About - Peter Ubel

I am a physician and behavioral scientist at Duke University. My research and writing explores the quirks in human nature that influence our lives — the mixture of rational and irrational forces that affect our health, our happiness and the way our society functions. (What fun would it be to tackle just the easy problems?) My goal is to show you, in an entertaining way, why the key to living better, healthier lives, and improving the societies we live in, is to understand human nature.

I’m also a Professor of Business, Public Policy and Medicine at Duke University.  (Officially, I’m the – prepare to be impressed – Madge and Dennis T. McLawhorn University Professor of Business at Fuqua.) My research explores controversial issues about the role of values and preferences in health care decision making, from decisions at the bedside to policy decisions. I use the tools of decision psychology and behavioral economics to explore topics like doctor-patient communication, medical decision-making, and healthcare cost containment.

I grew up in Minnesota where I attended an all boys, Roman Catholic, military high school – a definite triple whammy for a horny teenager. Then when I submitted my high school photograph to my undergraduate college, Carleton, and it got posted in the annual book of new students, my classmates decided I was a fascist , leaving me at a decidedly unCatholic, non-military, co-ed college, already shunned. Sigh…

In my spare time, I enjoy classical piano (fanatical about Beethoven and Chopin), chili peppers (both growing and eating them), and sports (when I’m not nursing my most orthopedic injury).

When my now “adult” kids are both in town, we love to spend dinner time playing bridge, the greatest card game ever invented. (Spologies to poker fans)


I’m obsessed with writing books, and will continue to keep writing until I’m forced – by health, by economics, by fleeing editors – to stop. Why write books, when no one has time to read them anymore? Here’s my answer.

I blog about a wide range of topics, but usually ones that touch upon either health care, ethics or politics. Speaking of politics, I consider myself to be a flaming moderate, and in my research and writing I try to elucidate the way our political views are biased by our preconceptions.

I’m not the handsomest guy in the world, but this picture looks bad even for me!

I enjoy spirited debate but detest acrimonious name-calling. So when I get nasty-grams in response to my work, I absorb what people say, but refuse to reply in kind.