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Debra Meyerson

On September 3, 2010, I was fifty-three, a healthy, athletic, mother of 3 and a Stanford professor. The next day, I had a severe stroke. I was completely paralyzed on the right side of my body and even more distressing, lost ALL ability to communicate. My mind was working, but I was trapped inside a dysfunctional body. After six years of virtually full time therapy, I had come a long way--walking pretty well, independent living, and speech beginning to return. I began to re-engage, including returning to Stanford as an Adjunct Professor (not able to meet the demands of my previous role as tenured full-time faculty). I joined several boards, and realized that my two lives were actually very much connected. 

My new book, "Identity Theft: Rediscovering Ourselves After Stroke" follows my journey to recover in addition to providing realistic expectations for the hard work needed to regain everyday capabilities. I focus on the less frequently documented emotional journey in recovery. Virtually every survivor is haunted by questions like: "Who am I now?" and "How do I rebuild a meaningful and rewarding life?" after losing so much of what they had before--capabilities, careers and jobs, relationships, and more. This is a book full of hope for survivors--from stroke or other injuries--as well as their families and support networks. Click here for Identity Theft book page.

As an academic I wrote about identity--how women, people of color, members of the LGBT community, and others who are "different", can be true to themselves, while fitting in to organizations enough to succeed, and even drive positive change. Now I'm writing about the experience of identity change--how people who have faced fundamental change in capability can strive not to rebuild "who they were", but rather focus on "who they are" and what they can do.  My immediate laboratory is the world of stroke survivors, but I believe this journey is equally relevant to people who have suffered other debilitating changes like brain injury, cancer, heart disease--or are losing capacity simply because they are growing old.

Previous Work

As a tenured Stanford professor, an organizational scholar,  author of two books and more than 50 chapters and articles,  I taught hundreds of classes to graduate and undergraduate students. I made similar numbers of speeches about gender, diversity more broadly, organizational change and other topics, and have facilitated dozens of workshops -- for companies, non-profits, universities, executive groups, and other organizations -- sharing both research and practical strategies for building better, more inclusive organizations.

One of my most significant contributions from that period is my book Tempered Radicals (aka Rocking the Boat) which examines how people who are "different" can advance important changes from within organizations, and leadership practices that foster inclusive organizations. Click here to visit my Prior Works page.

Debra Meyerson