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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: Race, Inequality, and the Testing of New Pharmaceuticals—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. Adverse Events was the winner of the 2021 Robert K. Merton Book Award, given by the Science, Knowledge, and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association, and the winner of the 2022 Donald W. Light Book Award for Applied Medical Sociology, given by the Medical Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association.


In addition to my work on the clinical trials industry and on clinical trial participation, I have also conducted research and published on non-human animal researchnew tracking and location technologies in hospitals, the social construction of Munchausen syndrometattooing as a cultural practice, and qualitative methods. I am currently conducting research on pediatric clinical trials for peanut and other food allergies, as well as research on dual-career academics and universities' partner-hire policies.

“Partnering Through It: Confronting the Institutional Challenges Facing Dual-Career Academic Couples”

T Monahan & JA Fisher

Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

“Mission Creep or Mission Lapse? Scientific Review in Research Oversight”

M Waltz, JA Fisher, & RL Walker

AJOB - Empirical Bioethics


“‘Death and Taxes’: Why Financial Compensation for Research Participants is an Economic and Legal Risk”

M Waltz, A Davis, & JA Fisher

Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics

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