About me

Welcome all! My name is Ryan. I am a scholar and healthcare ethics consultant whose work aims to bolster patient-centered care through a social justice perspective.

I'm an Assistant Professor at Baylor College of Medicine's Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy, where I research, teach, and conduct clinical ethics consultation services with Houston Methodist Hospital's Biomedical Ethics Program. I also serve as an Adjunct Professor of Medical Education at the Texas A&M University School of Engineering Medicine.

Feel free to contact me for opportunities to collaborate, inquiries about guest lecturing or clinical presentations, or to learn more about my work. I'm always happy to meet.

I examine how broader social, economic, and political systems construct and shape our responses to so-called "bioethical issues" in healthcare settings. My approach, which I have term social bioethics, draws across interdisciplinary perspectives including sociology, anthropology, and social welfare, 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 provide insights on how to better realize our ethical commitments and create a more just healthcare system.

To conduct this, I typically use qualitative research methods to examine moral problems that emerge in the service delivery between patients and their treatment providers.

In recent years, I have examined social bioethical issues pertaining to involuntary psychiatric services. I am interested in understanding how to better design social welfare policy to reduce the use of coercion in everyday practice.

Healthcare Ethics Consultation
As a healthcare ethics consultant, I work on a range of issues such as treatment refusal in patients without decision-making capacity, goals of care at end-of-life, and disagreements among surrogate decision-makers for patients. I draw from a facilitation-based approach to explore the concerns of patients, their treatment teams, and health care institutions to resolve ethical problems.

I further draw from my training as both a social worker and ethnographer to identify how power dynamics in treatment spaces operate. This aids me in upholding a patient-centered framework that centers their experiences, preferences, and values in healthcare. I believe this approach is particularly important for vulnerable populations without decision-making capacity or representation in their care.

I infuse a pedagogical approach in my work as a consultant. I actively present at committee meetings and rounds for various departments in my current role. I use these opportunities to not only highlight for treatment teams key concepts in bioethics, but also the role of structural inequality in shaping ethical problems encountered in delivering health care.

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.  A major emphasis of my training included statistical, qualitative, and mixed methodologies to evaluate health policies and programs.

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.

I completed my Fellowship of Clinical Ethics at Weill Cornell Medical College. I further passed the Healthcare Ethics Consultation Certification (HEC-C) exam in November 2022.

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Ryan J. Dougherty, PhD, MSW, HEC-C

Assistant Professor

Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy

Baylor College of Medicine


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