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 latest book—Adverse Events—focuses on healthy volunteers’ participation in Phase I clinical trials. 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 in these clinical trials 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.

“Sacrificial Labour: Social Inequality, Identity Work, and the Damaging Pursuit of Elusive Futures.”



T Monahan & JA Fisher, Work, Employment & Society, 2020.

“Disadvantaged, Outnumbered, and Discouraged: Women’s Experiences as Healthy Volunteers in U.S. Phase I Trials.”

N Jain, MD Cottingham & JA Fisher

Critical Public Health, 2020.


“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