Erika Blacksher, PhD

Erika Blacksher, PhD, is the John B. Francis Chair in Bioethics--an endowed chair at the Center for Practical Bioethics--and a Research Professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center, since September 2020. She is also an affiliate associate professor in the Department of Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. Dr. Blacksher studies ethical and policy questions raised by U.S. health inequalities and the roles of civic engagement and democratic deliberation in advancing health equity and social justice. Her current  normative work examines worsening white mortality trends in low education white people and the potential roles of whiteness, socioeconomic stress, and early life adversity in these trends. Her scholarship has also addressed debates over the use of stigmatization as a tool of health promotion and disease prevention and the roles of personal and social responsibility in the production and distribution of health. Dr. Blacksher has long worked with others to develop and implement innovative participatory, often community-rooted, processes with diverse stakeholders to address ethical questions in health, healthcare, and research. For the past decade, she has experimented with democratic deliberative approaches, as a co-investigator on NIH-funded studies; as a consultant to the NIH-funded Center for the Ethics of Genomic Research, where she works with leadership to adapt democratic deliberation for tribal contexts, customs, and values; and in project’s such as “Conducting a Virtual Public Deliberation on Prioritizing COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution,” a collaboration between the New York Academy of Medicine and the New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, in which she developed and delivered a a presentation to deliberants about varied ways to think about distributive fairness. She is currently on the planning committee for the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s workshop “Civic Engagement and Civic Infrastructure to Advance Health Equity,” an activity of the Roundtable on Population Health Improvement. Dr. Blacksher led the development of a mini-deliberation for that virtual workshop.


Prior to being named the John B. Francis Chair in Bioethics, 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). 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 as a Research Scholar, working on questions public health ethics and policy (2008 to 2010). Dr. Blacksher has masters and doctoral degrees from the University of Virginia’s bioethics program and undergraduate degrees in philosophy and journalism from the University of Kansas. Dr. Blacksher is a first generation high school graduate.