Joanna Kempner, PhD

Member at Large

Joanna Kempner, PhD (she/her), associate professor of sociology at Rutgers University, studies science, medicine, and inequality. Her research strives to answer questions that most people in medicine never think to ask: Whose pain matters? Why are there so few effective treatments for pain? What are the challenges of living a life in pain? Kempner's award-winning book Not Tonight: Migraine and the Politics of Gender and Health raised awareness about the corrosive danger of stigma in headache medicine. Her new book manuscript, tentatively called Psychedelic Outlaws (under contract with Hachette Books), addresses the pivotal role that Clusterbusters’ underground research plays in the development of psychedelic treatments for pain. Kempner writes for a wide variety of audiences, publishing in journals like Science, Social Science & Medicine, Gender & Society, and Public Library of Science Medicine. You can read more about this project, and her previous writing about headache diseases on her website: You can also follow her on twitter @joannakempner. In the Public Eye: Research featured in Tom Zeller, 2021, "There has never been a better time to have a headache." New York Times. Research featured in Jill Buchner, 2019. “Doctors Ignored This Woman’s Suffering for Years. Why Is Women’s Pain So Often Dismissed?” Reader’s Digest-Canada. Research featured in Katherine Ellison, 2021. “A new treatment may halt cluster headaches. But some say psychedelic drugs are the real answer.” In this video, Quartz, the video arm of The Atlantic, draws on Kempner’s research to argue that stigma contributes to the delegitimation of migraine. “Why don’t we have a cure for migraine?” A documentary film entitled Out of My Head that explores migraine, featuring Kempner’s research alongside an intimate portrayal of her life with migraine.