Working at the intersection of sociology, end-of-life care, and ethics to foster humanistic and ethical care in the culture and practice of medicine

I am a sociologist and hospitalist physician conducting research at the nexus of sociology, medical ethics, palliative care, health equity, anti-racism, and human-centered design. I am an Associate Professor “In Residence” at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) in the Division of Hospital Medicine and Social and Behavioral Sciences, Sociology program, Affiliated Faculty in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies. I spend my time between San Francisco and London where she is a Senior Research Fellow at the Cicely Saunders Institute at King’s College London. I am also a Senior Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health, a Visiting Research Fellow at Kings College London’s Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, and a Visiting Assistant Professor in General Internal Medicine at UCLA.

My research program focuses on using sociological and human centered design methods to understand how institutional cultures and policies influence clinical practice patterns and how to change institutional culture to improve the quality of care. She conducts large-scale comparative ethnographic interview studies in the United States and the United Kingdom to understand the influence of institutional cultures and policies on clinicians’ ethical frameworks, communication practices, and clinical practice patterns around end-of-life care. A particular area of interest is around the influence of neoliberalism and specifically the culture and ethical implications of neoliberalism on an institution’s ethical priorities around end-of-life care.

My other major research focus is around using community-based participatory research methods to understand how structural racism across the life course influences the provision of quality end-of-life care in older Black adults. This project is in part funded by a NIA/NIH Beeson award and a Sojourns Scholars Leadership Award. In addition, I am working on several projects to improve equity and promote anti-racist care around hospitalist care at UCSF. One project, funded by UCSF’s Caring Wisely award, is a new health advocate program to help support and advocate for African American and patients with limited English proficiency. A second project is a partnership with GLIDE, to expand their program, “Healers at the Gates” to create culture change around anti-racism and equity in UCSF’s Division of Hospital Medicine.

Among my national leadership roles, I am a past Chair of the Ethics Committee at the Society of General Internal Medicine (SGIM), an Associate Editor for the Journal of General Internal Medicine (JGIM), and a member of the Executive Committee of the Research Centers Cooperative Network (RCCN), a national coordinating center of the National Institutes on Aging (NIA) center programs. A central focus of my local and national leadership efforts have been focused on anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion. This includes involvement as a member of the Task Force for diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility for the Clinician-Scientists Transdisciplinary Aging Research (Clin-STAR) Coordinating Center, a national NIA platform for early career researchers in aging research; member of UCSF’s Taskforce on Anti-Racism and Equity in Research; a member of the Equity Committee of the Sojourns Scholars Leadership Program community; and a member of the UCSF Academic Senate’s Equal Opportunity Committee.

I completed my PhD in Medical Sociology and an MPhil in Development Studies at the University of Cambridge at King’s College as a Gates Cambridge Scholar where I wrote my doctoral thesis on the influence of institutional cultures and policies on physicians’ ethical beliefs and how that impacted the way they communicate in end of life decision-making conversations. I was also a General Internal Medicine post-doctoral clinical research fellow and palliative care research fellow at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. As an undergraduate and engineering graduate student at Stanford, I participated in the first class of Stanford’s Biodesign Innovation program where she used design thinking to co-invented and patented a device to non-invasively cool the heart through the esophagus to prevent myocardial damage during a myocardial infarction (US Patent 7,758,623; 2010). In August, 2019 this patent was licensed to Attune Medical.

Outside of academic medicine, I am an avid rower and have competed in races such as the Head of the Charles and the Henley Women’s Regatta. I am happiest when traveling the world, especially hiking and exploring the world’s natural wonders.