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Dr. Heather Stewart, OSU Department of Philosophy

OSU philosophy professor co-authors book ‘Microaggressions in Medicine’

Monday, April 8, 2024

Media Contact: Elizabeth Gosney | CAS Marketing and Communications Manager | 405-744-7497 |

On Feb. 27, Drs. Heather Stewart and Lauren Freeman published their book "Microaggressions in Medicine," which aims to advance health justice by shedding light on the phenomenon of microaggressions experienced by marginalized patients in health care settings. 

"Those who commit microaggressions often do so unintentionally, that is, they do not mean to cause any harm, and they often are not aware they are doing so," said Stewart, an assistant professor in Oklahoma State University’s Department of Philosophy. "However, being on the constant receiving end of microaggressions — especially within a vulnerable setting such as a health care clinic — can wear on patients in a variety of ways, including ways that are epistemic or related to their capacity as a knower, emotional or related to their very identity.” 

Stewart and Freeman drew from patient testimonies, case studies and interdisciplinary research to illustrate the often overlooked, but tremendously harmful, impacts of subtle slights and indignities faced by marginalized groups. They wanted to bring attention to microaggressions that occur in medical practice because, while they are pervasive and widespread, they are also easy to overlook or ignore. 

“From the perspective of those causing microaggressions, microaggressions have been misunderstood as minor,” said Freeman, a professor of philosophy at the University of Louisville and director of the university's MA in Health Care Ethics. “In the book, we reconceptualize microaggressions and rethink them from the perspective of the person experiencing them. From the perspective of members of these marginalized groups, microaggressions are harmful and they are enduring. They are not ‘micro’ to the person experiencing them.”

Published by Oxford University Press, "Microaggressions in Medicine" provides analytical frameworks for understanding microaggressions, while centering the lived realities of those who experience them most. Stewart and Freeman argue these experiences can undermine patient-provider communication, fuel misdiagnoses, subvert treatment efficacy and reinforce systemic health disparities.

"Once we recognize how truly pervasive these more subtle forms of health injustice are, we can be better situated to implement strategies for reducing them when and where possible,” Stewart said. “We can then create environments less likely to cause real, enduring harm for all patients seeking health care." 

Drawing insights from gender studies, psychology, disability studies and more, the co-authors said "Microaggressions in Medicine" provides a roadmap for health care workers to join the fight for equity in health outcomes and delivery. The two plan to further expound on their research by addressing microaggressions experienced by health care workers, children, elderly people and people with disabilities in health care settings. 

Stewart and Freeman’s book is available through the Oxford University Press website and from other online publishers. 

Story By: Allie Putman, CAS graduate assistant |

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