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New Sociology Professor Brings Expertise in Sexual Health and Reproduction

Assistant Professor of sociology Danielle Bessett studies medical sociology in an effort to create better health care models.

Date: 12/17/2010
By: Kim Burdett
Phone: (513) 556-8577
Photos By: Kim Burdett
Among the bounty of books in Danielle Bessett’s office lies a postcard with a quote by German artist Käthe Kollwitz: “I am in the world to change the world.”

So sums up Bessett, who took to the field of sociology because of her quest for knowledge and desire to help people.

Assistant Professor of Sociology Danielle Bessett.
Assistant Professor of Sociology Danielle Bessett

This year marks her first as an assistant professor in the University of Cincinnati’s Department of Sociology. Fresh from a postdoctoral fellowship at Ibis Reproductive Health in Cambridge, Mass., Bessett brings with her an expertise in women’s reproductive health.

“The great thing about sociology is that it allows you to step back and have a critical perspective about how we live our lives,” Bessett says. “The quality of being reflexive is the only way we’ll be able to understand the problems we encounter.”

At Ibis, Bessett and her fellow researchers analyzed the effects of health care reform in Massachusetts on young adults’ access to sexual and reproductive health. One of the most exciting outcomes of this research, Bessett says, was being able to present their findings to policymakers in Washington, D.C. to ensure that young adults’ special concerns are addressed for the implementation of national health care reform legislation.

“I like to think that the very best sociology can aim to expand our knowledge base and at the same time contribute to a better society,” Bessett says.

Before Ibis, Bessett earned her BA from Mount Holyoke College and graduated in 2009 with her PhD in sociology from New York University.

Now that she’s at UC, she is excited to teach introductory sociology classes and continue her research. With funding from her postdoc, Bessett is currently conducting research with new mothers who have experienced stigmatized reproductive careers.

“I’m trying to understand how earlier reproductive experiences affect later pregnancies,” she says. “A great deal of research is done on women who are first-time mothers—but what does that really mean? What about a woman who has had three miscarriages but is giving birth for the first time? Her experience will be different than a woman who conceived for the first time.”

Her goal is to address problems that can improve the prenatal care system for all women.

Cincinnati is a great place to be a sociologist, she says, because the city offers a number of resources as well as a number of challenges facing many U.S. urban areas.

“I’m delighted to be at UC,” Bessett says. “We have an excellent sociology department with a unique specialization in health and family, wonderful faculty, graduate students and staff, and a fabulous group of majors. I’m excited to be able to work with such a great group of people.”

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