Whether you're here because of my new book, my essays in the New York Times, The Atlantic, or Pacific Standard, my TED talk—or because of the nice things Steve Pinker, Jared Diamond, Dan Savage, E.O. Wilson, John Green, Jeffrey Eugenides, and Abraham Verghese have said about my work— I hope you'll find something interesting that you weren't expecting!
Here's a quick overview of my work: I do social justice work in medicine and science, and I do that through my research, writing, speaking, and advocacy. I’m constitutionally inclined to use evidence (especially historical and scientific evidence) to help create a more just present and future. I spend a lot of my energy pushing specific groups of people to be more evidence-based, particularly within controversies.
Much of my professional energies has gone to using history to improve the medical and social treatment of people born with norm-challenging bodies, including people with atypical sex (intersex and differences of sex development), conjoinment, dwarfism, and cleft lip. The question that explicitly motivated the first fifteen years of my work is this: Why not change minds instead of bodies?
Lately I’m working on (and from) a more global thesis: The practice of evidence is the practice of ethics. This is one of the big themes of my new book, Galileo's Middle Finger. I'm working to try to make medicine, science, and identity-based activism more evidence-based and thus also more ethical.
I'm increasingly obsessed with American democracy and the critical role of academics and journalists within it. Evidence, as I argue in my new book, is fundamentally critical to American democracy and to social justice. With academics and journalists under increasing threat from harsh economic and cultural pressures, I'm growing quite concerned about the health of American democracy. The book calls on American academics to step up, defend academic freedom, and be responsible to truth and democracy, both.
As a professional historian of medicine, I am a Clinical Professor in the Medical Humanities and Bioethics Program at the Feinberg School of Medicine of Northwestern University in Chicago. There are rumors that my Northwestern business card reads “I’m not a doctor, but I sleep with one.” I can confirm those rumors.