Rev. Dr. Megan Visser
MEDICAL SOCIOLOGY | SPIRITUAL CARE | EQUITY
As a spiritual care professional, educator, and researcher, I focus on whole-person health (inclusive of religion/spirituality) for underserved populations with chronic health conditions. My personal, teaching and activist experiences have instilled in me a deep commitment to equity, diversity, and social justice, which is a central focus of my career. As a Unitarian Universalist ordained clergyperson, I am a nationally-recognized leader in trauma, ethics, and embodied spiritual practice.
In Spring 2022, I became the first person in my extended family to pursue and earn a doctoral degree. However, my education in health equity began very early as my brother was a hemophiliac with significant cognitive disabilities who contracted HIV and Hepatitis B/C from contaminated blood products. When my brother died in 1999, I dedicated myself to pursue remedies to health care injustices and promote community health and well-being. After coming out as Queer in high school, I became active in the LGBTQ youth movement and youth racial justice work in the Boston area. While a full-time college student, I worked nearly full-time as a Department of Public Health street outreach worker and co-leading an evidence-based queer youth HIV prevention program serving over 1500 youth in the Boston area. I studied Society & Health at Simmons University, and later, completed a Master’s program to study bioethics and Womanist/Black feminist ethics at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU). At Pacific School of Religion (member school of GTU), I was a student representative on the schoolwide Dismantling Racism Committee and co-founded an antiracist analysis building group for white grad students to transform campus culture and integrate antiracism into their vocational and personal lives.
Life in the Academy
As a professor and MA academic advisor at the Graduate Theological Union from 2012-2020, I taught courses in ethics and social theory as well as guided formation courses for students in community service internships. Several courses focused on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI): Sexual Ethics, Resilience and Resistance, Educating to Counter Oppressions, Critical Theory for Religious Leaders, among others.
I have mentored over 30 MA students as part of my advisory or as interns and MA teaching fellows; at least half of these students are from underrepresented groups, all of which advanced successfully toward graduation or completion of their thesis or internship. As a disabled faculty member in a small academic setting, I was a resource for students with chronic illnesses and mental health conditions who reached out for support or advocacy. I served on the school Curriculum Committee, Admission Committee, as well as a subcommittee chairperson on the Institutional Accreditation team, which led school-wide assessment and recommendation efforts related to student retention and program quality for students from historically marginalized groups. As a result of my teaching/service record, I was asked to design a credit course on group learning for incoming students, which remedied financial aid restrictions for early degree students and developed a cohort group for new students from underrepresented communities. As the first in my family to attend graduate school, I am proud to be able to teach the “implicit curriculum” of being a graduate student with people from communities who have been historically excluded or discouraged from pursuing higher education.
I am exclusively interested in research that seeks to improve the health of underserved populations. I contribute to efforts to hold ourselves accountable as researchers to the community impacts of research on historically marginalized people. For example, my co-authored paper on end-of-life care options and preferences for those living in permanent supportive housing was published in the Journal of Death and Dying. The results were shared and discussed with local housing programs (including providers and participants) and the national Housing First Conference in Seattle, 2022. My upcoming projects explore and assess how research results are shared with communities and how findings and recommendations of equity-focused research are implemented or applied to benefit underserved and marginalized populations.
As I continue to grow as a researcher, educator and spiritual care professional, I hope to apply my expertise and current activities to aid and partner with others who are serving underrepresented communities, such as students/trainees of color, immigrant families, and unhoused people.