JOHN B. FRANCIS CHAIR
Erika Blacksher, PhD
Erika Blacksher is an ethicist and engagement scientist. She holds the John B. Francis (endowed) Chair at the Center for Practical Bioethics. She is also a Research Professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Medicine at the University of Kansas School of Medicine and remains affiliate faculty in the Department of Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Washington.
Ethics. Dr. Blacksher studies questions of responsibility and justice raised by U.S. health inequalities and the nation’s overall health disadvantage. Her conceptual work examines intersectional health inequalities, with a focus on poor white populations; diversity and identity in health and healthcare; the ethics and politics of health promotion; and methodological issues in democratic deliberation. She has published some 60 original research articles and book chapters and given dozens of invited presentations and lectures, including presentations to the National Academies of Science Committee on Rising Midlife Mortality and Socioeconomic Disparities, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Culture of Health Annual Conference, Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Health Disparities Solutions, Harvard University’s Center for Population Health, and The Hastings Center’s “Reconstructing Common Purpose and Civic Innovation” conference. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she served as the ethics expert for a series of online deliberations that gathered input from a cross-section of New Yorkers about equitable vaccine distribution among NYC’s essential workers that was developed and implemented by the New York Academy of Medicine. She is a lead author for a new National Academy of Medicine Culture of Health paper series that will examine the U.S. federal government’s “racial” categories and implications for structural racism.
Engagement science. Dr. Blacksher has long collaborated with stakeholders to design and implement innovative processes for convening communities to problem solve together about health issues that matter to them. For the past decade she has experimented with methods of democratic deliberation and its potential to advance health equity and social justice. She is currently leading a project, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program, to develop a democratic deliberative toolkit designed to convene people who differ by race, place, class, and political orientation to learn and talk together about pressing U.S. population health challenges. Since 2016, she has collaborated with colleagues at the Center for the Ethics of Indigenous Genomic Research to adapt democratic deliberation for use in Tribal communities on questions of concern to Tribal leaders and citizens. In 2021, she helped plan a National Academy of Science virtual workshop on Civic Engagement
and Civic Infrastructure to Advance Health Equity, for which she designed and moderated a “minideliberation”
for attendees to prioritize civic investments with the most potential to advance health equity. A full account of her responsibilities, publications, and presentations can be found in her CV.
Education and Institutional Affiliations. Prior to being named the Center’s endowed John B. Francis Chair, Dr. Blacksher was Associate Professor (with tenure) and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Washington, in Seattle, WA (2010 to 2020), where she remains affiliate faculty. From 2006 to 2008, she was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholar at Columbia University in New York City, after which she joined The Hastings Center, a bioethics think tank in New York, as a Research Scholar, where she studied ethical questions in population health (2008 to 2010). Dr. Blacksher has masters and doctoral degrees from the University of Virginia’s bioethics program and undergraduate degrees in both philosophy and journalism from the University of Kansas. Dr. Blacksher is a first-generation high school graduate.