Heidi Y. Lawrence

Heidi Y. Lawrence

Heidi Y. Lawrence

Assistant Professor

Writing and Rhetoric: Medical rhetoric, vaccine controversy, professional and technical communication, public rhetoric, rhetoric of science and technology

Heidi Y. Lawrence teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on professional writing and rhetoric. Her research focuses on the rhetorics of medical and scientific controversies, currently examining public debates about the safety and efficacy of vaccinations. She has studied the role that professional communication produced by physicians, health officials, and researchers plays in shaping public debate and parental beliefs about vaccines. She has also conducted field studies examining the persuasiveness of arguments about vaccines among parents and young adults, and she works to uncover how individual perspectives on health and illness shared in the media and online shape views and policies on vaccination. Her work has appeared in the Journal of the Medical Humanities, the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, and Environmental Communication.

She also has over 10 years of professional experience as a writer, editor, and publications manager for a variety of federal agencies and contractors, chiefly providing technical publications, grant writing, and proposal management support. She is also the faculty advisor for the George Mason Student Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication (STC).

Selected Publications

Lawrence, Heidi Y. Review of The Antivaccine Heresy: Jacobson v. Massachusetts and the Troubled History of Contemporary Vaccination in the United States. Nursing History Review (NHR). In press.

Lawrence, Heidi Y. “Fear of the Irreparable: Narratives in Vaccination Rhetoric.” Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics 6.3 (Winter 2016): 205-209.

Scott, Jennifer Bracken, Kristin Kondrlik, Heidi Y. Lawrence, Susan Popham, and Candice Welhausen. “Rhetoric, Ebola, and Vaccination: A Conversation Among Scholars.” POROI: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Rhetorical Analysis and Invention 11.2 (Dec. 2015): 1-26.

Lawrence, Heidi Y. Review of Vaccinations and Public Concern in History: Legend, Rumor, and Risk Perception. Journal of Business and Technical Communication 29.4 (October 2015): 490-495.

Lawrence, Heidi Y. “Healthy Bodies, Toxic Medicines: Vaccination Beliefs and the Rhetorics of Health, Illness, and the Body.” Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine 87.4 (2014): 423-437.

Lawrence, Heidi Y., Bernice L. Hausman, and Clare J. Dannenberg. “Reframing Medicine’s Publics: The Local as a Public of Vaccine Refusal.” Journal of the Medical Humanities 35.2 (June 2014): 111-129.

Dannenberg, Clare J., Bernice L. Hausman, Heidi Y. Lawrence, and Katrina M. Powell. “The Moral Appeal of Environmental Discourses: The Implication of Ethical Rhetorics.” Environmental Communication 6.2 (Summer 2012): 212-232. 

Grants and Fellowships

“A Multidisciplinary Approach to Mitigating Campus Sexual Assault.” With Bonnie Stabile, Nance Lucas, Angela Hattery, Anthony Stefanidis, Siona Listokin-Smith, Patricia Maulden, Linn Jorgenson, Kate Destler, and Jessica Terman. Role: Collaborator/Co-PI. Provost’s Multidisciplinary Initiative Grant Program. May-June 2015. Funded July 2015, $25,000.

Courses Taught

English 388, Professional and Technical Writing

English 501, Introduction to Professional Writing and Rhetoric

English 502, Research Methods in Professional Writing and Rhetoric

English 489/509: Proposal Writing and Development

English 613, Technical Communication

English 824: Medicine, Health, and Technical Communication


PhD, Rhetoric and Writing, Virginia Tech, 2013.

MA, English (Professional Writing and Rhetoric concentration), George Mason University, 2007

BA, English, Mary Washington College, 2002

Recent Presentations

“Vaccination, Persuasiveness, and Rhetorical Theory: Beyond the Deficit Model.” 2016 Conference of the Rhetoric Society of America (RSA). Atlanta, GA. May 29, 2016.

“Medicolegal Rhetorics: Medicine as Arbitrator in Competing Discourses about Disease and Disability.” 2016 Conference of the RSA. Atlanta, GA. May 27, 2016

“Skepticism and Doubt in Outbreak: A Study of Community Perspectives on Disease, Health, and Medicine following Pertussis.” Association for the Rhetoric of Science, Technology, and Medicine (ARSTM) Preconference. Atlanta, GA. May 26, 2016.

“Rhetorical Analysis of Media Coverage of Campus Sexual Assault: Implications for Policy.” Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA) Annual Conference. April 7, 2016.

“Understanding Voluntary Nonvaccination: Qualitative Approaches to Research.” American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH) 2015 Conference. Houston, TX. October 24, 2015.

“'I’m Not a Coincidence:' Reflective Persuasiveness and the Before-and-After Trope in Vaccine Narratives.” American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH) 2014 Conference. San Diego, CA. October 16, 2014.

“Enacting Health through Illness: Infant Immune Systems as Borderland Bodies.” 2014 Conference of the Rhetoric Society of America (RSA). San Antonio, TX. May 22-26, 2014.

“Professional Constraints and Exigencies: How Doctors do Disease through Vaccination.” Association for the Rhetoric of Science and Technology (ARST) Preconference. Washington, D.C. November 20, 2013. 

In the Media

Gross, Rachel. (Media Interview) “Just Add Science? In the Age of Trump, the Science Press Must Rethink its Habits.” The Undark January 24, 2017. 

Gross, Rachel. (Media Interview) The Martian and the Cult of Science.” Slate.com October 2, 2015.