Michael Yudell is a public health scientist whose work focuses on the ethics and history of public health and medicine with an eye towards public health policy in the areas of genomic research, health disparities, autism.
Yudell received his PhD and MPH from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, an MPhil in U.S. History from the Graduate Center at the City University of New York, and his BA in History and Soviet and Eastern European Studies from Tufts University. During graduate school, Michael was also a Graduate Researcher in the Molecular Biology Laboratory at the American Museum of Natural History and a Health Policy Analyst at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
Yudell’s book Race Unmasked: Biology and Race in the 20th Century, was the winner of the 2016 Arthur J. Viseltear Award from the American Public Health Association. The book examines the way biologists shaped the race concept during the 20th century from eugenics to the sequencing of the human genome. Yudell is the author of several books with the geneticist Rob DeSalle, including Welcome to the Genome: A User's Guide to the Genetic Past, Present, and Future (John Wiley and Sons, 2005 and 2020) and The Genomic Revolution: Unveiling the Unity of Life (Joseph Henry Press of the National Academy of Science, 2002).
Along with Dr. Samuel K. Roberts, Yudell edits the Columbia University Press Series, Race, Inequality, and Health. The series features the work of historians, social scientists, natural scientists, and public health scientists, deepening our understanding of how ideas about race and race difference have impacted health and society historically and in the present day. Distinguished series authors include Sebastián Gil-Raiño at the University of Pennsylvania, Ezelle Sanford III at Carnegie Mellon, Jay Kaufman at McGill University, Diane Louis at the University of Michigan, and Dorothy Roberts at the University of Pennsylvania.
Yudell also conducts research on autism and ethics, including a recent National Science Foundation project examining the ethics of community-engaged autism research. With Dr. Emer Lucey, Yudell is writing A Way of Being Human, a history of autism spectrum disorders (Columbia University Press, forthcoming). Yudell is currently the PI of two projects funded by the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) to conduct evaluations of transitional and supportive housing programs for neurodiverse adults at First Place AZ and the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC).
With Dr. Philip Massey at UCLA, Yudell is completing work on a project examining the concept of digital vulnerability, the idea that social media users and researchers face a unique set of ethical challenges when conducting health research using data drawn from social media sites.
Yudell, along with his colleague Jonathan Purtle, founded the blog The Public’s Health, a then one-of-a-kind blog that ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer from its founding in 2011 until 2017, covering the broad depth of news and opinions across the field of public health.
In addition to his books, Yudell’s work has appeared in scientific journals including Science, Autism, Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, American Journal of Public Health, Public Health Ethics, Nature Reviews Genetics, and Journal of the History of Biology. Yudell was lead author on two essays in Science, in 2016 and 2020, calling upon the National Institutes of Health to fund a National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine study on the use and misuse of race and other population identifiers in genetic research. In 2021, a committee--Use of Race, Ethnicity, and Ancestry as Population Descriptors in Genomics Research--was formed by the National Academies, and a report by that committee was released in March of 2023.
From 2014-2021, Yudell was Chair of the Department of Community Health and Prevention at the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel. Until April 2021, Yudell was the Chair of the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health’s Newborn Screening and Follow-up Technical Advisory Board.
On a lighter note, Yudell performs at the Crossroads Comedy Theater in Philadelphia in the long-running improv/storytelling show Study Hall, and, more recently, at the Neighborhood Comedy Theater in Mesa, Arizona.
- PhD, Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, 2008
- MPH, Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, 2001
- BA, Tufts University, 1990
-Public health ethics
Select Recent Publications
Yudell, M. Considering Racial Terminology in Public Health Research,” European Journal of Public Health. 31(2021) pp.5-6.
Yudell, M. Roberts, D. DeSalle, R. and S. Tishkoff. NIH Must Confront the Use of Race in Science,” Science. 369(2020) pp.1313-1314.
Popejoy, A.B., Crooks, K.R., Fullerton, S.M., Hindorff, L.A., Hooker, G.W., Koenig, B.A., Pino, N., Ramos, E.M., Ritter, D.I., Wand, H., Wright, M.W., Yudell, M., Zou, J.Y. Plon, S.E., Bustamante, C.D., Orbond, K.E. “Clinical Genetics Lacks Standard Definitions and Protocols for the Collection and Use of Diversity Measures,” American Journal of Human Genetics. 107(2020) pp.72-82.
Pellicano, E., Lawson, W. Hall, G., Lilley, R., Davis, C., Arnold, S., Trollor, J., Yudell, M. “Documenting the Untold Histories of Late-Diagnosed Autistic Adults: A Qualitative Study Protocol Using Oral History Methodology,” BMJOpen. (2020) 10:e037968. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-037968
Purtle, J., Nelson, K.L., Counts, N.Z., and Yudell, M. “Population-Based Approaches to Mental Health: History, Strategies, and Evidence,” Annual Reviews in Public Health. 41(2020) pp.201-221.
Arana-Chicas E., Kioumarsi, A., Massey P., Carroll-Scott A., Klassen A.C., and Yudell M. “Barriers and Facilitators to Mammography Among Women with Intellectual Disabilities: A Qualitative Approach,” Disability and Society. 35(2020) pp.1290-1314.
DeSalle, R. and M. Yudell. Welcome to the Genome: A User’s Guide to the Genetic Past, Present and Future (John Wiley & Sons, 2004 & Second Edition, 2020).
Garfield, T. and Yudell, M. “Commentary: Participatory Justice and Ethics in Autism Research,” Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics. 14(2019) pp. 455-457.
Yudell, M. Race Unmasked: Race and Biology in the 20th Century. (Columbia University Press, September 2014, cloth, May 2018, paperback).