Photo of Rabelais, Em

Em Rabelais, PhD, MBE, MS, MA, RN

Assistant Professor

Department of Women Children and Family Health Science

Pronouns: they/themme/themself/theirs


On COVID-19 and the 2020-2021 academic year: No university should have face-to-face (f2f) instruction, including the UI system, during Fall 2020. Ventilation systems are terrible; spend time improving those--don't put us in them. Cases and deaths of COVID-19 at the end of June 2020 are surging again. f2f instruction in Fall 2020 will be akin to the start of every school year, in which large percentages of children contract viral illnesses because they have shifted from home life to school life; however, instead of runny noses and ear infections, we academic institutions will be responsible for yet another COVID-19 surge, resulting in further illness, disability, and death.

On #BLM and #PrideWasARiot: Nursing and the rest of healthcare is complicit, even an active part, of racial and trans injustice. UIC Nursing and other program curricula still teach biological racism and gender essentialism; we here at UIC Nursing are thus racist and transphobic. Our and other programs are also ableist and purposefully exclusionary to disabled (prospective) students. This must end, but it cannot be done without full leadership support; we, unfortunately, do not have this at UIC. I encourage students to work collectively to try to force these changes, and I'm here to help in any way students see fit.

Email: rabelais [at] uic [dot] edu

Public Syllabi
2019-2020 Health Ethics Book Club: "Racism and Whiteness"
2020-2021 Health Ethics Book Club: "White Feminism and Nursing" (details forthcoming)

Em Rabelais is an academic health ethicist and health humanities scholar with a primary focus on disrupting and decentering whiteness in bio/health ethics and health professions research, education, and practice. Dr. Rabelais’s current research projects center on identifying the manifestations of whiteness, followed by providing clear and tangible changes to eliminate whiteness from professional policy, educational priorities, ethical codes, and teaching and research methods. Dr. Rabelais's distinct ethics prioritizes critical resistance and identity-focused narrative approaches to purposefully center patient, community, and student narrative voices as the definers of whiteness's oppressions in order to initiate dismantling the transmission of learned, enacted centered whiteness in these settings. Their use of narrative as method and ethics includes focusing on listening, reading, writing, eliciting, believing, and contextualizing narratives to address, highlight, or otherwise inform research, clinical, or pedagogical questions. Narrative ethics can make apparent actors' positionalities within structural racism, white supremacy, and professionalisms while simultaneously identifying possibilities to re-create space, practice, and education as defined by those who are demanding the change.

Selected Publications

Rabelais E. Your co-morbidity is my normative reality: Transgender in the early era of SARS-COV-2. Blog. 2 April 2020.

—. Edited and reposted to 10 April 2020.

Rabelais E. Missing ethical discussions in gender care for transgender and non-binary people: Secondary sex characteristics. Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health. Provisionally accepted.

Rabelais E, Rosales E. Response to “How should academic medical centers administer students’ ‘domestic global health’ experiences?’ Ethics and linguistics of “domestic global health.” AMA Journal of Ethics. 2020; 22(5): E458-461.

‡Abboud S, ‡Chelbi PG, ‡Rabelais E. The contested whiteness of Arab identity in the United States: Implications for health disparities research. American Journal of Public Health 109, no. 11 (2019): 1580-83.

Rabelais E, Jones NL, Ulrich CM, Deatrick JA. Meaning making and religious engagement among survivors of childhood brain tumors and their caregivers. Oncology Nursing Forum. 2019; 46(2):170-184.

Rabelais E. Re-balancing power and de-centering voices: Everyday interpretation as critical event—the example of Penderecki’s Magnificat. Journal of Narrative Politics. 2018; 5(1):4-29.

Lucas MS. African American pediatric pain patient. In: Martin ML, Heron S, Moreno-Walton L, Strickland M, editors. Diversity and inclusion in quality patient care: Your story/our story – A case-based compendium. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Springer; 2019. p. 171-9.

Lucas M. My chronic pain is like my pit bull: Very strong and won’t leave my side. Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics. 2018; 8(3):196-8.

Alicea-Alvarez N, Reeves K, Lucas MS, Huang D, Ortiz M, Burroughs T, Jones NL. Impacting health disparities in urban communities: Preparing future healthcare providers for ‘neighborhood-engaged care’ through a community engagement course intervention. Journal of Urban Health. 2016; 93(4):732-743.

Lucas MS, Brawner BM, Hardie TL, Beacham BL, Paidipati C, Diaz M, Lauer A, Hobbie WL, Deatrick JA. Assessing suicidal ideation and behaviors among survivors of childhood brain tumors and their mothers during sociobehavioral research. Oncology Nursing Forum. 2015; 42(5):E319-E329.

Lucas MS, Barakat LP, Jones NL, Ulrich CM, Deatrick JA. Expectations for function and independence by childhood brain tumor survivors and their mothers. Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics. 2014; 4(3):233-252.

‡: co-first authors

Service to Community

Conferences Organized

Editorial Board

  • Oncology Nursing Forum, Associate Editor (2017-2019)

Selected Institutional Service

  • Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer People, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Ethics Committee, University of Illinois Hospital and Health System
  • Faculty Fellow, Honors College

Notable Honors

2020-2021, Faculty Fellow, Institute for Research on Race & Public Policy

2020, Staff and Faculty Appreciation Award, Graduate Student Nurses Organization (GSNO) and Student Nurses’ Association (SNA) at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Nursing

2019, Janet A. Deatrick Junior Faculty Research Award, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Nursing

2018, Honoring Our Professors' Excellence, University of Illinois at Chicago

2014, Henry O. Thompson Prize in Ethics, University of Pennsylvania


2014 PhD, University of Pennsylvania
2014 MBE, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (bioethics)
2010 MS, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing
2006 BS, Columbia University School of Nursing
2003 MA, Union Theological Seminary (religious and cultural studies; thesis credit with distinction)
2001 BA, Muskingum College (now Muskingum University), Summa cum laude (music; self-designed biomedical ethics: neuroscience & philosophy)

Professional Memberships

American Society for Bioethics and Humanities
Health Humanities Consortium
International Health Humanities Network
International Association of Bioethics

Selected Presentations

Fall 2020 [Invited] Rabelais E. Our whiteness is unethical: Disrupt “diversity and inclusion” to decenter whiteness. Ethics Grand Rounds. Children’s Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA.

10/2020 Clark BA, Rabelais E, Ashley F, Reiheld ANC. Legislating transgender health: Disinformation, ethics, and social justice. [Panelist] Panel Presentation at the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities 2020 Annual Meeting, Baltimore, MD, USA.

4/2020 Rabelais E. Nursing rejects me, both inside and outside the clinic and classroom. Nursing Mutual Aid 2020. Twitter Conference.

4/2020 [Invited. Workshop] Rabelais E. Nursing's biomedicalization of disability hurts nurses and nursing. Augusta University College of Nursing students, staff, and faculty, via the Office for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Augusta, GA, USA. [cancelled due to COVID-19 global pandemic]

4/2020 [Invited] Rabelais E. [panel member] An introduction to gender inclusive care: How to advocate for patients and colleagues. DOM Culturally Sensitive Care and Inclusion Series. University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, Chicago, IL, USA. [meeting canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic]

3/2020 [Workshop] Rabelais E, Jamal-Eddine SA. Spoken word poetry and politicized space-taking: Confronting ableism and racism through oppositional art in the classroom. Workshop at the 2020 International Health Humanities Consortium Annual Meeting, Nashville, TN, USA. [meeting canceled due to March 2020 tornado and COVID-19 global pandemic]

2/2020 [Invited] Rabelais E. Listening outside of whiteness: Make our bodies matter. Spring 2020 Seminar Series. University of Massachusetts Amherst College of Nursing, Amherst, MA, USA.
*National and negative press from Breitbart, InfoWars, USSA News (Tea Party), Campus Reform, College Fix, and others

2/2020 [Keynote] Rabelais E. Listening and acting outside of whiteness: Necessary communication. Electrology Association of Illinois 2020 Winter Seminar, Lisle, IL, USA.

10/2019 [Invited] Rabelais E. Nursing white supremacy: Yes, this is ethics. (Inaugural) Badassery-in-Nursing Scholarship (BSN) Invited Lecture Series. University of Massachusetts Amherst College of Nursing, Amherst, MA, USA.

10/2019 [Invited] Rabelais E. Plenary panel member. Inaugural UMASS Nursing PhD Symposium: Celebrate the Future of Nursing Science. University of Massachusetts Amherst College of Nursing, Amherst, MA, USA.

10/2019 Rabelais E, Randall K, Anderson EE, Hatchett L. Advancing education in racial and ethnic identity praxis for bioethics and health humanities. [Moderator and Presenter] Panel Presentation at the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities 2019 Annual Meeting, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.

10/2019 Rabelais E. Diversity and inclusion are not strategies: Decentering whiteness in nursing. Oral Presentation at the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities 2019 Annual Meeting, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.

3/2019 Rabelais E. Narratives of the other in dominant social consciousness: Radical redefinitions of experience in the everyday. Oral Presentation at the 2019 International Health Humanities Consortium Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL.

Research Currently in Progress

Dr. Rabelais's scholarly work uses critically reflexive and multidisciplinary approaches within and outside health ethics to engage hard-to-address problems. Some of Dr. Rabelais's projects include: