Erika Blacksher, PhD


(816) 979-1358

Erika Blacksher was appointed the John B. Francis Chair in Bioethics on September 1, 2020. Dr. Blacksher studies ethical and policy questions raised by health inequalities in the United States and the role of civic engagement in advancing health equity and social justice. Her current work focuses on questions of responsibility and justice raised by white mortality trends in low education white people and related roles of ACEs, SES deprivation, and whiteness.


Dr. Blacksher has masters and doctoral degrees from the University of Virginia’s bioethics program, after which she was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholar at Columbia University in New York City from 2006 to 2008. She then joined The Hastings Center as a Research Scholar, working on questions of public health ethics and policy from 2008 to 2010.


Immediately prior to joining the Center for Practical Bioethics as the Francis Chair, Dr. Blacksher was Associate Professor (with tenure) and Director of Undergraduate studies at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA. At UW, she created and taught two popular courses each year—Social Justice and Health and When Life Makes You Sick: Ethics and the Social Determinants of Health—and directed the Bioethics Minor. 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, biobanks, and data stewardship.


Dr. Blacksher publishes regularly in bioethics, public health, health policy, medical, and deliberation journals, such as the American Journal of Bioethics, American Journal of Public Health, Hastings Center Report, JAMA, and Journal of Public Deliberation. She also lectures frequently and widely, giving invited talks to professional and academic entities, most recently to the National Academies of Science Committee on Rising Midlife Mortality Rates and Socioeconomic Disparities, The Hastings Center’s Project on Reconstructing Common Purpose and Civic Innovation for a Democracy in Crisis, The Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Disparities Solutions, Interdisciplinary Association for Population Health Science, the American College of Medical Genetics, and the Society for Pediatric Anesthesia.


The Francis Chair brings Dr. Blacksher home to the Center for Practical Bioethics, where she served as the Deputy Director of Community-State Partnerships to Improve End-of-Life Care, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program to create a policy and civic environment conducive to good end-of-life care, and as a Center Program Associate focused on health and healthcare disparities, from 1998 to 2003. She looks forward to building this next phase of her career at the Center working with community leaders in Kansas City to address widening educational disparities and entrenched racial disparities in health using civic tools that can promote health and opportunity for all in the Heartland.


Dr. Blacksher lives in Los Angeles, California with her husband of 20 years, Thomas Knittel, an architect who got his start in Kansas City, the city they both call home and look forward to spending more time in.