Valerie Leiter

Professor, Chair of Public Health and Undergraduate Program Director
  • Sociology
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(617) 521-2217

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  • PhD, Sociology and Social Policy, Brandeis University, 2001
  • A.M., Sociology, Harvard University, 1989
  • B.A., Sociology, State University of New York at Albany, 1987

About Me

Val Leiter teaches courses on medical sociology, research methods, food, drugs, and sociology of childhood and youth—these topics dovetail with her research on children and youth with disabilities, medicalization, and gender and health. She received the Irving K. Zola award for Emerging Scholars in Disability Studies in 2004 for her work on "Parental Activism, Professional Dominance, and Early Childhood Disability." Her first book, Their Time Has Come: Youth with Disabilities on the Cusp of Adulthood, was published in 2012, a result of her William T. Grant Foundation Scholars project on the "Transition to Adulthood Among Youth with Disabilities." The Sociology of Health & Illness: Critical Perspectives (10th edition), co-edited with Peter Conrad, was published in 2018.

She is active in the Society for the Study of Social Problems and the American Sociological Association, where she has multiple leadership positions, including membership on the Editorial Advisory Board of Social Problems. On campus, Val is the Director of the Public Health bachelors program, and a member of the steering committee for the Master in Public Policy program.

Val mentors several students each year on their independent research projects. Right now, she is working with Abby Conlin (Public Health) on her senior thesis on paratransit in Boston and with Maggie Hamilton (Sociology) on her senior thesis on acculturation and embodiment through food.

What I Teach

  • PH 370 Public Health Internship Seminar
  • SOCI 231 Sociology of Childhood and Youth
  • SOCI 239 Introduction to Social Research
  • SOCI 241 Health, Illness and Society
  • SOCI 285 Drugs and Society
  • SOCI 321 Sociology of Food
  • SOCI 339 Community Research

Research/Creative Activities

Val's recent work examines the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s regulation of women’s health medical devices. She has published two articles with Shelley White on vaginal mesh for female urinary incontinence, "Enmeshed in Controversy: Claims About the Risks of Vaginal Mesh Devices," and "Adverse Event Reports Associated with Vaginal Mesh: An Interrupted Time Series Analysis" (also co-authored with Abigail Walters). Currently, she is analyzing adverse event reports associated with Essure, a female sterilization device.