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Mission StatementEdit

The Society for Medical Anthropology serves the needs of medical anthropology graduate students, practicing anthropologists, scholars, and scholar activists who address issues of local, national and international health importance, according to the Society for Medical Anthropology (SMA). In addition, the site reaches out to inform the general public and policy-makers of the scope and breadth of medical anthropology (SMA). The organization primarily emphasize on the wide range of theories and methods (SMA). Like many organizations, it serves to promote and foster collaboration and coalition-building (SMA).

History Edit

The Society for Medical Anthropology was first founded in 1967 by a group of persons interested in the social sciences and medicine field who had earlier organized the "Roster of Anthropologists, Physicians, and others Who Have Special Interests in Medical Anthropology" according to SMA. It is likely and usually the case that a name represents an organization. Time and thought are given to naming an organization. In addition, it also goes through a process of name change to become the name it is today. The Society for Medical Anthropology was formerly known as the Group for Medical Anthropology (GMA) until the meeting in November 1970, at the American Anthropological Association (AAA) Annual Meeting in San Diego, California that GMA became the Society for Medical Anthropology (SMA). Before the Society for Medical Anthropology had a name, they were referred to as an "Organization" where they had their first meeting on April 27, 1968 at the 27th Annual Meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA) in Berkeley, California (SMA). This led to the creation of the Medical Anthropology Newsletter that was later published in October 1968 with 53 subscribers (SMA). It was during their first workshop at the American Anthropological Association (AAA) Annual Meeting on November 22, held in Seattle, Washington that they became the Group for Medical Anthropology (SMA). According to SMA, "most of their meetings met regularly both at the SfAA and AAA meetings." The Society for Medical Anthropology first adopted their constitution the same time they were changed from GMA to SMA in November 1970, and their objective was "to promote study of anthropological aspects of health, illness, health care, and related topics" (SMA). The following year in 1971 SMA became a section of the AAA (SMA).

Board Members Edit

The establishment of a foundation and structure of an organization performs and carries out purposes and functions through devoted past, present and future board members. All of the board members have very similar interests and researches in the area of medical anthropology that compliments one another's work. Each of their biography shows their passion and dedication to medical anthropology that is reflected in their work and teachings. The following below are the current board members of 2008 - 2009.


The 2008 - 2009 SMA Board Members:

President: Carolyn Sargent

President Elect: Jeannine Coreil

Secretary: Ellen Gruenbaum

Treasure: Kitty Corbett


Commitee Members-At-Large:

Ralph Bolton

Beth Conklin

Matthew Guttman

Alan Harwood

Lenore Manderson

Janet McGarth

Adriana Petryna

Carolyn Smith-Morris

Amorita Valdez


SMA Ex-Officio:

MAQ Editor: Andrea Sankar

MAQ Editor: Mark Luborsky

Newsletter Editor: Kathleen Ragsdale

Webmaster: Ben McMahan


The following below are brief biography on the participating committee members-at-large and SMA ex-officio to get a general idea of each of their background.

Ralph Bolton is an Anthropology Professor at Pomona College in California and lives in Santa Fe New Mexico when he is not teaching according to Social edge (SE). He was a Peace Corps volunteer in Peru from 1963 - 1965 and is the founder and director of the Chijnaya Foundation (SE).

Beth Conklin is a Cultural and Medical Anthropologist Professor at Vanderbilt College of Arts and Science (VCAS). She specializes in the ethnography of indigenous peoples of lowland South America (VCAS). Her research primarily focuses on the anthropology of body, religion, and ritual, health and healing, death and mourning, the politics of indigenous rights and ecology, environmentalism, and cultural religious responses to climate change (VCAS). The courses that she teaches are: anthropological theory, medicine and health, indigenous peoples, and environmental issues (VCAS).

Matthew Guttmann is a Professor of Anthropology, Director, and Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at Brown University (BU). He has a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology (1995) and an M.P.H. (1997) both from the University of California Berkeley (BU). His research focuses on change in a variety of contexts, with emphasis on gender-sexuality, militarization, ethnicity-race-nationalism, and health in the Americas, especially Mexico and among Latina/ os in the United States (BU).

Alan Harwood is a Professor Emeritus at University of Massachusetts, Boston in the Anthropology Department (SMA).

Lenore Manderson is a Medical Anthropologist and Social Historian Professor at Monash University (MU). Her special interests include: anthropology of chronic conditions and disability, infectious disease in reduce-poor settings, gender and sexuality, and question of embodiment and identify (MU).

Janet McGrath is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU). Her research interest relates to the bi-directional impact of disease on human societies (CWRU). Expanding research on HIV prevention strategies is one of her short term goal that she is currently working on (CWRU).

Adriana Petryna is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at University of Pennsylvania (UP). Her research interests include: cultural anthropology, medical anthropology, social studies of science and technology, globalization, state formation and citizenship, Eastern Europe, former Soviet Union, and the United States.

Carolyn Smith-Morris is a Cultural Anthropologist at Southern Methodist University. Her area of interest include: Medical Anthropology, American Indians, diseases of development, gender, and health. She has spent a considerable amoung of time researching Gila River Indian Community on their diabetes epidemic (SMU).

Amorita Valdez is a Student Committee Member of Society for Medical Anthropology who is at University of Michigan in the Department of Anthropology (SMA).

Andrea Sankar is a Professor at Wayne State University in the Department of Anthropology and Director of the Medical Anthropology Program (WSU). Her research area include: how cultural values, beliefs, and systems of inequality structure health and illness focusing on HIV, gernotology, care giving and China (WSU).

Mark Lubrosky is a Director of Aging and Health Disparities Research at the Institute of Gernotology, and Professor of Anthropology and Gernotology (WSU). His research focuses on life reorganization and continuity of meaning and function (WSU).

Kathleen Ragsdale is an Assistant Professor in the department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work, at Mississippi State University (MSU). Her research interests include: applied medical anthropology, minority health disparities, sexual risk behaviors and health communication, gender and power disparities, and health related social justice for vulnerable populations (MSU).

Ben McMahan is in the Department of Anthropology at University of Arizona and is the webmaster on SMA.

What is Medical Anthropology? Edit

According to Society for Medical Anthropology (SMU) Medical Anthropology is a subfield of anthropology that draws upon soical, cultural, biological, and linguistic anthropology to better understand those factors which influence health and well being, the experience and distribution of illness, the prevention and treatment of sickness, healing processes, the social relations of therapy management, and the cultural importance and utilization of pluralistic medical systems (SMA). They draw from different theoretical approaches in ways as attentive to popular health culture as bioscientific epidemiology and the social construction of knowledge and politics of science as scientific discovery and hypotheses testing (SMA). In addition, they examing how the health of individuals, larger social formations, and the environment are affected by interrelationships between humans and other species; cultural norms and social institutions; micro and macro politics; and forces of globalization as each of these affects local worlds (SMA).


Several key issues Medical Anthropologist study includes (SMA):

  • Health ramifications of ecological "adaptation and maladaptation"
  • Popular health culture and domestic health care practices
  • Local interpretations of bodily processes
  • Changing body projects and valued bodily attributes
  • Perceptions of risk, vulnerability and responsibility for illness and health care
  • Risk and protective dimensions of human behavior, cultural norms and social institutions
  • Preventative health and harm reduction practices
  • The experience of illness and the social relations of sickness
  • The range of factors driving health, nutrition and health care transitions
  • Ethnomedicine, pluralistic health modalities, and healing processes
  • The social organization of clinical interactions
  • The cultural and historical conditions shaping medical practices and policies
  • Medical practices in the context of modernity, colonial, and post-colonial social formations
  • The use and interpretation of pharmaceuticals and forms of biotechnology
  • The commercialization and commoditization of health and medicine
  • Disease distribution and health disparity
  • Differential use and availability of government and private health care resources
  • The political economy of health care provision
  • The political ecology of infectious and vector borne diseases, chronic diseases and states of malnutrition, and violence
  • The possibilities for a critically engaged yet clinically relevant application of anthropology


As with any Society or Organization there are controversies along with moral and ethical issues. The kinds of controversies medical anthropology deals with are the different key issues that are explored by researchers. It may be that in a case study sensitive topics are discussed and may cause a controversy to those who learn of it. With anything, there are also morals and ethical issues. There are guidelines that needs to be followed and standards that needs to be met. It is important to be as clear and particular as possible when conducting any research. Some morals and ethical issues that a medical anthropologist may encounter would probably be privacy, consent forms, and the roles that are being played.

Publications Edit

The Society for Medical Anthropology puts out each month a newsletter that is part of the American Anthropological Association. Each month a different topic is addressed by different people. For example this month newsletter consist of: Native Elder Mistreatment: A CBPR Approach. The past newsletter consist of: Medical Anthropology at the Intersections, Making it Matter: Taking Anthropology from Research to Policy, EASA Medical Anthropology Network, The Health of War Studies and etc. As you can see, each of the topics explored are different in their own ways but all relating back to medical anthropology. In addition, SMA sponsor a number of awards every year. There are specific guidelines and qualifications to receive an award. When one receives an award the prize consist of: money and recognition. The Society for Medical Anthropology also have information on available grants to those who are interested.

Separate from the newsletter, the Society for Medical Anthropology have a section of Medical Anthropology Quarterly. According to SMA, the purpose of this journal is to stimulate debate on and development of ideas and methods in medical anthropology and to explore the relationships of medical anthropology to both health practice and the parent discipline of anthropology. The different types of studies it encompasses include: ethnomedicine, epidemiology, maternal and child health, population, nutrition, human development in relation to health and disease, health-care providers and services, public health health policy, and the language and speech of health and health care (SMA).

Although the Society of Medical Anthropology does not have any publications together, each individual board members have published considerable amount of work individually and with other scholars.

Research Edit

The SMA is very much interested in anything that has to do with local, national and international importance (SMA). Their passion, dedication, and committment to their work shows through the researches, teachings and fieldwork they have conducted over a period of time. Each board members are active researchers in specific areas that they have dedicated a considerable amount of time into. The following below are the different kinds of work and reseachers each board members has done.

President Carolyn Sargen is a Social Anthropology Professor at Washington University in St. Louis. The courses that she teaches are: health, healing and ethics (WUSTL). The kinds of research and teaching she associates with are: domain of gender and health, with emphasis on reproduction, medical decision making, and the management of women's health in low-income populations, according to Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL). Several places she has been to specifically of work related consist of West Africa (Benin, Mali), Jamaica, and France (WUSTL). For the last seven years, she has spent most of the time conducting fieldwork in France on reproduction and representations of family among migrants from the Senegal River Valley (WUSTL). Today, her current residency is in Paris (WUSTL). While most of her recent writing has been focused on how colonial and postcolonial relations between France and its former West African colonies, in the context of the global economy have shaped the policies and politics of state institutions responsible for managing immigrant populations, she is very much interested in how women as migrants, wives and mothers routinely negotiate these structures of inequality (WUSTL). In theoretical terms, she is interested in questions of agency, structure and resistance (WUSTL). A branch from her interest, she has also explored how Islam shapes the discourse of migrant men, especially those housed in worker hostels, provokes debates on women's autonomy in Europe and influences women's reproductive decisions and marital relations (WUSTL). Through her work and interest, there were fourteen selected publications on the WUSTL website that she published individually and collaboratively with other scholars.

President Elect Jeannine Coreil is a Professor in the Community and Family Health Department at University of South Florida. She joined the department in 1987 (USF). She received her B.S. in the field study of psychology, M.S. in Anthropology, and Ph.D. in Medical Anthropology (USF). Trained in medical anthropology and social behavioral sciences her areas of research include infectious diseases, women's health, illness support groups and qualitative research methods (USF). The researches she has conducted include: sociomedical and ethnographic research among Haitian Americans and Hispanics, in addition to numerous studies of cultural factors and health in Haiti over the past 30 years (USF). The current projects that she is working on include studies of stigma and tuberculosis among Haitians in Florida and Haiti, and study of cultural differences among breast cancer support groups for African-American, Latina and Anglo women (USF). The graduate courses that she teaches at USF include: social theory, behavioral factors in health, qualitative methods, and global health (USF). The selected publications she has done consisted of fifteen.

Secretary Ellen Gruenbaum previously served as Professor of Anthropology and Dean of the College of Social Sciences at California State University, Fresno (PU). She studied Anthropology at Stanford University (A.B.) and the University of Connecticut (M.A. 1974 and Ph.D. 1982) according to Purdue University. She joined Purdue University in 2008. The other teaching positions that she held was at: California State University, San Bernardino, University of Wisconsin College in Manitowoc, and the University of Khartoum, Sudan (PU). She has conducted ethnographic research specifically on women's health issues, gender, religious practices, and development in Africa and the Middle East (PU). A considerable amount of research work she has conducted was in Sudan and Sierra Leone primarily focusing on the practice of female genital cutting and the social movements against "harmful traditional practices" since the 1970s (PU).

Treasurer Kitty Corbett is a Professor and Director of Undergraduate Programs at Simon Fraser University (SFU). She received her A.B. in Anthropology at Stanford Universty, M.P.H. in Behavioral Sciences at University of California, Berkeley, M.A. in Anthropology at University of California, Berkeley, and Ph.D. in Medical Anthropology at University of California Berkeley and San Francisco (SFU). She joined SFU in 2005. Before she joined SFU, she was a research scientist with Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California from 1986 to 1991 (SFU). Following, she moved to the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center (UCHSC) and became a professor in both the Health and Behavioral Sciences Program and the Anthropology department (SFU). As a medical anthropologist, much of her research was emphasized on the application of behavioral and social science to public health communication, participatory community-based health promotion with diverse and vulnerable populations, and quality improvement within healthcare (SFU). The approach that she uses is multi-methodological, reflecting a multi-disciplinary, social ecological perspective (SFU). She is not only a passionate researcher nor dedicated professor but also an advocate to diverse communities and underserved populations (SFU). The prevention and control of tobacco use, STIs and HIV/AIDS, and antibiotic resistance are particularly her primary areas of special interest (SFU). A Fulbright Scholar at Mexico's National Institute of Public Health (2006) and the Graduate Institute of Public Health at Taiwan National Universit (1997 - 1998) she has also worked in Peru, Guatemala, Russia, and Mongolia (SFU). She has had huge roles on various projects in North America including: NCI'S multi-site, randomized Community Intervention Trial for Smoking Cessation (COMMIT); US CDC's National Network for STD/HIV Prevention Training Centers (NNPTC); and the Spanish language piece of US CDC's Get Smart antibiotics media campaign (SFU). Currently she and colleagues at Mexico's National Institute of Public Health are building a research program addressing the appropriate use of prescription medicines (SFU). The teachings that she emphasized on are theory, methods, and anthropologically informed perspectives in health promotion, disease prevention, health communication, quality in care of underserved populations, and other areas of public and population health (SFU).

ReferencesEdit

Brown University. http://research.brown.edu/research/profile.php?id=10169&r=1

California State University Fresno. http://www.csufresno.edu/journal/vol8/01/newsmakers/ellengruenbaum.shtml

Case Western Reserve University. http://www.case.edu/artsci/anth/mcgarth.html

Monash University. http://www.med.monash.edu.au/spppm/research/staff/lmanderson.html

Purdue University. http://www.cla.purdue.edu/anthropology/directory/index.cfm?personid=1560

Simon Fraiser University. http://www.fhs.sfu.ca/portal_memberdata/kcorbett

Southern Methodist University. http://smu.edu/anthro/beta/anthro_faculty_bio_smithmorris.html

University of Florida. http://www.ssrc.msstate.edu/faculty/fellows/kragsdale.html

University of Pennsylvania. http://www.sas.upenn.edu/anthro/node/295

University of South Florida. http://hsc.usf.edu/publichealth/cfh/jcoreil/research.htm

Vanderbilt University. http://www.vanderbilt.edu/anthro/faculty

Washington University in St. Louis. http://artsci.wustl.edu/~anthnews/sargent.html

Washington University in St. Louis. http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~anthro/blurb/b_sargent.html

Wayne State University. http://www.iog.wayne.edu/bio/php?id=435

Wayne State University. http://www.clas.wayne.edu/unit-faculty-detail.asp?facultyid=175

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