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Erika Blacksher, PhD

Research Professor (volunteer), Department of History and Philosophy of Medicine

John B. Francis Chair in Bioethics, Center for Practical Bioethics

Professional Background

  • University of Kansas BA, Philosophy
  • University of Kansas, BS, Journalism
  • University of Virginia MA, Religious Studies (Bioethics)
  • University of Virginia, PhD, Religious Studies (Bioethics)
  • Columbia University Post-Doc, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholar

For the past 20 years, I have studied ethical and policy issues raised by the social determinants of health and health inequalities in the United States. My current normative work focuses on questions of justice and responsibility raised by worsening white mortality trends and related roles of early life adversity, socioeconomic deprivation, and whiteness against a backdrop of entrenched racial disparities in health. My current empiric work draws on principles of deliberative democracy to inform the design and implementation of deliberative forums that aim to advance health and social equity through policy solutions and civic connection.



Erika Blacksher joined the Department of History and Philosophy of Medicine faculty as Research Professor (volunteer) on September 1, 2020 in coordination with her appointment as the John B. Francis Chair in Bioethics at the Center for Practical Bioethics. Prior to joining the Department of History and Philosophy of Medicine and the Center for Practical Bioethics as Francis Chair, Dr. Blacksher was Associate Professor (with tenure) and Director of Undergraduate studies at the University of Washington, Seattle, WA from 2010 to 2020. There she created and taught annually two popular courses-Social Justice and Health and When Life Makes You Sick: Ethics and the Social Determinants of Health-and directed the UW Department of Bioethics and Humanities' Bioethics Minor from 2016 to 2020. Dr. Blacksher was also a co-investigator on numerous studies funded by the National Institutes of Health, leading the development and implementation of participatory and deliberative processes to engage minority and marginalized communities on ethical questions of health research and policy. She is also a consultant to the Center for the Ethics of Indigenous Genomics Research, a NIH Center of Excellence, working with partners to translate deliberative democratic principles into practical deliberative forums that can effectively and equitably elicit the views of tribal communities on ethical questions about genomic research. Dr. Blacksher's undergraduate degrees in philosophy and journalism are from the University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS.

Dr. Blacksher was also on staff at The Hastings Center, a free-standing bioethics center located in Garrison, NY, at two points in her career. From 2008 and 2010, as a Research Scholar working on public health ethics and policy issues and from 1995 to 1998 as Associate Editor of the Hastings Center Report.

Selected Publications

  • Blacksher E, Valles S. 2020. White Privilege, White Poverty: Reckoning with Class and Race in America, Hastings Center Report (special supplement), forthcoming
  • Reedy J, Blanchard J, Lund J, Spicer P, Byars C, Peercy M, Saunkeah B, Blacksher E. 2020. Deliberations about Genomic Research and Biobanks with Citizens of Chickasaw Nation, Frontiers in Genetics 14;11:466.
  • Umeukeje E, Young B, Fullerton SM, Cavanaugh K, Owens D, Wilson JG, Burke W, Blacksher E. 2019. You Are Just Now Telling Us About This? African American Perspectives on Testing for Genetic Susceptibility to Kidney Disease. Journal of the American Society of Nephrology 30;4:526-530. doi: 10.1681/ASN.2018111091
  • Blacksher E. 2018. Shrinking Poor White Life Spans: Class, Race, and Health Justice. American Journal of Bioethics 18;10:3-14. doi:10.1080/15265161.2018.1513585
  • West KM, Blacksher E, Burke W. 2017. Genomics, Health Disparities, and Missed Opportunities for the Nation's Research Agenda. JAMA 317;18:1831-1832. doi: 10.1001/jama.2017.3096
  • Blacksher E, Nelson C, Van Dyke ER, Bassett D, Echo-Hawk AL, Buchwald DS. 2016. Conversations about Community-Based Participatory Research and Trust: "We Are Explorers Together" Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, and Action 10;2:305-9. PMID: 27346777. DOI: 1353/cpr.2016.0039.
  • Blacksher E, Maree G, Schrandt S, Soderquist C, Steffensmeier T, St. Peter R. 2015. Health Policy, Ethics, and the Kansas Legislative Health Academy. American Journal of Public Health 105:485-489. PMID: 25607945. DOI:10.2105/AJPH.
  • Abelson J, Blacksher E, S. Boesveld, Goold SD, Li K. 2013. Public Deliberation in Health Policy and Bioethics: Mapping an Emerging, Interdisciplinary Field. Journal of Public Deliberation 9;1: Article 5.
  • Blacksher E. 2013. Participatory and Deliberative Practices in Health: Meanings, Distinctions, and Implications for Health Equity. Journal of Public Deliberation 9;1: Article 6.
  • Blacksher E. 2012. Redistribution and Recognition: Pursuing Social Justice in Public Health. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 21;3:1-12. PMID:22624535. DOI:10.1017/S0963180112000047.
  • Blacksher E, Diebel A, Forest PG, Goold SD, Abelson J. 2012. What Is Public Deliberation? Hastings Center Report 42;2:14-17. PMID:22733324, DOI:10.1002/hast.26.
  • Blacksher E, Lovasi G. 2012. Place-focused Physical Activity Research, Human Agency, and Social Justice in Public Health: Taking Agency Seriously in Studies of the Built Environment. Health & Place 18;2:172-179. PMID:21940195. DOI:10.1016/j.healthplace.2011.018.019.
  • Blacksher E, Rigby E, Espey C. 2010. Public Values, Health Inequality, and Alternative Notions of a "Fair" Response. Journal of Health Policy, Politics, and Law 35;6:889-920. PMID:21451157. DOI:10.1215/03616878-2010-033.
  • Blacksher E. 2010. U.S. Health Reform: What's Prevention Got to Do with It? Perspective. Hastings Center Report 40;6:49.
  • Blacksher E. 2009. Health: The Value at Stake. Hastings Center Report Special Supplement:27-29.
  • Blacksher E. 2008. Carrots and Sticks to Promote Healthy Behaviors: A Policy Update. Hastings Center Report 38;3:13-16. PMID: 18581931
  • Blacksher E. 2002. On Being Poor and Feeling Poor: Low SES and the Moral Self. Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 23;6:455-470.
  • Blacksher E. 2018. Public Health and social justice: An argument against stigma as a tool of health promotion and disease prevention. In The Handbook of Stigma, Discrimination and Health, Link B, Dovidio J, Major B., eds. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Blacksher E. 2016. Obesity Prevention in Children: Media Campaigns, Stigma, and Ethical Considerations (Case Study). Public Health Ethics: Cases Spanning the Globe, Barrett DH, Ortmann LH, Dawson A, Saenz C, Reis A, Bolan G, eds. New York, NY: Springer International Publishing. Available online at:
  • Blacksher E, Goold SD. 2016. Black-White Infant Mortality: Disparities, Priorities, and Social Justice in Public Health (Case Study). Public Health Ethics: Cases Spanning the Globe. Barrett DH, Ortmann LH, Dawson A, Saenz C, Reis A, Bolan G, eds. New York, NY: Springer International Publishing. Available online at:

Selected Recent Invited Talks

  • Blacksher E. "A Letter to My People: Reflections on Whiteness Amid a Racial Reckoning in America," 26th Rosemary Flanigan Lecture, Center for Practical Bioethics. Kansas City, Missouri. August 17, 2020.
  • Blacksher E. "Pandemics and Social Values: Reopening America," Balancing Health and Economic Considerations in COVID-19 Responses: Dilemmas and Opportunities for Population Health Webinar (Panelist). Interdisciplinary Association for Population Health Science. May 21, 2020.
  • Blacksher E. "The Risk of Stigmatization in Targeted Local Health Policies," Connecting Local, State and Global Justice in Community Health Policy (Panelist). World Congress of Bioethics and International Association of Bioethics. Philadelphia, PA. June 19, 2020.
  • Blacksher E. "Health Justice in the Genomic Era: The Role of Democratic Deliberation," Genetic and Genomic Testing Outside of Clinical Care: Changing Paradigms for Access, Application, and Understanding. R. Rodney Howell Symposium (Panelist). American College of Medical Genetics Annual Meeting. San Antonio, TX. June 5, 2020.
  • Blacksher E. "Health Justice at the Intersection of Class and Race: Concepts of Whiteness and Longevity Loss in Low Education White People," The Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions. The Johns Hopkins University. Baltimore, MD. December 9, 2019.
  • Blacksher E. "Concepts of Whiteness and Midlife Mortality Rates and Socioeconomic Disparities." Presentation to Committee on Rising Midlife Mortality Rates and Socioeconomic Disparities. National Academies of Science. Washington, D.C. July 18, 2019.
  • Blacksher E. "White Privilege, White Poverty: Barriers to and Opportunities for Civic Learning and Democratic Discourse in a Polarized America." Research Project Workgroup Member. How Should the Public Learn? Reconstructing Common Purpose and Civic Innovation for a Democracy in Crisis. The Hastings Center. Garrison, NY. November 15, 2018.
  • Blacksher E. "Challenges to Talking About APOL1 Gene Variants and Racial Disparities in Kidney Disease," Racial Inequalities in Kidney Diseases: Connecting Social Factors to Genetic Risk (Distinguished Faculty). American Society of Nephrology Kidney Week 2018. San Diego, CA. October 27, 2018.
KU School of Medicine

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