Deborah Potter, PhD

Associate Professor


Debbie Potter is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Louisville.  Informed primarily by structuralist theories and social constructionism, her primary areas of research include a) lay/public involvement in health/mental health policy and service delivery; and b) medicalization of social behaviors among marginalized populations;. Recently, she has expanded her research agenda to also include c) illness careers of somatic/psychiatric multi-morbidities; and d) synchronous collective traumas and resilience in communities. With a joint PhD in Sociology and Social Policy from Brandeis University, her work spans substantive, theoretical, and policy issues in these areas.

Before joining U of L, she worked in a non-profit agency as a lead evaluator of state and national mental health programs. For ten years previous, she was a health research scientist for a leading health policy research organization.

She teaches undergraduate courses in medical sociology; sociology of women’s health; sociology of mental health; sociology of disability; social policy; and research methods. In the MA/PhD programs, she teaches courses and independent studies in social policy, research methods, and the sociology of health and illness.

Among other national offices, she has served on the Board of Directors for the Society for the Study of Social Problems (2018-2021).

Outside of her academic life, she pursues her passion for dog agility.


Research Areas
Applied sociology
Social policy
Medical sociology/ Sociology of health and illness
Sociology of mental health
Lay/professional collaboration in health/mental health policy and service delivery
Collective trauma
Illness careers and comorbidity
Social inequalities in health and health care

Teaching Areas
SOC 303 Research Methods

SOC 435 Medicine, Health and Illness
SOC 440 The Health Care System
SOC 442 Sociology of Disabilities
SOC 450 Health Social Movements and Health Activism
SOC 740 Social Policy