Heidi Y. Lawrence

Heidi Y. Lawrence

Heidi Y. Lawrence

Associate Professor

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

Heidi Y. Lawrence teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in professional writing and rhetoric. Her research focuses on the rhetorics of medical and scientific controversies, specifically public debates about vaccinations. She studies the role that professional communication produced by physicians, health officials, and researchers plays in shaping public debate and parental beliefs about vaccines.

Her book on vaccine controversy, Vaccine Rhetorics, was published by the Ohio State University press in February 2020. The book has been reviewed in the Quarterly Journal of Speech and Rhetoric of Health and Medicine.

Her research has appeared in the journal Rhetoric of Health and Medicine, Critical Public Health, Journal of the Medical Humanities, the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, and the Journal of Technical Writing and Communication. She teaches courses in proposal writing, research methods, technical and professional writing.

Dr. Lawrence is on research leave for the 2022-2023 academic year. 

Selected Publications


Lawrence, Heidi Yoston. Vaccine Rhetorics. The Ohio State University Press. In press, available Spring 2020.



Public Scholarship

"Vaccine Dissent and the Challenges of Solidarity in a Pandemic" Newsweek, co-authored with Bernice L. Hausman: https://www.newsweek.com/vaccine-dissent-challenges-solidarity-pandemic-opinion-1508501

"This Doctor is Suggesting COVID-19 Lockdowns are a Conspiracy to Take Away Your Freedom" (quoted in) Buzzfeed, by Anne Helen Petersen: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/annehelenpetersen/annie-bukacek-montana-coronavirus-covid-lockdown-protests


Articles on Health and Medicine

Cuellar, Alison, Leah M. Adams, Lilian de Jonge, Virginia Espina, Laurette Espinoza, Sarah F. Fischer, Cara L. Frankenfeld, Denise A. Hines, Olga Kornienko, Heidi Y. Lawrence, Niloofar Ramezani, Ziaul H. Rana, Matthew E. Rossheim, Jerome L. Short, Eric N. Waithaka, Alyssa N. Wilson, Lawrence Cheskin. "Protocol for the Mason: Health Starts HereProspective Cohort Study of Young Adult College Students." BMC Public Health. (2021) 21:897. 1-15. 

Gallagher, John, and Heidi Y. Lawrence. “Rhetorical Appeals and Tactics in New York Times Comments About Vaccines: Qualitative Analysis.” Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR). Impact Factor=5.03.  22.12 (2020): 1-9. DOI: 10.2196/19504

Lawrence, Heidi Y. and Bonnie Stabile. “Collaborative Paths and Contexts: An Introduction to the Special Issue on Rhetoric of Medical and Health Policy.” World Medical and Health Policy 11.4 (2019): 334-337. *Guest co-editor for this special issue 

Hausman, Bernice, Heidi Y. Lawrence, Susan Marmagas, Clare Dannenberg, and Lauren Fortenbery. “H1N1 Vaccination and Health Beliefs in a Rural Community in the Southeastern United States: Lessons Learned.” Critical Public Health. 2018. https://doi.org/10.1080/09581596.2018.1546825 

Lawrence, Heidi Y. “When Patients Question Vaccines: Considering Vaccine Communication through a Material Rhetorical Approach.” Rhetoric of Health and Medicine, 1.1-2 (2018): 161-178.

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 Invention11.2 (Dec. 2015): 1-26.

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 (December 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 Humanities35.2 (June 2014): 111-129.

Expanded Publication List

Articles outside of Health and Medicine

Malterud, Andie, Briana Stewart, Heidi Y. Lawrence, Melissa Broeckelman-Post. “Student Perceptions of Value: A Qualitative Study of Student Experiences in the Communication Center.” Basic Communication Course Annual. 33 (2021): 57-77.

Fernandez, Lourdes, Heidi Y. Lawrence, and Bonnie Stabile. “The Disappearing Accused: Media Narratives and Campus Sexual Assault.” Rhetoric Review. 39.2 (2020): 230-245.

Lawrence, Heidi Y., Lourdes Fernandez, Bonnie Stabile, Rachael Graham Lussos, and Melissa Brockelman-Post.  “Communicating Campus Sexual Assault: A Mixed Methods Rhetorical Analysis.” Technical Communication Quarterly. 28.4 (2019): 299-316.

Lawrence, Heidi Y., Rachael Graham Lussos, and Jessica Clark. “The Rhetoric of Proposal Writing: Pedagogy, Research, and Real-world Practice.” Journal of Technical Writing and Communication. First Published December 13, 2017. 1-18.

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 Communication6.2 (Summer 2012): 212-232. DOI: 10.1080/175242032.2012.668856.

Grants and Fellowships

“Communication Center Impacts: A Proof of Concept for Enhancing Skills and Learning.” Melissa Broeckelman-Post and Heidi Lawrence. Faculty Research and Development Award. Submitted November 2018. Funded December 2018. $15,000. 

“Rhetoric of Quantification in the Context of Chronic Pain.” Heidi Lawrence and Rachael Graham Lussos. National Science Foundation (NSF) Dissertation Research Improvement Grant (DRIG). Submitted August 3, 2018. Funded February 22, 2019. $5,059.

“Expanding the Professional Writing Curriculum to Enhance Global and Civic Engagement.” With Doug Eyman and Isidore Dorpenyo. George Mason University (GMU) Curriculum Impact Grant (CIG) Submitted June 1, 2018. Funded, June 19, 2018, $30,000.

“Virginia Colloquium on the Rhetoric of Health and Medicine (VCRHM).” With Bernice Hausman, Kelly Pender, Michael Klein, Lori Beth De Hertogh, and Cathryn Molloy. 4-VA. Submitted October 17, 2017. Funded December 12, 2017, $16,500.

“Community-Engaged Health Research Program.” With Ali Weinstein, Emily Ihara, Cathy Tompkins, and Rebecca Vargas-Jackson. GMU CIG. Submitted September 25, 2017. Funded December 2017, $35,000.

“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. 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 488/689: Advanced 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

"Logic of Care as a Framework for Accountability in Technical Communication.” 20th Annual Conference, Association for Teachers of Technical Writing (ATTW). Pittsburgh, PA. March 2019.

“Making Connections, Expanding Mentoring: Creating High-Impact Practices in Mentorship for Graduate Students.” Innovations in Teaching and Learning Conference. Fairfax, VA. September 2018.

“Analyzing Complex Public Problems: Rhetoric in the Case of Campus Sexual Assault.” 2018 Conference of the Rhetoric Society of America (RSA). Minneapolis, MN. May 2018

“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

Lawrence, Heidi Y. and Cathryn Molloy. “Assistant Editors’ Interview with Dr. Heidi Lawrence of George Mason University.” Rhetoric of Health and Medicine Podcast, 27 February 2018. http://stars.library.ucf.edu/rhm/vol1/iss1/1

Anthony, Libby, Heidi Y. Lawrence, and Amy Reed. “What are you Working on Today?”: A Model for Remote Coworking.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 14 December 2017. https://www.chronicle.com/article/What-Are-You-Working-on/242055

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.

Dissertations Supervised

Kathryn Marie Meeks, Rhetoric of the Environment and the Natural World: Temporal Tensions in Rhetoric After-the-Fact, Intergenerational Messaging, and Public Display (2024)

Thomas Polk, Accessing Authenticity: Theorizing a Holistic Model of Writing Development (2023)

Lauren Tuckley, Genre Performance and the Discursive Regulation of Value Alignment: How the Personal Statement Mediates Organizational Access and Ideologically Reproduces its Members (2023)

Veronica Garrison-Joyner, Black at the OBGYN: Rhetorics of Race in Women’s Health Care (2022)

David Powers Corwin, Friendship Shouldn’t Hurt: Toward a Trauma-Literate Rhetoric of Friendship Through Post-2010 Television (2022)

Jessica McCaughey, Dynamic Workplace Writing Transfer: Writing Across Career Change (2022)

Norma Coto, Persuasion by Word of Foot: A Rhetorical-Ontological Inquiry into Barefoot Running as a Health Practice (2021)

Elizabeth Ferguson, Decolonizing Epidemics: Power Structures that Define, Name, and Frame Medical Disasters (2019)

Lourdes Fernandez, Agency and Ontology in the Rhetorics of Sexual Assault (2019)

Rachael Graham Lussos, Rhetorics of Quantification in the Context of Chronic Pain (2019)