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. My first book, Feeling Medicine: How the Pelvic Exam Shapes Medical Training (NYU Press, 2020) analyzes 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:

  • Standardized Patient Assessment of Communication Skills: A Standardized Examinee Audit Study of Gendered and Racial Differences (Funded by the Stemmler Award of the National Board of Medical Examiners)
  • Medical Students’ Strategies for Standardized Tests of Communication Skills: A Content Analysis (Funded by the CoAS Undergraduate Fellowship of Drexel University)

Selected Publications:

Underman, Kelly, Paige L. Sweet, and Claire Laurier Decoteau. 2017. “Custodial Citizenship in the Autism Omnibus Proceeding,” Sociological Forum, 32(3): 544–565.

Underman, Kelly, and Laura E. Hirshfield. 2016. “Detached Concern?: Emotional Socialization in Twenty-First Century Medical Education.” Social Science & Medicine, 160: 94–101.

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

On the Web:

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


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