• portrait of Deborah McPhail
  • Associate professor

    Max Rady College of Medicine
    Department of Community Health Sciences
    S-113 Medical Services Building
    750 Bannatyne Avenue
    University of Manitoba
    Winnipeg, Manitoba R3E 0W2

    Phone: 204-480-1352

Research achievements

Research summary

Dr. McPhail's work is committed to working toward health equity, and her expertise is in qualitative, anti-oppressive research methodologies. Her research, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and Research Manitoba, focuses on oppressed groups who are marginalized by and within the healthcare system, and is grounded in the communities to which she belongs: 2SLGBTQIA+ and fat communities.

To this end, she has partnered with community agencies such as Sunshine House and Rainbow Resource Centre in research projects such as "Queering COVID" and "Assessing the Quality of Healthcare for Trans Women, Queer Women, and Non-Binary People in Manitoba."

  • Research themes

    • critical social sciences
  • Keywords

    • 2SLGBTQIA+ health and healthcare
    • anti-oppressive approaches to health
    • critical social theory
    • fat studies
    • healthcare equity
    • qualitative research methodologies

Select research projects

2021 – 2025. McPhail, D (NPI), Mason, C (co-PI), Lorway, R (Co-I), Litwiller, F (Co-I), Sharma, K (Collaborator), Asaguara, U (Collaborator), Foy, L (Collaborator). Queering Covid: 2SLGBTQIA+ Families and Experiences of Lockdown. SSHRC, $78, 000.  

2016-2024. McPhail, D (PI), Soulemanov, R, Shultz, A (Collaborator), Nickel, N (Collaborator), Elias, B (Collaborator), McHale, M (Collaborator), Malone, R (Collaborator), Ross, C (Collaborator), Reitmeir (Collaborator). Assessing Perceptions about and Experience of LGBT Healthcare Professionals in Manitoba. Research Manitoba. $220, 848. 
2018 – 2022. Rinaldi, J (NPI), Rice, C (PI), Pendleton Jiminez, K (co-I), Friedman, M (co-I), Pyne, J (co-I). Bodies in Translation: Trans Body Boundaries. CIHR. $398, 432.  
2014-2022. McPhail, D (Nominated PI), Gingras, J (PI), Jette, S (PI),  Rail, G (PI), Harbin (Co-I), and Ward, P (Co-I). “Reproducing Stigma: Obesity and Women’s Experiences of Reproductive Care.” CIHR. $230, 130.

Select publications

McPhail, D., Lorway, R. and Chevrier, C. (2022). Safe Spaces that Matter: Material Semiotics, Affective Bodies, and Queer Readings of Clinical Spaces in Winnipeg, Canada. Social Science and Medicine – Qualitative Research in Health. 2. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssmqr.2022.100126

Lind, E., McPhail, D., and Mazur, L. (2023, Forthcoming). Gender, Fat, and “Reproductive” Healthcare: Negotiating Fat Pregnancy in the Context of Eugenics. In The Contemporary Reader in Gender and Fat Studies, Ed. Farrell, A. New York: Routledge. 

McPhail, D. (2023, Forthcoming). The “White Man’s Burden”: Obesity in the “Developing” North, 1945-1970. In Fat Studies in Canada, Ed. Ioannoni, K, Taylor, A., and Freidman, M. Toronto: Ianna. 

McPhail, D. and Orsini, M. (2021). Fat Acceptance as Social Justice. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 193(35): E1398-E1300. 

Ward, P. and McPhail, D. (2019). Commentary: A Shared Vision for Reducing Fat Shame and Blame in Reproductive Care. Women’s Reproductive Care. 6(4): 265-270.

Ward, P and McPhail, D. (2019). Fat Shame and Blame in Reproductive Care: Implications for Ethical Health Care Interactions. Women's Reproductive Health. 6(4): 225-241.

McPhail, D and Mazur, L.. (2019). Medicalization, Maternity, and the Materiality of Resistance: “Maternal Obesity” and Experiences of Reproductive Care. In Rice, C, Freidman, M., and Rinaldi, J. Thickening Fat. New York: Routledge.

Teaching philosophy

Teaching description

Dr. McPhail teaches graduate courses in the areas of: gender health equity; qualitative research methodologies; critical social theories and; 2SLGBTQIA+ /queer theories and health.

Dr. McPhail is the theme lead in gender and sexual health for the Max Rady College of Medicine. She develops and delivers undergraduate curriculum for medical students primarily in the area of 2SLGBTQIA+ health as well as other equity seeking groups such as sex workers and cisgender women.


Brief biography

Dr. Deborah McPhail is a qualitative and critical researcher focusing on the healthcare experiences of two groups marginalized by the healthcare system: 2SLGBTQIA+ communities and fat or larger-bodied people. She holds a PhD in Gender Studies from York University and an MA in Sociology and Equity Studies from O.I.S.E./University of Toronto. Dr. McPhail's work is grounded in feminist, queer, fat, and anti-oppressive theories. Her work has been funded by major research grants from CIHR, SSHRC and Research Manitoba.

Dr. McPhail is the author of "Contours of the Nation: Making Obesity and Imagining Canada, 1945-1970" and co-editor of "Obesity in Canada: Critical Perspectives". She has published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), Social Science and Medicine, and the Globe & Mail. Her work has bee n cited and featured in the Atlantic, the New York Times magazine, the CBC, and the National Post.

Dr. McPhail is a peer reviewer for CIHR, SSHRC and Research Manitoba, has served as chair and founding member of UMQueer, and is a volunteer member of the Manitoba Public Health Association.


PhD, York University
Master of Sociology, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto
Bachelor of Arts, University of Manitoba


  • Recipient, Outstanding Reviewer, CIHR (2021/2022)
  • Recipient, Manitoba Medical Students Teaching Award (2019)
  • Recipient, CBC Top 40 Under 40 (2017)
  • University of Manitoba Outreach Award (2016)
  • Body Confidence Awards, Body Confidence Awards Canada (2016)

Contact us

Community Health Sciences
Max Rady College of Medicine
Room S113 - 750 Bannatyne Avenue
University of Manitoba (Bannatyne campus)
Winnipeg, MB R3E 0W3 Canada