Defending "Saving Babies?" against critics (played by  Jeremy Freese ) Photo: Sara Shostak

Defending "Saving Babies?" against critics (played by Jeremy Freese) Photo: Sara Shostak

My research draws from medical sociology and science studies and uses ethnographic and historical methods to address key issues in the for-profit U.S. health care system. I have conducted research on medical technologies, health professions, death and dying, and population health. I am currently working on three major collaborative projects.

With Pamela Prickett, I am doing a fascinating study of unclaimed deaths: people who die without family or with families unwilling or unable to bury them. We are interested in what happens in people's lives that they become unclaimed, how government agencies deal with their bodies and assets, and how certain groups step in to reclaim the unclaimed. This project is about the cultural work abandoned and forgotten dead bodies do in our society.

Here is a story related to this project in the NYTimes and an editorial in the LATimes.

Second, with UCLA colleague Tanya Stivers, I study, communication between clinicians and patients. We are interested in how many of the public health crises have origins in patient-physician interactions. The big paradigm in medical communication is patient-centered care but empowering patients to be assertive, make requests, or refuse prescriptions may have unintended consequences at the individual and collective level. Our project examines how childhood vaccinations, obesity, opioid addiction, antibiotics prescribing, and non-compliance to medications originates in the talk between patients and doctors. It's about how clinicians make  the medicine go down when patients would rather not, or when patients want to get something from doctors. In other words, we write about how patients and doctors negotiate when one of them resists what the other wants.  

Third, Iddo Tavory and I continue our exploration of the work of Charles Sanders Peirce. This work has a methodological and a theoretical component where we explore semiotics as a methodological toolbox for ethnographers. In addition, I remain interested in social science research on standardization and community spillover effects of lack of health insurance. My goal is to conduct robust qualitative research that reveals the invisible benefits and costs of the U.S. health care system.