Itai Bavli is a Visiting Fellow in the Harvard Department of the History of Science and a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of British Columbia’s Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate Program in the fields of public health, public policy, and applied ethics. Itai Bavli’s scholarship is at the intersection of the harmful effects of public health interventions and ethics.


His research focuses on public health errors and post-market regulations in the United States and Canada, racism and health and conflict of interest in health research. He has recently been awarded the W. Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics Graduate Fellowship for a proposal titled: “OxyContin abuse—Ethical issues regarding post-market regulation by the FDA and Health Canada.” He investigates how much evidence – and what kind of evidence – should be sufficient for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Health Canada to justify regulatory action in response to a (potential) public health error.


As a visiting fellow in the Harvard Department of the History of Science, Itai Bavli plans to further expand his research on radiation treatment and investigate other aspects of the treatment. Specifically, he will examine why the discovery of similar adverse effects led to broken trust and suspicion toward the medical establishment in Israel, yet triggered no such hostility or broken trust regarding US health authorities. His research suggests that important factors for understanding mistrust in health authorities include which population is at risk (in Israel, the lower socioeconomic level as opposed to middle-upper class, mostly white, patients in the US) and a failure to communicate and effectively alert former patients about the adverse effects. His findings also suggest that national health authorities are more likely to assist privileged over disadvantaged communities experiencing the adverse effects of medical treatments. Based on the radiation treatment case, he plans to continue to explore this avenue of study by unpacking the complex relationship between social inequality, the adverse effects of medical treatment, and trust in the medical establishment.


Itai will also explore existing studies on the controversies and ambiguity regarding the lack of a threshold below which radiation was considered to be safe (i.e., tolerance dose) and the potential risk of radiation per year (i.e., maximum protection dose) and examine whether racial beliefs may have structured the debate; specifically, the belief that African Americans have denser bones and thicker skins and muscles and therefore need larger x-ray doses to make diagnostic pictures. His preliminary findings show that this belief and recommendation had appeared in standard x-ray technology textbooks until the mid 1960s. Consequently, African Americans were getting increased radiation doses compared to other populations. He will investigate the source of this belief, the science behind it, the length of time x-ray technicians followed this recommendation, and its effect on African Americans. He will also examine the response of the Division of Radiological Health of the Public Health Services (PHS) to this discovery. Itai hopes to contribute to our understanding of how racial beliefs and considerations shaped scientific discussions, and shed new light on the political, ethical and social aspects of the use of radiation in the US.

Mr. Bavli was also a researcher at the Gertner Institute for Epidemiology and Health Policy Research in Israel, where he was part of a research group that investigates the response of health authorities in the United States and Israel to the adverse effects of radiation treatment. He received his BA (Political Science and International Relations) and MA (Political Science) from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  


Bavli, Itai, Sutton, Brent and Sandro Galea. “Harms of Public Health Interventions against Covid-19 Must 

Not Be Ignored.” BMJ 371, (2020): m4074 (link).

Bavli, Itai, and Daniel Steel. “Inductive Risk and OxyContin: The Ethics of Evidence and Post-Market 

Surveillance of Pharmaceuticals in Canada.” Public Health Ethics, phaa031, (2020) 1-15 (link).

Bavli, Itai. “Industry Influence and Health Canada’s Responsibility: Lessons from the Opioid Epidemic in 

Canada.” Addiction 115, no. 9 (2020): 1605-1606 (link).

Bavli, Itai, and Shifra Shvarts. “Michael Reese Hospital and the campaign to warn the US public of the 

long-term health effects of ionizing radiation, 1973–1977.” American journal of public health 109, no. 3 (2019): 398-405 (link).

Bavli Itai, and Haim Mell. “The Opioid Epidemic in the United States: The Role of Pharmaceutical 

Companies in the Opioid Crisis” [in Hebrew]. The Israeli Journal of Occupational Therapy 28.1 (2019): 26-40 (link)

Steel, Daniel, Chad Gonnerman, Aaron M. McCright, and Itai Bavli. “Gender and Scientists’ Views about 

the Value-Free Ideal.” Perspectives on Science 26, no. 6 (2018): 619-657 (link)

Bavli, Itai. “The Campaign to Warn the Public of the Late Health Effects of Radiation Treatment in the 

United States” [in Hebrew]. In: Shvarts S., Sadetzki S. (editors), Ringworm, Ben-Gurion University publication house (2018): 249-288.

Shvarts, Shifra, Bar-Oz, Aya, Shachar, Eli, Levi, Sari, Samchi, Siegal, and Itai Bavli. “Ringworm in Israel” [in 

Hebrew]. In: Shvarts S., Sadetzki S. (editors), Ringworm, Ben-Gurion University publication house (2018): 289-319.

Bavli, Itai, and Daniel Steel. “On Community Epistemic Capacity.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply 

Collective 4, no. 12 (2015): 34-38 (link)


Other Publications

Why Big Pharma must disclose payments to patient groups,” in The Conversation, January 13, 2019 

(with Joel Lexchin) (link).

A generation of Canadian children was given radiation treatment and never warned of the cancer 

risks,” in The Conversation, June 19, 2019 (link)