Professor of Clinical Medical Humanities & Bioethics
History and Philosophy of Medicine and Anatomy
Alice Dreger, Professor of Clinical Medical Humanities and Bioethics, earned her PhD in History and Philosophy of Science at Indiana University in 1995. Throughout her career as an academic and patient advocate, Dreger has made a practice of using the tools of the humanities—particularly history—to work on issues of social justice in science and medicine. A fellowship recipient of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Dreger is internationally recognized as an expert on sex anomalies, conjoined twinning, and contemporary scientific controversies. The unifying concept in her work has been the idea that evidence constitutes an ethical imperative.
Dreger is frequently invited to present grand rounds, keynotes, and plenary addresses at hospitals, universities, and academic conferences. She has also delivered numerous named lectures, including the Lawrence Badash Memorial Distinguished Lecture in the History of Science at the University of California Santa Barbara (2011), the Brownlee Lecture in Sexuality Studies at the University of Pennsylvania (2010), the Lawson Wilkins Lecture for the Lawson Wilkins Pediatric Endocrine Society (2007), and the Brittingham Endowed Visiting Professorship at the University of Wisconsin (2006). In 2009, Cornell College named Dreger a Presidential Fellow, and in 2010, she had the honor of presenting Northwestern University’s inaugural TEDx lecture.
Since 1998, Dreger’s essays on science, medicine, and life have regularly appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, and the Washington Post. In 2009, Norton chose her essay, “Lavish Dwarf Entertainment,” for its annual volume of Best Creative Non-Fiction. She is today a regular columnist for the Hastings Center’s Bioethics Forum and a guest blogger for Psychology Today where many of her essays have been named “essential reads” by the editors. She has appeared on dozens of broadcasts as an expert on sex anomalies and conjoined twins, including on CNN, HBO, A&E Biography, Discovery Health, the BBC, and the Oprah Winfrey Show.
An award-winning writer, Dreger focused her first two books on the biomedical treatment of people born with atypical sex anatomies. Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex (1998) is now in its sixth printing with Harvard University Press and has recently been translated into Czech. The edited 1999 anthology Intersex in the Age of Ethics constituted an expansion of a special issue of the Journal of Clinical Ethics as guest-edited by Dreger.
Dreger’s third book, One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal appeared in 2004 (also with Harvard University Press) and has been translated into Japanese. One of Us received positive reviews in The New Yorker, the New England Journal of Medicine, the London Review of Books, and Nature. It was named book of the month by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine and received an honorary mention for the 2005 book award of the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights.
In 2005, after serving as a Director of the Intersex Society of North America for seven years, Dreger led an unprecedented consensus group of clinicians, affected adults, and parents known as the Consortium on the Management of Disorders of Sex Development. She functioned as the project coordinator and editor-in-chief of the Clinical Guidelines for the Management of Disorders of Sex Development and the companion Handbook for Parents.
Dreger is currently completing her Guggenheim book on scientific controversies in the Internet age. She describes it as a memoir of other people’s lives. Two major research articles have arisen from this general project on protecting human rights activism and science—including from each other—in the era of the 24-hour news cycle, namely Dreger’s Archives of Sexual Behavior target article on the Bailey book controversy, and her Human Nature commentary on the American Anthropological Association’s role in the Darkness in El Dorado affair. She is also presently following up on the bioethics-advocacy collaboration concerned with the possible abuse of pregnant women and young girls in problematic research studies of atypical sex (as described at fetaldex.org).
In our Masters Program, Alice Dreger teaches the History of Medicine course, provides various tutorials, and directs and assists with theses. More about her work is available on her personal website: alicedreger.com.
750 North Lake Shore Drive, Room 624
“Darkness's Descent on the American Anthropological Association: A Cautionary Tale”, Human Nature, February 2011
|“Sex Typing for Sport”, Hastings Center Report, March 2010|
.“Gender Identity Disorder in
Childhood: Inconclusive Advice
to Parents”, Hastings Center Report,
The Controversy Surrounding The Man
Who Would Be Queen: A Case History
of the Politics of Science, Identity,
and Sex in the Internet Age
And the response to the 23June 2008
Appeared as guest expert on "Growing Up Intersex" episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, September 2007
Audio editorial on NPR about sex researcher John Money, July 2006
Interviewed for "Doubles and Dopplegangers" episode of To the Best of Our Knowledge, October 2005