Santa Clara University


Sally Lehrman

Professor of Journalism and the Public Interest, Communication

Phone: (408) 551-3000 x4256

Current Work

I specialize in covering identity, race relations and gender within the context of medicine and science. My byline credits include Scientific American, Health,, Nature, The New York Times and SoundVision Production's The DNA Files, three series of public radio documentaries on genetics and society distributed by National Public Radio.

I first started covering genetic research with one of its earliest controversies, the illegal field test of a genetically engineered microbe on a company rooftop in 1985. Since then, I have regularly covered genetic testing, population genetics, genetic privacy and related topics for public radio, newspapers and magazines, often with an emphasis on the social and scientific issues associated with gender and race. I’ve written on topics such as stereotype threat, unconscious bias and genetic ancestry for Scientific American and opinion pieces on race relations for the Boston Globe and San Francisco Chronicle. My interest in gender and race extends to journalism ethics considerations such as fair and accurate representation, which I explore in the book, News in a New America, and in chapters for Handbook on Communicating and Disseminating Behavioral Science (Sage Publications, 2007), Revisiting Race in a Genomic Age (Rutgers University Press, 2008), and Migration and Media (Herbert Quandt-Stiftung, 2010).

My journalism honors include a 2002 Peabody Award, Peabody/Robert Wood Johnson Award for Excellence in Health and Medical Programming, and Columbia/Du Pont Silver Baton shared for The DNA Files; the SPJ Wells Key (the Society of Professional Journalists' highest honor); various other reporting and writing awards; and the 1995-96 John S. Knight Fellowship at Stanford University.

Representative Publications

Sex Determination Beyond X and Y Babies born with mixed sex organs often get immediate surgery. New genetic studies, Eric Vilain says, should force a rethinking of sex assignment and gender identity. In Scientific American. ( Q&A on sex determination with Vilain Excerpts from an interview with geneticist Eric Vilain on sex determination.

Intersex: The Sex Police Quietly and in near secrecy, pediatric urologists and other specialists decide what are the minimum qualifications for manhood, correcting any babies with ambiguous genitalia — known as “intersexed” — before their births are announced to the world. Now parents, doctors and researchers are reevaluating what it means to be male and female. In (

News in a New America, is a fresh take on the continuing challenges facing news organizations that want to cover all the participants in U.S. society fairly and equally, funded by the Knight Foundation.

Printer-friendly format