How women can use rhetoric to restore credibility in medical settings

by Hannah Lynn Robinson


As the issue of uneven access to quality care rapidly increases, individuals belonging to marginalized groups face even greater obstacles to their health care. Dr. Cathryn Molloy, professor of writing, rhetoric and communication at James Madison University, is available to discuss how women can utilize the power of rhetoric to restore patient credibility and take control of their own health. 

"There are many accounts of individuals receiving inappropriate or inadequate care due to erroneous assumptions about their mental health status," says Molloy. "It is dauntingly common to be wrongly diagnosed as having symptoms that are "in your head"—especially if you are a woman." 

As a rhetorician of health and medicine, Molloy studies the ways that stigmatized patients consciously and subconsciously use rhetoric to rebuild their credibility after being unfairly doubted due to demographic factors.

Her newest book, "Rhetorical Ethos in Health and Medicine: Patient Credibility, Stigma, and Misdiagnosis," explores rhetorical ethos and its ongoing role in misdiagnoses stemming from gender, race and class-based biases.

Extending work on ethos in clinical encounters and public discourse about biomedicine, the book explores how bias in clinical settings can lead to symptoms labelled "in the patient's head" masking treating medical problems.

Media contact: Hannah Robinson,, 520-222-2808

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Published: Friday, December 6, 2019

Last Updated: Thursday, January 23, 2020

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