I am currently a National Science Foundation SBE Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin.  My research and teaching interests include medical sociology, social psychology, death and dying, health inequalities, and qualitative methods.

My dissertation project analyzes the processes by which terminally ill lung cancer patients, their doctors, and the patients’ family members, attempt to plan for death. Using a multi-method design, which includes ethnography, conversation analysis, and interviews, I explore the interactional and organizational features of providing medical care at the end of someone’s life. Specifically, this project analyzes how participants talk about death, investigates how participants deal with problems associated with treating terminal cancer, examines how treatment decisions are made, and interrogates how participants come to some sort of consensus about future goals considering their dire medical circumstances. 

This research has been supported by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Holtz Center for Science & Technology, the Wisconsin Collective for Ethnographic Research (WISCER), the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research, and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Over the next several years my research agenda will comprise two projects that focus on health inequalities, race and ethnicity, and healthcare access. The first, a collaborative work currently underway, “The Postpartum Access to Healthcare (PATH) Project,” investigates the barriers to healthcare access for pregnant and postpartum women in central Texas. This project describes the healthcare system from the perspectives of uninsured and underserved pregnant women of color. 


The second project, “Hablando de Muerte: Talking About Death and Healthcare Access with Latinos,” will use a multi-method qualitative approach to explore the ways low-income Spanish-speaking Latino patients access and experience terminal cancer care. This research will also analyze the ways participants draw on resources (social and economic) to navigate the healthcare system and discuss end-of-life plans with family members. This project is supported by a National Science Foundation SBE Postdoctoral Research Fellowship

Contact:  dcortez@utexas.edu