Photo of Rabelais, Em

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

Assistant Professor

Human Development Nursing Science

Pronouns: they/themme


Building & Room:

not on campus widespread vaccine administration complete


845 S. Damen Ave., MC 802, Chicago, IL 60612


Preface. Everything we do is political, so any statement by any faculty member in their bio is in fact a political statement, even if the intention is to not be political. It is okay to not understand how something is political. It is okay to not understand why what you name as opinion is really expertise. 

On COVID-19 and the 2020-2021 academic year: No university should have face-to-face (f2f)/mask-to-mask (m2m) instruction, including the UI system, this entire academic year. Ventilation systems are terrible; spend time improving those--don't put us in them. Cases and deaths of COVID-19 continue to surge. f2f/m2m instruction is akin to the start of every school year, every new gathering, in which large percentages of individuals contract viral and other contagious 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. This has already happened, and we could have prevented it; we chose not to. The UI System (and other universities) should follow the Accessible Campus Action Alliance's "Beyond 'High-Risk': Statement on Disability and Campus Re-openings".

On #BLM and #PrideWasARiot: Nursing and the rest of healthcare is complicit, even an active part, of racist and transmisic injustice. UIC Nursing, UIC Medicine, and other health professions curricula continue to teach biological racism and gender essentialism; we here at UIC Nursing and UIC Medicine are thus racist and transphobic. Our and other programs are also ableist and purposefully exclusionary to disabled (prospective and current) 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 force these changes, and I'm here to help in any way students see fit.

Email: rabelais [at] uic [dot] edu

Public Syllabi
2020-2021 Health Ethics Book Club, A Public Syllabus: "white Feminism and Nursing"
2019-2020 Health Ethics Book Club, A Public Syllabus: "Racism and Whiteness"

Em Rabelais (they/themme) is a white, disabled, queer, and non-binary trans feminine academic health ethicist and health humanities scholar dismantling, disrupting, and decentering whiteness and white feminism in bio-/health ethics and health professions research, education, and practice. They foreground the ideas, perspectives, thoughts, writings, art, and demands of students, patients, and communities, notably those folx who are never centered by health professions/research and bio/health/clinical ethics. Dr. Rabelais does this by centering critical sociopolitical theories such as radical queer Black feminism, disability justice, trans liberation, reproductive justice, design justice, Indigenization, abolition, and community care. Their goal is to dismantle the structures—including of bioethics, nursing, and medicine—that are created and upheld by whiteness and white feminism's oppressions. Abolition is pervasive in their educational approaches and is based upon critical resistance and identity-focused narrative (ethics) approaches to purposefully center patient, community, and student narrative voices as the definers of whiteness and white feminism's oppressions in order to dismantle our structures. Yet this is impossible from the inside, and it's well past time that white people—and especially white, non-disabled, non-queer, christian, and cisgender people (and cisgender women in nursing)—cede power and move aside.

My immediate goals:
Students: I'm here to help you. Tell me what I can do to make things easier for you. What policies/practices are trash? My list includes: dress codes, surveillance capitalism, the NCLEX itself, grading, our policies (especially in how they are inequitably applied across race, gender, perceptions of culture), and others. How can I advocate for you? How can I support you as you organize to resist?

Selected Publications

Walker RK, Dillard-Wright J, Mitchell S, Mangino H, Watts-Isley J, Valdez AM, Rabelais E, LeBlanc RE, Anderson JC. Alternatives to surveillant pedagogies and technologies in online education for clinical professions: A resource guide. Medium. 7 January 2021.

Walker RK, Dillard-Wright J, Rabelais E, Valdez AM. Surveillant #EdTech harms nursing students, the profession, and the public. Medium. 20 December 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. 2020; 65:741-744.

Rabelais E, Walker R. Ethics, health disparities, and discourses in oncology nursing’s research: If we know the problems, why are we asking the wrong questions? Journal of Clinical Nursing.

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, 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.

‡: co-first authors

Service to Community

Conferences Organized

Leadership Positions

  • TransHealth Northampton, Founding Advisory Board (2020-present)
  • Institute for Antiracism in Medicine (2020-present)
  • Nursing Mutual Aid, Founding Organizing Team Member (2020-present)

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 Chicago
  • Ethics Committee, University of Illinois Hospital and Health System
  • Faculty Fellow, Honors College

Notable Honors

2020, Global Hero Award (awarded to Nursing Mutual Aid), GLMA Nursing

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

12/2020 [Invited, Interview] Rabelais E. "Em Rabelais (They/Themme, Fae/Femme) on White Feminist Violence in Nursing." By Arielle Rebekah. Trans and Caffeinated. December 19, 2020.

12/2020 [Invited] Rabelais E. Breakout Leader. “Health science curricula: Yes to decolonization, but what about Indigenization?” UIC Global Health Colloquium: Decolonizing Global Health Education. Virtual Event.

11/2020 [Invited; Panel] Rabelais E. “Racial and gender barriers to academia.” Minorities in Academia Series. UIC Women’s Health Initiative and the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Virtual Event.

10/2020 Rabelais E. “This whole country is full of lies / you’re all gonna die, and die like flies / I don’t trust you anymore”: Normative and bio- ethics produce racist violence. Oral Presentation at the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities 2020 Annual Meeting. Virtual Event.

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

9/2020 [Invited; Panel] Rabelais E. "Abolish nursing: The only way to keep our students and patients safe." Innovation in Education & Care. 8th Annual GLMA Nursing Summit. Virtual Event.

4/2020 [Invited] 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:

  • Trans-affirming medical education workshop (consultant)
  • Development/understandings of ethical awareness by undergraduate nursing students;
  • Analyses of institutional policies that uphold and maintain discriminatory practices;
  • Analysis of nursing policies and standards that value whiteness with student-led sub-projects in:
    • ableism
    • racism / biological and medical racism
    • biological and gender essentialism
  • Health Ethics Book Club