Medical Anthropology

Concentration in Medical Anthropology

The University of Pittsburgh offers a concentration in medical anthropology for students at both the master's and doctoral levels. Students have the opportunity to focus their course work in relation to a range of issues in health, illness, and medical systems. At the same time, students are required to fulfill the basic departmental requirements in their chosen sub-field of anthropology, ensuring well rounded and high quality training in general anthropology.

Faculty Appointments and Course Offerings

The core medical anthropology faculty includes members whose primary appointments are in the Department of Anthropology as well as faculty appointed in the Graduate School of Public Health, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, the Medical School, and the Dental School. Some of the courses offered in the concentration are: Medical Anthropology I and ll; The Anthropology of Food; Asian Medical Systems; Medical Ethics; Dimensions of Aging; Clinical Aspects of Dementia Care.

Student Research

Medical anthropology students pursue a wide variety of research interests, such as a study of the meaning of risk for patients and medical staff involved in liver transplantation in Pittsburgh; the household production of health in the urban Amazon; birthing and concepts of motherhood in Italy; the relationship of medical choice to the development of an urban Aymara identity in Bolivia; hospitals and maternal health in China; the meaning and experience of adolescence in Japan; women's identity and reproduction in Japan; fertility decision making in the Solomon Islands; health reform policy in Brazil; social support networks for patients with Alzheimer's disease in western Pennsylvania; physician patient communication in Pittsburgh and West Virginia.

University of Pittsburgh Resources

The University of Pittsburgh is a large institution with a well known medical center and a history of interest in health and medical issues across a wide number of units. These present a broad range of training opportunities for students in medical anthropology. Students concentrating in medical anthropology are encouraged to take advantage of the all of the resources and expertise available at the University. This includes working with anthropologists whose primary appointments are in other units in the University, and scholars from other disciplines with research and teaching interests in health, illness and medical systems including faculty in other departments representing interests in demography, medical sociology, health issues in history, the history of medicine, medical ethics, social epidemiology, biostatistics, cross cultural psychiatry, health education, and several kinds of clinical research.

Opportunities for Other Degrees

Both masters and doctoral students have the opportunity to pursue various degrees in the Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH) in addition to their anthropology degree. Currently several doctoral students are also enrolled in the GSPH in order to earn an MPH. Several programs in the GSPH will accept some anthropology credits as electives, and anthropology students may use GSPH credits as electives. The History and Philosophy of Science Department, in collaboration with the Center for Bioethics and Health Law, offers a masters degree in medical ethics, which students may pursue in addition to their anthropology degree.

Requirements for the Concentration

Students wishing to concentrate in Medical Anthropology need to complete a specific course of study. Medical Anthropology I, (an introductory survey of medical anthropology) is required at both the masters and doctoral levels. Masters students must also take an additional six credits of elective course work from a list of courses designated in the concentration. Doctoral students must take Medical Anthropology I and Medical Anthropology II (the graduate seminar in medical anthropology), as well as 12 additional elective credits from the list. Substitutions of other courses in the University to fulfill elective requirements are common, but must be approved by the student's advisor and the departmental Committee on Graduate Studies. Medical Anthropology I and II must be completed with a grade of B- or better. Students opting for the concentration must inform their advisor who will monitor their progress in completing the requirements. Upon satisfactory completion of the concentration courses, the student will petition the Committee on Graduate Studies for final approval.

Joint PHD/MPH Degree Program

Medical Anthropology students can now earn an MPH (Master of Public Health in Behavioral and Community Science) as part of their doctoral program in Anthropology. 


Faculty to different degrees involved in the medical anthropology program and their current research interests are listed below. More information on faculty interests can be found in the Research section of this website.

Joseph S. Alter (Professor, Anthropology) medical anthropology; physical fitness; public health; ecology, biosemiotics, the relationship between health, culture, and politics, broadly defined; India.

Kathleen M. DeWalt (Professor, Anthropology), nutritional anthropology; impact of policy on nutritional status in Latin America and US; ethnomedical systems and medical decision making; health ecology; political economy and health.

Patricia I. Document (Associate Professor, Behavioral and Community Health Sciences; Scientific Director of the Center for Health Equitysocial relationships; cancer; breastfeeding; racial and ethnic disparities; evaluation; violence and global health.

Tomas Matza (Assistant Professor, Anthropology) mental health, environmental anthropology, ecology and health; Russia.

Mark P. Mooney (Professor, Departments of Anatomy and Histology, School of Dental Medicine, and Anthropology) craniofacial and developmental biology; comparative anatomy; experimental morphology; physiological adaptations to extreme environments.

Harry Sanabria (Associate Professor Emeritus, Anthropology) economic anthropology and political economy; social history and historical demography; cross-cultural studies of drug production and consumption; urban US, Bolivia and Argentina.

Jeffrey H. Schwartz (Professor, Anthropology) human and faunal skeletal analysis of archaeological recovered remains; dentofacial growth and development in Homo sapiens, US, England, Israel, Cyprus, and Tunisia.

Michael I. Siegel (Professor, Anthropology) craniofacial biology; with a clinical specialty in cleft palate; functional anatomy; animal models; and physiological adaptation to stress.

Pamela J. Stewart (Senior Research Associate, Anthropology) human endocrinology, patient/physician communication in contexts of chronic illness; women's health issues; North America, the Pacific, Asia, and Europe.

Andrew J. Strathern (Andrew W. Mellon Professor, Anthropology) conflict and violence; the anthropology of the body; the cross-cultural study of medical systems; Papua New Guinea, Europe, and Taiwan.

Martha Terry (Research Associate, GSPH; Adjunct Research Associate, Anthropology) human sexuality and reproduction, sexually transmitted disease, HIV prevention, urban US, Mexico.