID 000381240400010

    View details for PubMedID 27545482

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