Medical Anthropology

The school primarily trains Ph.D. students in the medical anthropology concentration, but students not already having a M.A./M.S./M.P.H. first register for a M.A. as a prerequisite for entry into the Ph.D. program. The M.A. is seen as a step in the Ph.D. process as well as a screener for those not sure if they wish to pursue this course of study or go into the health sciences, law, etc. On average, between one and three students are admitted to the concentration per year.

Students intending to concentrate in medical anthropology should register for ANTH 536a (Anthropology of the Body, Health, and Illness) and develop a plan of study approved by their committee.

Plans of study will differ in accord with student’s background and research interests as well as their subfield area of focus. Students focusing on sociocultural, biocultural, and linguistic anthropology may follow a program of courses in medical anthropology in fulfillment of the minor in Anthropology for the Ph.D. course and comprehensive exam requirements. Students in other concentration areas such as applied anthropology may opt to split coursework for their minor in Anthropology between applied and medical anthropology. To do so, they must take three or more graduate seminars in medical anthropology.

The following faculty members are core faculty members in the medical anthropology concentration: Linda Green, Mark Nichter, Mimi Nichter, Ivy Pike, Eric Plemons, and Susan Shaw. Mark Nichter and Susan Shaw coordinate the concentration area and questions related to course requirements.

The following additional UA faculty members/adjunct faculty have served on recent medical anthropology related M.A. and Ph.D. committees: Diane Austin, Mamadou Baro, Victor Braitberg, Tim Finan, Sally Marston, Tad Park, and Brian Silverstein.

Recommended courses for sociocultural students following coursework in medical anthropology for the minor at the Ph.D. level:

At least five of the following courses (15 hours):

  • *536a Anthropology of the body, health and illness
  • *536b Ethnomedicine
  • *571a–571b Medical anthropology in clinical and community contexts
  • 675 Anthropology in Global Health
  • Anthropology and adolescent health
  • Gender and health
  • Special seminars or reading courses in medical anthropology


At least five cultural anthropology courses beyond the two semester culture core. The following course/topical areas have been commonly recommended to sociocultural students interested in medical anthropology by their committees. The listings reflect subject areas and not necessarily exact titles of seminars which change year to year.

  • Anthropology and public policy
  • Anthropology and development
  • Applied anthropology
  • Anthropology and globalization
  • Anthropology of religion
  • Anthropology of social movements
  • Biocultural anthropology (different topics)
  • Colonialism, imperialism, and globalization (under different titles)
  • Culture and power
  • Economic anthropology
  • Ethnicity and race
  • Gender, class and ethnicity related seminars
  • History, anthropology and social memory
  • Political ecology
  • Political economy (under different titles; in anthropology or related social science field)
  • Structural and political violence
  • Human rights
  • Writing culture


Additional courses that have been strongly recommended by committees:

  • At least one linguistic anthropology class: Language and culture, Language and gender, Discourse analysis, Narrative analysis
  • Human adaptation and/or a relevant biocultural seminar (for biocultural students coursework fit to needs of academic program of study tailored by committee)
  • Epidemiology or biostatistics: one of these classes to meet school statistics requirement
  • Social epidemiology (School of Public Health)
  • GIS mapping (various departments on campus)
  • Geography (selected seminars offered by Department of Geography)
  • Methods/data management course: in the School of Anthropology or another department
  • Grant writing/professional skills
  • Ethnographic area course/special reading course: in the School or another department


Medical anthropology postgraduate certificate

A graduate certificate in medical anthropology for motivated health science professionals, developing world social scientists, and social scientists in the USA who have been trained by departments that do not offer specialized training in medical anthropology is offered by the school. Requirements include 12 hours of graduate coursework (at least 9 credits from anthropology) directly related to medical anthropology and a three credit research project resulting in a publishable paper or defendable grant proposal.


M.D./Ph.D. and M.P.H./Ph.D. joint degrees

Details about seeking joint degrees should be sought from the medical anthropology concentration coordinator and require that candidates apply separately to each school or department. Students may attempt to secure both degrees simultaneously or sequentially (which generally makes more sense).