Ryan J. Dougherty

Social Welfare Scholar

About me

Welcome all! My name is Ryan. I'm a social welfare scholar (MSW and PhD) and Fellow of Medical Ethics at Weill Cornell Medical College. In addition to conducting research and teaching medical students, I am being trained in medical ethics consultation services in my fellowship. Please feel free to contact me for my full CV or opportunities to collaborate.
My work examines ethical problems in health and social welfare policies for vulnerable populations with serious mental illnesses, particularly in relation to growing social inequities like poverty and mass incarceration. Questions that I examine include how can health policies balance individual liberties with public health initiatives and how do our understandings of ethical values shape the design of social programs. To explore these questions, I use qualitative research methods to explore moral problems that emerge in service delivery between patients and their treatment providers. 

I draw across interdisciplinary perspectives, including sociology, anthropology, and social work, as well as critical theoretical perspectives in feminist, disability, and mad studies in order to highlight the role of power in shaping the ways medical and social services are delivered and experienced. My aim is to guide both theory and practice towards building a more ethical and just society for vulnerable populations.

I completed my PhD in Social Welfare at the University of California, Los Angeles. My dissertation, titled Medicating Vulnerability through State Psychiatry: An Ethnography of Client Manipulation in Involuntary Outpatient Commitment, examined moral problems in the management of psychiatric medications in involuntary services. I received my MSW at UCLA in 2017 with an emphasis on mental health policy. In 2014, I received my BS in Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience at the University of Michigan.


Ryan J. Dougherty, MSW, PhD

Fellow of Medical Ethics