Alice Domurat Dreger
Fellow: Awarded 2008
Field of Study: History of Science and Technology
Competition: US & Canada
Alice Dreger's work centers on matters of social justice in medicine. Ms. Dreger combines a feminist political orientation, a cultural studies sensibility, and a deeply modernist devotion to science in her attempts to make biomedical practices more rational and just. Soon after earning her degree in history and philosophy of science from Indiana University in 1995, Ms. Dreger began combining her academic scholarship with patient advocacy. For over a decade, she helped run the Intersex Society of North America, the foremost policy and advocacy group for people born with atypical sex types. (Jefferey Eugenides used her work as background for his Pulitzer Prize-winning Middlesex: A Novel.) She has also worked to improve the care of children born with other types of norm-challenging bodies, including those born with conjoinment, dwarfism, and craniofacial anomalies.
Now a Professor of Medical Humanities and Bioethics in the Feinberg School of Medicine of Northwestern University in Chicago, Ms. Dreger is known for being a timely, insightful, and witty writer. Harvard University Press published her two authored books, Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex (1998) and One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal (2004). She has also edited three books, including clinical guidelines and a handbook for parents of children born with sex anomalies. Her books have been favorably reviewed in such venues as The New Yorker, The London Review of Books, The Women's Review of Books, Nature, and the New England Journal of Medicine. Ms. Dreger's essays have appeared in The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune, and she is a columnist for the online Bioethics Forum.
A dynamic speaker, Alice Dreger is frequently invited to present keynote, plenary, and grand rounds lectures at medical, scientific, and humanities conferences. She has also appeared as an expert through many broadcast venues, including Discovery Health, CNN International, the BBC, NPR, the CBC, A&E Biography, HBO, Good Morning America, and the Oprah Winfrey Show. Under the auspices of her Guggenheim Fellowship, she is currently working on a book on science and identity politics in the Internet age. She is also working on a project to rationalize the medical care of healthy short children, a project which combines development of an evidence-based decision aid and viral videos to promote a cultural understanding that short people can be happy and successful. In her spare time, Ms. Dreger sometimes provides pro bono, personalized, private histories to individuals who have experienced some specific trauma.