My work focuses on how social inequalities are produced or exploited by commercialized medicine in the United States. My primary area of research examines how clinical trials are conducted and who participates in them as researchers and human subjects. In my book Medical Research for Hire, I show how clinical trials have become a revenue stream for physicians and an important source of medical “care” for uninsured patients.


My new book about healthy volunteers’ participation in clinical trials will be published by New York University Press in Spring 2020. Healthy volunteers gain no health benefits and expose themselves to risks for the stipends that pharmaceutical companies pay for their time. I analyze their participation through the lenses of stigma and social inequality.


In addition to my work on the clinical trials industry and on clinical trial participation, I have also conducted research and published on new tracking and location technologies in hospitals, on the social construction of Munchausen syndrome, on tattooing as a cultural practice, and on qualitative methods.

“Appraising Harm in Phase I Trials: Healthy Volunteers’ Accounts of Adverse Events.”



L McManus et al., Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 2019.

“Advancing Ethics and Policy for Healthy-Volunteer Research through a Model-Organism Framework.”



JA Fisher & RL Walker

Ethics & Human Research, 2019.


“Picking and Choosing Among Phase I Trials: A Qualitative Examination of How Healthy Volunteers Understand Study Risks.”


JA Fisher, T Monahan, & RL Walker

Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, 2019.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill