Medical Anthropology & Global Health


Medical Anthropology @Penn

Medical Anthropology is a vibrant subfield of Anthropology. It brings interdisciplinary perspectives and field research methods to bear on central issues in medicine and health. Its core commitments include experiential, field-based learning approaches and a focus on social justice in health in developing and industrialized contexts. Medical Anthropology at Penn gives students the tools to assess the determinants of disease and health at individual- and population-based levels. As students attend to pluralistic medical systems, they gain tools to meaningfully connect real-world health problems with their political and economic determinants. Those who concentrate in Medical Anthropology & Global Health craft innovative solutions to global health problems, and they learn to re-imagine health systems and governance through a more responsive and person-centered approach. 


Medical Anthropology and Global Health Concentration

The Medical Anthropology & Global Health Concentration is directed by Dr. Adriana Petryna (petryna@sas.upenn.edu). Courses in Medical Anthropology & Global Health are taught by outstanding faculty, field practitioners, and physicians. In addition to Dr. Petryna, they include Drs. Frances Barg, Puneet Sahota, Morgan Hoke, Ramah McKay, Justin Clapp, Kent Bream, Lawrence Blum, Carolyn Cannuscio, and Michael Joiner.

Penn Anthropology is also home to an exciting cohort of MD-PhD students (admitted to the Perelman School of Medicine and the Anthropology Graduate Program). As our MD-PhD students actively pursue their research and training, they also significantly enhance undergraduate pedagogy and mentorship. They include Nick Iacobelli (PhD 2016), Utpal Sandesara (PhD 2016), Lee Young, Michelle Munyikwa, Joshua Franklin, Sara Rendell, Ben Sieff, Alex Chen, Caroline Hodge, and Randall Burson. Click here for more details on the concentration's requirements and approved courses. 


Our Work

Our students benefit from direct engagement opportunities, including the Penn Guatemala Health Initiative, whose central goal “is to put the knowledge gained through participatory research and clinical and cultural experiences into developing effective, sustainable, and culturally sensitive health interventions.

Recent highlights of the Medical Anthropology & Global Health Concentration include:

  • MD-PhD Candidate Utpal Sandesara is recipient of the 2018 Masters of Science in Health Policy Research Medical Student Award in Innovation & Implementation Research for his essay, “The Threatened Daughter: Representations of Female Fetuses in the Gujarat Government’s Campaign against Sex Selection.” 

  • A grant from the Penn School of Arts and Sciences Making a Difference in Diverse Communities Initiative, “From the Western Highlands of Guatemala to West Philadelphia: Applied Skills in Global Community Health.” This project provides advanced research experience for students to investigate the impact of poverty and migration on health, with a focus on diabetes and obesity, in West Philadelphia and Guatemala. Students will also develop community health assessments as well as prevention and screening interventions. Project directors are Drs. Fran Barg, Kent Bream, and Adriana Petryna. Follow this link to learn more! 
  • MD-PhD Candidate Josh Franklin was awarded the 2017 Elsie Clews Parsons Prize for the best graduate student essay from the American Ethnological Society. Josh's award-winning paper is entitled, “This thing that I searched so hard for”: normativity and transgression in transgender children’s narratives." Read more about Josh's award winning work here
  • Medical Anthropology & Global Health Concentrator Ivana Kohut was recently awarded a $10,000 Kathryn Davis 100 Projects for Peace Award. This will allow her to continue her Medical Aid research and work with women and healthcare in Cuba. 

Primary Supervising Faculty from Anthropology

Dr. Adriana Petryna: petryna@sas.upenn.edu