Kirsten Ostherr

WEBSITE(S)| Medical Humanities Program | Medical Humanities Research Institute | Medical Futures Lab

Kirsten Ostherr, PhD, MPH is the Gladys Louise Fox Professor of English at Rice University in Houston, Texas, where she is a media scholar, health researcher, and technology analyst. Her research on trust and privacy in digital health ecosystems has been featured in Slate, The Washington Post, Big Data & Society, and Catalyst. She has recently published research on medical humanities and artificial intelligence in The Journal of Medical Humanities, and her writing on COVID-19 has been featured in Inside Higher Ed and in American Literature. She is currently leading a multidisciplinary project called "Translational Humanities for Public Health" that will identify humanities-based (and humanities-inspired) responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, to document and help others build upon these creative efforts. Kirsten is the author of Medical Visions: Producing the Patient through Film, Television and Imaging Technologies (Oxford, 2013) and Cinematic Prophylaxis: Globalization and Contagion in the Discourse of World Health (Duke, 2005). She is editor of Applied Media Studies (Routledge, 2018), and co-editor of Science/Animation, a special issue of the journal Discourse (2016). Kirsten is currently writing a book called Quantified Health: Learning from Patient Stories in the Age of Big Data.

With the support of an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellowship, Kirsten Ostherr completed a Master of Public Health degree at the UT-Houston School of Public Health. Her MPH research focused on the use of information and communication technologies in end-of-life care. Kirsten is founder and director of the Medical Humanities program (2016-present) and the Medical Futures Lab (2012-present). The Medical Futures Lab is a collaborative center bringing together faculty from Rice, Baylor College of Medicine, and UT Health to reimagine medicine at the intersection of humanity and technology. Through the Medical Futures Lab, Dr. Ostherr team-teaches a series of “digital medical humanities” courses that train students to solve real-world healthcare problems through collaborative, participatory design practices.

Kirsten has ongoing projects on trust and privacy in digital health and A.I.; simulation as a mediator between human and technological forms of medical expertise; and human centered design as a technique for patient collaboration in health technology development. She co-created Medicine in the Digital Age on edX, an open, online course that has reached tens of thousands of global learners. She has spoken to audiences at the White House, the World Health Organization, the National Library of Medicine, TEDx, the mHealth Summit, Medicine X, the Louisville Innovation Summit, the Bauhaus, and universities and conferences worldwide.

Research Areas

Visual Culture & Comparative Media; Medical Humanities; Science & Culture Studies


Ph.D., Brown University

M.P.H., University of Texas-Houston School of Public Health


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