Health Law, Medical Ethics, Reproductive Justice, Performance in Medicine
Katie Watson is an Assistant Professor in the Medical Humanities & Bioethics Program of Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, where she is an award-winning teacher of medical students and MA students, she is a member of the Northwestern Memorial Hospital Ethics Committee, and she is the creator and Editor of the MH&B Program's Report Atrium.
Before coming to Northwestern, Watson was a public interest lawyer. She graduated from Indiana University (BA Political Science 1989), and New York University School of Law (cum laude 1992), where she held the Hays Fellowship in Reproductive Freedom and was a senior editor of the Review of Law and Social Change. She began her career as a law clerk in federal court for the Chief Judge of the Western District of Michigan, worked as an appellate public defender for death row inmates in California focusing on field investigation and expert psychiatric and social work testimony in sentencing, then was a staff attorney at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago representing impoverished clients. Along the way, she also worked as a childbirth assistant (doula). Watson completed fellowships in clinical medical ethics at the University of Chicago Medical School's MacLean Center (1999), and medical humanities at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine (2001). During and after those fellowships she was a part-time associate in the health law department of the Chicago law firm McGuireWoods. Though Watson no longer represents clients, certain types of advocacy flow naturally from her work as an academic: while at Northwestern she contributed to an amicus brief in the Supreme Court regarding “partial-birth abortion,” she authored a bioethicists’ amicus brief in an Illinois involuntary sterilization case, and she helped draft a new Illinois statute requiring due process before guardians may consent to vasectomy or tubal ligation for their wards.
Professor Watson also has an extensive background in creative writing and performance, and she remains active in Chicago’s theater community. Watson is an adjunct faculty member for sketch writing and improv at the training center of Chicago's Second City theatre, and her years of improv experience led her to create her unique “medical improv” seminar "Playing Doctor: Improvisational Theater for Doctor/Patient Communication.” She is also a playwright, and one play (“A Pound of Flesh”) received a public staged reading co-sponsored by The Goodman Theater and the Medical Humanities & Bioethics Program, and has been produced by ethics committees and performed by hospital staff as a unique readers theater project to inspire discussion around race, truth-telling, and living organ transplant. She had the honor of being an Artist in Residence at the Ragdale Foundation in 2003, 2006, 2007, and 2009.
Watson has been invited to present grand rounds and plenary addresses at hospitals, universities, and academic conferences, as well as named lectures such as the 2012 Ellen Hyman-Browne Memorial Lecture at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (“The Atticus Finch Problem: Navigating Conflicts Between Law and Ethics”).
At various times Watson has been the Unit Director for required M1, M2, and M3 medical ethics courses. Ms. Watson developed and regularly teaches a required “legal literacy” module for M3s, and two courses for the MH&B Masters program: “Bioethics and the Law” and “The Practice of Bioethics.” In 2007 Watson received the Dean’s Award for Teaching Excellence, and in 2008 she received the Gender Equity Award. In 2011-12 she was co-chair of the annual meeting for the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH), and she is on the Editorial Board for the AMA publication Virtual Mentor.
Watson’s current scholarly interests include work on her book about abortion ethics and law in both clinical and policy settings, and disseminating her medical improv course through “train-the-trainer” workshops and extending medical improv training to targeted applications such as preventing medical error and improving neonatology consults with parents in premature delivery.
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