Medical Sociology – Sociology of Disability – Deviance and Social Control

Quantitative Methods – Social Network Analysis

Education Timeline – Journey to Dr. Rosen

Heather Sue McDonald, Disabled Teen
April 2008
Heather Sue McDonald
Robinson High School Graduation
June 2011
Heather Sue McDonald, BA
Auburn University Graduation
May 2015
Heather Sue McDonald, MA
University of Georgia Thesis Defense
March 2018
Heather Sue M. Rosen, Doctoral Candidate
University of Georgia Comprehensive Exam Defense
February 2019
a picture of me, a red-headed white woman with shoulder-length wavy hair pulled back with a hair clip and butterfly bangs, standing in front of a red brick building with white marble columns and white marble arches framing the three front double-doors. I am standing with no medical equipment, looking at the camera, holding the straps of my backpack. I am wearing a black blazer and blouse, a green plaid skirt, black heeled booties, an N95 disposable respirator, a rose gold apple watch, and gold circular wire-rimmed glasses with blue mirror lenses
Heather Sue M. Rosen, PhD
University of Georgia Dissertation Defense
March 2023

Heather Sue, on the reasons leading to her decision to pursue research in medical sociology (and why the journey began in 2007, age 14):

As most rare disease patients will tell you, health care can involve a lot more than treatment. In fact, for a lot of us, the journey to treatment is long and treacherous. For me, that journey began with a giant turkey-shaped rash at summer camp in 2007. What I didn’t learn for another 11 years is that the rash was something called a “mast cell attack,” which is basically massive hives that develop without any obvious contact with a specific allergen. I’d been living with chronic illness since age 14, I just hadn’t discovered the extent of my co-morbidities. It took another year of aggressively pursuing a physician to explore a set of diagnoses that I only discovered because of an extremely brave first-year neurology resident.

My initial interest in research was sparked by my own difficulties with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) treatment, which, in hindsight, make a lot more sense than they did as a 20-year-old undergraduate student. With my new diagnoses also came more visibility than I had ever experienced, and a variety of pink mobility aids. This was expected, but what I [should have but] did not anticipate was the pushback I received as a disabled person when speaking to my own experiences with disability and chronic illness. Particularly interesting? Health care professionals questioning the validity of my diagnoses because they fall into the “rare disease” category. The disabled community is extremely active online, and as a member of this community, I’ve grown to understand some of my diagnoses as “rarely diagnosed,” but not necessarily rare in the population.

As a medical sociologist, I’ve also seen how the exclusion of people with certain diagnoses from discussions relating to disability and health care has contributed to widespread misunderstanding of a growing segment of the disabled community among experts, not just within medicine, but also in tangentially related fields. My research interests have slowly shifted away from issues with treatment effectiveness towards issues with the social construction of “expert” knowledge and broader issues of disability justice.

My current research projects include my dissertation research, in which I investigate the ideological sentiments surrounding risk-mitigating health behaviors in Tweets posted during the first 19-months of the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, wearing masks, getting vaccinated, social distancing, and quarantine.

The disabled community uses the slogan, “nothing about us without us,” to argue for our right to speak as experts about our own experiences as disabled. My goals as a disabled researcher are to center disabled people and our experiences, and to secure recognition for experience-based expertise alongside credentialed expertise in research on disability.


PhD Dissertation

Master’s Thesis


Paper Sessions

Rosen, Heather Sue M. 2022. “Identifying Ideological Views about Health Risk During COVID- 19 with Structural Topic Modeling and Emotional Sentiment Analysis of Tweets.” Paper session presented at the Disability Health Equity Research Network Sociological Research Jamboree. Virtual.

McDonald, Heather Sue. 2020. “Tweeting Disability: Threads as Tools for Coping and Conflict
Management Online.” Accepted* for presentation at the annual meeting of the Southern
Sociological Society in Jacksonville, Florida.

McDonald, Heather Sue, Daniel J. Boches, and Jeffery Benjamin Patterson. 2020. “Changes to
Social Status and Intimate Relations as Possible Predictors of Suicide Intention.”
Accepted* for presentation at the annual meeting of the Southern Sociological Society in
Jacksonville, Florida.

McDonald, Heather Sue. 2018. “Depression in Individuals Diagnosed with Arthritis: CoOccurring Disorder or Natural Response to Loss?” Paper session presented at the annual
meeting of the Southern Sociological Society in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Poster Sessions

McDonald, Heather Sue. 2018. “Labeling Theory and Differential Help-Seeking Behavior
Among Opioid Users.” Poster Session presented at the University of Georgia
Interdisciplinary Opioid Epidemic Symposium in Athens, Georgia.

Organized Sessions

“Critical Dialogue: COVID-19 and the Politics of Education.” Organized by Kyla Walters,
Rashmee Karnad-Jani and Heather Sue M. Rosen for the Society for the Study of Social
Problems Virtual Annual Meetings. 2021.

Guest Lectures and Invited Talks

Rosen, Heather Sue M. 2023. “What do the people say? Tweeting as a tool for establishing the social facts of risk during COVID-19.” Invited Talk for the World Health Network. Organizers: Yaneer Bar-Yam, Sharon Fitzgerald, and Katie Marsh.

Rosen, Heather Sue M. 2022. “Health Care, Health Disparities, and Disability.” Invited Lecture for the Health Disparities and Equity Service Program at the University of Georgia. Organizer: Tasneem Qadri.

Rosen, Heather Sue M. 2021. “Writing in the Disciplines: Social Sciences.” Guest Panelist for
Writing in the Disciplines (ENGL 3700) at the University of Georgia. Instructor of
Record: Lindsey Harding.

McDonald, Heather Sue. 2018. “Complex Health Care Needs in A Decentralized System.” Guest
Lecture for Sociology of Healthcare (SOCI 3110) at the University of Georgia. Instructor
of Record: Jeff Shelton.



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