I am associate professor of anthropology at Brandeis University, where I teach classes on medicine, religion, and death and dying. My work explores the cultural dimensions of medicine, with a particular focus on life’s bookends: birth and death. In recent years, I have emerged as a leading voice on death literacy in the United States, appearing on podcasts and at community events that tackle Americans’ changing relationship with death.
My writing has appeared in Cognoscenti, The Conversation, The Seattle Times, and Undark Magazine, among others. I have also spoken about my work in hospitals, medical schools, churches, art museums, and law schools across the country, and I have given interviews for The Washington Post, USA TODAY, The Boston Globe, Mashable, Insider, and other outlets.
In 2015, I launched a long-term research project on medical aid-in-dying in the United States. This project asked how assisted dying is transforming the ways Americans die. I spent hundreds of hours talking with patients, families, physicians, lawmakers, and activists across the country. As part of this research, I also served as a hospice volunteer and sat in on various court cases and public hearings. My primary mission was to move beyond a polarizing national debate by uncovering people’s real-life experiences with assisted dying laws. The Day I Die: The Untold Story of Assisted Dying in America is out with Sourcebooks.
I earned my BA in Anthropology from Reed College and my MA and PhD in Anthropology from the University of Chicago. Over the years, I have received an array of fellowships and grants, including from the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the Mellon Foundation. My first book, Beyond Surgery: Injury, Healing, and Religion at an Ethiopian Hospital (2017), was awarded the Eileen Basker Memorial Prize from the Society for Medical Anthropology in 2018.
In my free time, I enjoy aerial arts and making jam. I love trail running, rock climbing, swimming, and backpacking in the great outdoors, pursuits that sporadically bring me in touch with my own mortality.
I am represented by Mackenzie Brady Watson at Stuart Krichevsky Agency.