Medical Anthropology

Human experiences of sickness and suffering are universal, yet also profoundly shaped by their cultural and historical contexts. Medical anthropology seeks to understand cultural and biological diversity in sickness, health and healing. Its varied approaches include meaning-centered investigations of disrupted well-being, considerations of how biological & cultural factors interact to promote health or produce sickness, analyses of political-economic causes of health inequalities, and applied research to improve health research and services in a globalizing world.

Undergraduate students majoring in Anthropology can choose an emphasis area in medical anthropology, which includes focused coursework in the social, cultural, and evolutionary dimensions of sickness and healing.  Medical anthropology faculty also frequently supervise undergraduate research.  These experiences offer essential background for students who plan to enter the health professions.  Admission to medical and other professional schools increasingly emphasizes the kinds of cross-cultural knowledge and holistic perspectives that anthropology provides.

Graduate study in medical anthropology prepares students for a range of careers in academia and/or applied research (see Society for Medical Anthropology).  Recent and current graduate students working in medical anthropology at the University of Iowa have successfully competed for a variety of internal grants as well as external funding from the Wenner-Gren Foundation, National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and elsewhere to support their field research and dissertation writing.  Their recent publications include articles in journals such as Medical Anthropology Quarterly; Culture, Health & Sexuality; Current Osteoporosis Reports; and International Journal of Global Health & Health Disparities; and a book in the Studies in Medical Anthropology series from Rutgers University Press.

100% of doctoral students specializing in medical anthropology who graduated from the University of Iowa between 2003 and 2013 are working either in in tenure-track positions at colleges and universities, or in PhD-level positions in health research with major federal agenciesRecent graduates have also successfully found postdoctoral fellowships in research and/or teaching.

Medical anthropology faculty at the University of Iowa work both inside and outside of the Department of Anthropology, in a campus-wide network. Key faculty hold joint degrees in anthropology and a health or social service profession (e.g., public health, nursing, social work). The Department of Anthropology cross-lists its medical anthropology courses in Department of Community & Behavioral Health within the College of Public Health, and also in the Global Health Studies Program, attracting students from a wide range of disciplines and professions who are developing future careers in health and human services.  A number of anthropology graduate students have completed joint PhD/MPH degrees.

Faculty research interests incorporate a diverse range of geographical and topical specializations.  In settings ranging from North America to Latin America, southern Africa, the Pacific, and beyond, our research examines health and healing in localized contexts from a global and comparative perspective.  Key topics include the health-related dimensions of social inequalities, the ways in which personhood and identity are implicated in both sickness and well-being, and evolutionary perspectives on infectious disease in humans.  We specifically explore health in relation to gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity; and examine the cultural politics of producing medical knowledge, as well as the bioethical and moral dimensions of medical and caregiving practices.

Anthropology Faculty Specializing in Medical Anthropology:

Affiliated Medical Anthropologists at the University of Iowa: