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September 03, 2021

Nicholas Lawson, M.D.

Nicholas D. Lawson, M.D., J.D., is a disability advocate and a person with a disability having lived experience of disability discrimination as a psychiatry resident. He is also a Georgetown Law Scholar and an aspiring disability studies professor who writes about disability rights issues within the academic medical and legal literatures. Dr. Lawson draws from an interdisciplinary background in medicine, law, research, and clinical care to critically appraise expert authorities on persons with disabilities and to fight medical models that contribute to disability oppression. Lawson is particularly interested in reducing structural stigma, in the inclusion of persons with disabilities in positions of leadership and within the professions, and in negative rights and privacy issues.

Lawson’s contributions to law reviews include “To Be a Good Lawyer, One Has to Be a Healthy Lawyer”: Lawyer Well-Being, Discrimination, and Discretionary Systems of Discipline in the Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics. The Article critiqued professional wellness (aka well-being) policies encouraging surveillance and reporting of persons suspected of having mental health conditions and disabilities. Dr. Lawson’s more recent Article, Suicide Screening and Surveillance of Students, Discrimination, and Privacy: The Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, is forthcoming in the Journal of Law and Education. It argues that suicide surveillance policies in high schools, colleges, and universities are counterproductive and lead to discrimination on the basis of suicidality. Lawson argues that institutions can “support” persons with disabilities, including mental health conditions, by complying with disability affirmative action requirements under the Rehabilitation Act, including persons with disabilities in leadership positions, and by investing in disability studies programs and courses within their academic curriculums.

Dr. Lawson has also published original research in the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry and Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention and Policy among other publications. His shorter pieces have appeared in the Judges’ Journal, Hastings Center Report, the American Journal of Medicine, the Journal of Graduate Medical Education, Lancet Psychiatry, the Annals of Internal Medicine, Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Academic Medicine, Academic Psychiatry, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Medical Education, General Hospital Psychiatry, and the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. Lawson has peer-reviewed manuscripts for journals including the New England Journal of Medicine, and regularly reviews for the AMA Journal of Ethics, Journal of General Internal Medicine, Medical Education, and the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

During law school at Georgetown, Dr. Lawson interned at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law and at the American Bar Association Commission on Disability Rights (ABA-CDR), where he helped create webinars on medical inquiries; supported decision making and representing clients with impaired decision-making capacity; Covid-19 and workplace antidiscrimination laws; the Olmstead decision, deinstitutionalization, and desegregation reform; and most recently, #FreeBritney and guardianship transformation. Dr. Lawson also writes advocacy letters that have provided comments opposing the exclusion of persons with disabilities from the NASDAQ/SEC board diversity rule and the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act.

Dr. Lawson is extremely grateful to ABA-CDR director Amy Allbright for her ongoing mentorship, support, and encouragement. He is honored and thrilled to become an ABA CDR Commissioner and to work with his fellow Commissioners and other disability advocates. He believes that disability rights has much to offer and gain through coalitions and collaborations with advocates for women, communities of color, LGBTQ+ persons, immigrants, older adults, and persons of lower socioeconomic status among others.