Skip to main content
Northwestern School of Communication

Courtney Lynam Scherr

Associate Professor
Courtney Scherr’s research agenda focuses on the theory guided design and evaluation of messages containing scientific information about risk to patients. The goal of her work is to increase patient understanding, engage patients in informed decision making, and increase adherence to medical recommendations.

Area(s) of Expertise

Health Communication, Risk Communication
Courtney Lynam Scherr

Dr. Scherr's research program focuses on the communication of risk and uncertainty in health. With training in health communication, public health, and behavioral medicine, her program is applied and interdisciplinary. She is interested in how the communication of risk and uncertainty, particularly informed by medical scientific advancements, impacts patients’ risk perceptions, informed decision-making, and adherence to medical recommendations. To pursue this agenda, I have engaged in a two-part program of research which include: (1) clinical communication of risk and uncertainty and (2) public communication of risk and uncertainty.

Genetics is a specific context in which the successful communication of risk and uncertainty has the potential to significantly decrease morbidity and mortality in preventable or treatable adult-onset conditions (e.g., cancer, cardiology). Consequently, much of my work has focused on genetics and I have applied the methodologies and theories developed in genetics to other contexts where messages of risk and uncertainty exist like early identification of developmental delays and vaccination. What follows is a brief description of my research to date and a description of my future research agenda.


  • Postdoctoral Fellowship, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute
  • PhD, Applied Health Communication, Purdue University
  • MA, Communication, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
  • MA, Double Major – Communication Arts; International Relations, University of Wisconsin, Madison



Awards and Honors

  • Courtney Scherr's research is currently funded by the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, and the Delaney Family Fund for Research in Health Communication.
  • 2021 Elected Chair of the Health Decision Making Special Interest Group, Society of Behavioral Medicine
  • 2020 Early Career Scholar Award in the Health Communication Division of the National Communication Association
  • 2020 Top Paper Award in the Applied Communication Division at the National Communication Association Annual Convention


  • Health Communication and Precision Medicine - COMM ST 339
  • Health Communication - MTS 525
  • Uncertainty and Risk Communication in Health - COMM ST 395