As a medical sociologist, I am interested in the social construction of bodies and emotions. My overall research agenda explores the production of expert knowledge about medical socialization and its implication for the doctor-patient relationship.

My primary line of research explores the relationship between expertise and emotion in teaching and learning clinical skills in medical schools. I am currently working on a book manuscript based on my dissertation research, which explored the history and current practices of gynecological teaching associates at three major medical schools in Chicago. GTAs are female-bodied individuals who teach medical students the pelvic examination using the GTA’s own body. They are part of a growing number of simulation-based teaching programs in medical schools that allow medical students to practice their examination skills without endangering real patients.

I am also involved with several research projects, including:

  • gendered and racial differences in communication and interaction during medical student encounters with simulated patients
  • using simulated patient encounters to improve medical students’ understanding of trans healthcare
  • empathy and emotional socialization in medical education

Selected Publications:

Underman, Kelly. 2015. “Playing doctor: Simulation in Medical School as Affective Practice.” Social Science & Medicine 136: 180-188.

Underman, Kelly. 2011. “‘It’s the Knowledge That Puts You in Control’: The Embodied Labor of Gynecological Educators.” Gender & Society 25(4): 431-450.


Winner, Simmons Outstanding Dissertation Award, Section on Medical Sociology of the American Sociological Association

Honorable Mention, Graduate Student Paper, American Sociological Association Section on the Body and Embodiment, “Playing Doctor: Simulation in Medical School as Affective Practice.”

On the Web:

Crafting the Physician-Body in Contemporary Medical Education” for the ASA Section on the Body & Embodiment Blog