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Medical Anthropology


pulpoperdida42
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Hi,

 
I'm in the early stages of looking at grad programs, and lately I've been more and more intrigued by the idea of Medical Anthropology, but I have some really basic questions about the field/and the degree that I would love to clarify before I start looking more seriously.
 
A little bit about me:
 
 I'm in my mid twenties and have bounced around a bit between different fields during the years since undergrad.  My BA is in Poly Sci and I spent a lot of my college years exploring the intersections between immigration and gender in Latin America and the Middle East. (I speak fluent Spanish and intermediate Arabic). During my semester abroad, I researched indigenous midwifery in Mexico, and began to think about cultural paradigms of health and disease. After college I spent a year working as a case worker in a spanish speaking health clinic, where I I discovered I really loved working on health issues relating to disenfranchised populations, and I was especially interested in how conflicting cultural notions of health and healthcare affected the kind of care my patients were getting. 
 
After going abroad to teach English, I came back and worked for a year as a research assistant at Medicaid focused health policy institute. I had thought at the time, that I was probably interested in going to either an MPH program or a public policy program, but after having spent a year at this job and having done extensive research on those kinds of programs, I think they're not quite what I'm looking for. Those seem to tend to be very quantitative, based around learning technical skills, etc. and while I can handle that if necessary, its not where I want to spend my time. I'm still thinking very seriously about an IR masters, which would give me the background and skills to work on cross cultural issues in a lot of difficult contexts.  I think it will ultimately come down to either IR or medanth, a decision which I am currently envisioning as being between developing a more broad set of skills, or developing a speciality focus....
 
So, I have a few questions. First, after poking around some medanth related programs and websites, I'm starting to worry that this would be a difficult focus for someone who doesn't have a provider's license of some kind. It looks like Harvard's program, for example, is explicitly only for providers...But is that a valid worry? I can't tell for sure.

Second, what can you do with a medanth degree? Academia, sure. My father is an academic and I think I can say, without having many illusions about what that life would entail, that I would be pretty happy doing research at a university somewhere. However, it would be pretty nice to know if there are any other plausible career options. Do any health orgs/ NGOs/etc. hire medical anthropologists? 

Third (and this is more of a corollary to the second point) is a Phd an absolute necessity? I know it is if I want to go into academia, but can you do anything with a medanth masters?
 
Fourth: Any other suggestions for resources to look for/people to talk to/etc. to learn more? I've mostly been trolling the medanth society website, and looking at programs at individual schools, but if anyone out there can point me towards a more concrete source of information, that would be great! 
 
Thanks again!
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Pulpoperdida42, I'm also "in" medical anthropology, and the best advice I've gotten so far is that I should be looking at anthropology programs that have good faculty for my interests and to stop worrying about specialty degrees.  Programs that are right for you will be the ones with pods of faculty working in med anth, but will also award a degree that will firmly place you within the broader discipline.  A lot of medical anth/medical humanities degrees are specifically geared toward care providers with the understanding that the program is supplementary, but that doesn't mean there isn't a place for you somewhere else. 

 

With that said, it sounds as if you might want to be doing something more proactive than just getting your phd in anthropology.  You say that you see a lot of programs cater to students with providers licenses--have you considered getting your own sort of certification?  When I read ethnographies from my area of interest, I often notice that many anthropologists are stuck holding bandages or running reception desks during their fieldwork terms.  If you wanted to do something more hands on, it might serve you better to get certified as a paramedic or physician's assistant and work with NGOs, the WHO, etc.  At the very least, an mph will be much more useful in this regard than a phd. 

 

Just some thoughts :)

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Thanks this is very helpful!

 

I've definitely thought a lot about an MPH. I think I started drifting away from it because I realized I am more interested in the socio-cultural aspects of health (the "squishy" side of health research, as my current boss likes to say, i.e. how do you design a public health campaign for recent immigrants, how do people coming from x country understand the role of doctors, etc. ) and it seemed like most MPH programs I saw were more geared to giving you technical skills etc. I can do the quantitative thing if necessary, and if its getting me towards a greater goal, but its not really where I want to spend my professional life.

 

Frankly, I know the subject area I want to work on: the intersection of health, gender, and immigration issues, but I am still not really clear where I want to work and that's what's making my choice of programs difficult. I don't think this is a matter of not having enough work experience-I'm over 3 years out and have worked in a variety of different environments, I think I'm just flexible and could imagine myself in a lot of different environments, so I think its unlikely that I would have a big revelation if I worked a little longer. Plus I'm really ready to go back to school and I'm also sick of only qualifying for entry level jobs in most places!

 

Ideally, sure I would love to be proactive and have an impact on the world, but I also am coming to realize that my strengths are  definitely academia, and specifically the social sciences. I've definitely thought about different kinds of provider licenses, I was thinking seriously about midwifery for awhile, but I don't know that I have the self confidence to make potentially life threatening decisions for people! 

 

I've been fantasizing about some kind of a joint  anth/ir degree, but I have yet to quite find one!

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I've definitely thought a lot about an MPH. I think I started drifting away from it because I realized I am more interested in the socio-cultural aspects of health (the "squishy" side of health research, as my current boss likes to say, i.e. how do you design a public health campaign for recent immigrants, how do people coming from x country understand the role of doctors, etc. ) and it seemed like most MPH programs I saw were more geared to giving you technical skills etc. I can do the quantitative thing if necessary, and if its getting me towards a greater goal, but its not really where I want to spend my professional life.

 

 

Sounds like the MPH in Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia is right up your alley, and they have Leslie Sharp!

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